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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays

[Attitudes to the Maori in Some Pakeha Fiction: I]

page 46

In this essay I hope to analyse the attitudes towards the Maori shown by some Pakeha writers of fiction who have chosen to write about Maoris or Maori-Pakeha relations.1 I should like to make these qualifications, however. This essay is no attempt at a complete historical survey of Pakeha fiction dealing with Maoris. A complete survey would mean reading at least a hundred books in six libraries from Auckland to Dunedin; I venture to doubt if it would reveal more than repetitions and variations of the attitudes shown in the novels and stories I have read. Further, one should recall that a full history of Pakeha attitudes to the Maori has already been patently expressed in the post-European history of New Zealand, in Land Court proceedings, in statutes and in political acts of peace and war, in the thousands of day-to-day actions of officials, policemen, clergymen, journalists, teachers, landladies, employers and store-keepers; and that this study is subsidiary to that. All that it amounts to is a survey of attitudes to the Maori as expressed in more easily available novels and stories by some (mainly male) Pakehas of some intelligence and sensitivity. I think that, with some slight variation, these attitudes are representative of common contemporary attitudes, conscious and unconscious.

1 As a pakeha I felt it necessary to seek the opinions of three Maoris on the stories from which this study took its start, i.e. those reprinted in Davin, D.M. (ed.), New Zealand Short Stories, Oxford, London 1953.

To these three people, Miss J.C. Sturm, Mr Matiu te Hau and Mr Hirone Wikiriwhi I acknowledge my indebtedness.