A Game of Cards by Witi Ihimaera

In A Game of Cards by Witi Ihimaera we have the theme of connection, love, matriarchy, wisdom, tradition and mortality. Taken from his Pounamu Pounamu collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young male narrator the reader realizes after reading the story that Ihimaera may be exploring the theme of connection. Despite the narrator being in university he remains connected to Miro. So much so that when he and others hear that she is dying they arrive at her bedside. This is significant as it not only highlights the narrator’s connection with Miro but it also highlights the love and kinship that is felt with regard to Miro. It is after all her home where all the action of the story takes place. Miro brings others together while still embracing Maori tradition and language.

The theme of love is symbolically noticeable with Miro’s connection with Mrs Heta. Despite being the worst of enemies they are also best friends and scold each other when playing cards. The card games that Miro plays are also symbolic of the connection between Miro, Mrs Heta and other Maori women. If anything Ihimaera could be highlighting how strong Maori women are. How they are the bedrock of a family. They are the glue that keeps families together. Something that is noticeable in the fact that Miro minds her grandchildren from time to time. When their own parents are struggling. What is also interesting is the focus that Miro places on education. She is keen that the narrator continues his studies as she knows that is how he will progress in life. This is significant as Miro is looking to the future and has aspirations for the narrator and her other grandchildren.

There is other symbolism in the story that may be important. The sunlight coming into Miro’s bedroom could symbolise the passing of time and the ending of tradition. Something that is further highlighted with Mrs Heta’s death. There is no sense apart from the wisdom Miro passed to others that tradition will be followed. Something that may actually upset the narrator who knows just how wise Miro was. The medication and injections Miro receives could represent a further shift from tradition with Ihimaera adding modernity into the story. An issue that Miro is uncomfortable with. If anything Miro is a strong traditionalist and knows the importance of bestowing her wisdom onto others.

The end of the story is interesting as Ihimaera, by having two deaths, could be not only highlighting the end of tradition but also how fragile life really is and how dependent others are on the women in a family. Again as readers we are aware that the nightly or weekly games of cards that the women enjoy will be over now that the two strongest characters in the story have passed. This is something that the narrator may be fully aware of and he may lament the loss of not only Miro and Mrs Heta but of tradition too. Both women were the foundation or bedrock for tradition and as mentioned it may very well be the end of the line when it comes to how the narrator knows his life. Miro was also his foundation.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "A Game of Cards by Witi Ihimaera." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 12 Oct. 2023. Web.

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