Wei-Lei and Me by Aditi Gouvernel
In Wei-Lei and Me by Aditi Gouvernel we have the theme of racism, bullying, acceptance, appearance, aspirations, friendship and freedom. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Gouvernel may be exploring the theme of racism and bullying. There is no doubt that Barry West is racist and that he bullies the narrator and Wei-Lei. West throughout the story is painted in an unfavourable light by Gouvernel. Though some critics might suggest that West is too young to be racist, this is not the case. He deliberately picks on Asian children because they look different to him. It is as though he is unable to accept people who might have a darker skin tone than him. As to why the other children take West’s side in the story is interesting. It could be case that the children know that they will be picked on should they go against West, as the narrator does. They may be afraid of West who shows no redeeming features throughout the story.
The theme of aspirations is also evident in the story. The narrator’s father believes that Australia is the land of opportunity. Not only can Australia shape him and his family but being so vast and unknown, Australia can also be changed and moulded into anything the narrator’s father can think of. This is not how he feels about Delhi or India which would have a deeper and longer history than white Australia. It is as though Australia is not only the land of opportunity but dreams can come true. Unfortunately this is not how the narrator feels during her childhood. Thanks to Barry West.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. West’s character can be seen to represent an obstacle that the narrator encountered early in life and which she stood up to. The rock and the cricket bat being examples of the narrator’s defenses against West’s attacks. Wei-Le is also important as he symbolizes a lasting friendship for the narrator. Wei-Le, like the narrator, looks different to the other children in school and as such the narrator develops a friendship or kinship with him. They both know what it is like to be bullied by West. Though only playing a small part in the story. Wei-Lei’s grandmother is significant as she represents hope for the future. She seems to be aware of the problems Wei-Lei is encountering with West and is hopeful for the future now that West is moving to Jakarta. While it is clear that the narrator has not told her mother about West. Rather she creates illnesses to see if she can skip school such is the torment she feels from West.
The end of the story is interesting as Gouvernel appears to be exploring the theme of freedom. When West leaves school the narrator and Wei-Lei feel free. It is as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They are allowed to grow up safely and without the fear of being attacked because of their skin colour. How the narrator and Wei-Lei develop is also interesting as not only are they happy but they are allowed to grow up as Australians, as though they have been accepted by their peers. Even if the narrator can’t believe she and Wei-Lei became Australian. This may be important as it suggests that the narrator and Wei-Lei have gotten over their initial disappointment with living in Australia. Now they are treated as equals to their peers.