Going for Bread by Patricia Grace
In Going for Bread by Patricia Grace we have the theme of fear, bullying, ignorance, anger, racism, conflict, struggle and love. Narrated in the third person by an unknown narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Grace may be exploring the theme of fear. Mereana is afraid to walk down the tracks to go to the shops because she is being bullied by other girls. The reason that Mereana is being bullied is because she looks different to other girls. If anything the other girls who bully Mereana are ignorant and racist. Judging Mereana by her skin colour. This may be significant as Grace may be placing a spotlight on the plight of Maori people living in New Zealand at the time. Though they are an indigenous race they were not treated as equals by white colonizers.
The theme of anger is evident in the story. Mereana’s mother is angry that Mereana firstly wants to walk the long way (to avoid the girls) to the shop and secondly she knows that Mereana is being treated differently just because of her skin colour. It is difficult for Mereana’s mother to accept the position she finds herself in. She is struggling while her husband is away at war (WW II) and knows that there is no need for Mereana to be treated differently to other girls. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when Mereana’s mother goes to the girl’s house to tell the girl’s mother what her daughter has done. It is interesting that though Mereana’s mother is angry she does not show any fear. She is sticking up for Mereana and knows what has happened is not right.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The track could be seen to represent freedom and joy for Mereana. She likes playing there and is content. It is only when she bumps in the other girls that things become difficult for her. The fact that the girls go back down from the top of the track is symbolically significant as it suggests or acts as foreshadowing to the attack on Mereana. Just as the girls descend or go lower. They also go low and scar Mereana. The breast feeding of Kahu is also important as it shows that Mereana’s mother is nurturing her children. She puts them first. As can be seen by the necessity felt by Mereana’s mother to feed Kahu first before going to the girl’s house. Though at first it might be thought that Mereana’s mother is not supportive of Mereana this is not the case when it comes to her children. Again her children are Mereana’s mother’s number one concern. The fact that the story is set in WWII suggests that there is both an external conflict and an internal conflict. With the internal conflict being the struggle that Mereana’s mother faces. She after all is very poor and cannot afford a return journey by taxi to the Doctor’s.
The end of the story is interesting as the resolution involves the girl’s mother hitting her daughter for what she has done to Mereana. An unprovoked attack has led to the girls own downfall. Having being disciplined by her mother. The fact that Mereana’s mother will not let her children out of her sight again suggests the prolonged racism that existed at the time. Not only is Mereana’s mother afraid for her children but she is being very protective of them too. As one would expect a mother to be. Unfortunately due to circumstances Mereana’s mother will continue to struggle. She will not eat bread every day in order to protect her Mereana and Kahu.