Themes in Wild Pork and Watercress

  • Loyalty, friendship and family
  • Childhood and growing up
  • Failings of our social and justice systems
  • Humour and humanity
  • Nature and survival – as opposed to urbanisation
  • Death, grief and loss
  • Trust
  • Race/Culture

How does Ricky, as the narrator, emphasise one or more of these themes through his thoughts, words and actions?

Think about:

How is the setting used to show the failings of the judicial and state care systems? The failings of the New Zealand judicial, social welfare AND education systems are shown in the way they fail to understand or deal with Ricky at the beginning of the novel.

What are some of the ideas Crump is trying to convey about the importance of family in the novel? Family support and love in the form of Aunt Bella and Uncle Hec mean that Ricky is warmly welcomed and cared for on the farm. Aunt Bella calls Ricky a ‘lamb’, reflecting the warmth she shows him.

Both Ricky and Uncle Hec express trust issues with government, family and society. What are some of the trust issues that they face?

Urbanisation relates to Maori but also in a wider context of what we have lost as a society by moving away from rural areas and the lifestyles they encourage. The farm is a total contrast to Ricky’s city life. What are three ways Ricky experiences love and acceptance at the farm (give quotes to support your answer).

The bush is a place of both danger and a place of comfort and refuge (from authority and the outside world). How does Ricky’s attitude to the bush change from the opening chapters to the end of the novel? How are Ricky and Uncle Hec ‘released’ by the bush? How is the bush both a danger and a place of comfort and refuge?

“The bush had us so absolutely outnumbered in every direction you had to have respect for it. No one could live in there without sticking to the rules. No tawa tree was ever going to reach out and steady me when I tripped on its roots. No ridge was going to level off any sooner because I was too tired to climb any higher. No flooded river was going to ease off to let me across. If it wanted to rain, or blow a gale, or freeze or flood or get dark when we were still two hours away from the nearest hut, it certainly didn’t take my preferences into account. The bush just stood there, growing and minding its own business.”

In this passage, Ricky refers to a native tree, and uses listing, repetition and personification to describe the way you have to respect the bush – it is a living being with numerous challenges and dangers to be overcome.

Quote references to New Zealand flora and fauna (plants and animals), as well as Maori words and place names, which add authenticity to the text as a NZ work.

Posted by Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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