The Pohutukawa Tree
Play - Bruce Mason
In the play, The Pohutukawa Tree (Bruce Mason, 1960), an important idea that is shown in the text is that the narrow conformity of society cause cross-cultural misunderstandings. This idea is important to teenagers today because they need to learn to be respectful of other cultures to avoid conflict, especially as New Zealand has grown into a rather diverse country. The idea of cross-cultural misunderstanding is shown in the play between the different viewpoints of the Maori and Pakeha on land, native plants and modernisation.
The idea of cultural misunderstanding is shown prominently in the different levels of consideration that the Maori and Pakeha had in the significance of the land at Te Parenga. Aroha Mataira, a descendent of a Maori chief, is discussing whether she should sell her section of land with Clive Atkinson, a financially stable Pakeha man. Atkinson sees the land for only its physical value — as an asset; whereas, Aroha believes the land is eternally sacred, previously describing it as: “a holy place, now and forever.” The land was lived on by her ancestors, and she believes that the land must be kept to ensure peace between: “Whetumarama [Aroha’s grandfather, the deceased chief of her tribe]… and Jesus the Christ… It is a holy place, now and forever.” As the two characters converse, it becomes increasingly more noticeable that Atkinson does not seem to comprehend how both culturally and historically significant the land is to Aroha, as Atkinson had been raised in a mostly Pakeha society. In Maori culture, land is a special taonga (treasure) and should always be treated with the utmost respect; in European culture, land is just a form of competition and individualism. Atkinson says: “Land must be used sometime, not just remembered. All things must come to an end, you know.” Presently, New Zealand still does have conflicts about land ownership, especially between Maori and Pakeha. Even cultures around...
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