A Call to Arms by Michelle Law
In A Call to Arms by Michelle Law we have the theme of embarrassment, shame, identity, belonging, acceptance and coming of age. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed female narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Law may be exploring the theme of embarrassment. The fact that the narrator shaves her arms has led to her feeling embarrassed when a school mate acts shocked. This along with the fact that the narrator is wearing swimming trunks that are too big for her and has talcum powder in her swim hat contribute even more to her embarrassment. This may be significant as it suggests that the narrator is on the outside looking in. She is not really a participant as can be seen by the fact that other girls in her class are learning to swim underwater while she swims alone in a lane. If anything the narrator feels ashamed.
The theme of identity is evident in the story. When the narrator goes to Hong Kong she feels at home as though she belongs. This may be because others are unable to distinguish as to whether the narrator is Australian. She fits in perfectly. Although when it comes to Cantonese she still has a lot to learn. The incident in McDonalds being an example. It may also be significant that the narrator embraces her Asian background as much as she does her Australian background as this suggests that the narrator accepts who she is. Though it has taken her some time to reach this point. At first the narrator was uncomfortable with being Asian because she acted differently and was taught differently by her mother. The Chinese coke being an example of this difference.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The swimming trunks and the swimming cap serve to symbolize just how different the narrator feels from others. The fact that she is the only Asian child in her year also serves to heighten this difference. The trip to Hong Kong could symbolize a return to normality for the narrator and how important it is to her to feel accepted. The fact that the narrator accepts both Asian and Australian cultures could suggest that the she is comfortable in her own skin. After a long period of time when she felt as though she did not fit in or feel as though she belonged. The shaving of her arms may also have some symbolic meaning and Law could be suggesting that this is part of the narrator’s identity. It is part of who she is.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator not only feels comfortable and accepting of who she is but she no longer feels concerned about other people. If anything over the course of the story the fact that the narrator accepts who she is has led to a sense of maturity. With the reader not expecting the narrator to be overly sensitive about her appearance or her Asian culture. In reality Law has written a story of a young girl who comes of age thanks to her ability to accept who she is. Where once the narrator felt insecure about who she was. This is no longer the case and the reader suspects that moving forward the narrator will encounter very few obstacles that she is not able to overcome. By accepting who she is the narrator is on the path to a fruitful life. One in whereby she will have few worries.