His First Ball written by Witi Ihimaera.

Text type: Short story

Latisha Halcrow 2.9  

This short text “His First Ball”  written by Witi Ihimaera, I believe this short text shows us the difference between two different types of cutlers, their morals, and mannerism throughout. This short story is focused on a young Maori man named Tuta Wharepapa a factory worker living in New Zealand, And the upper-class Pakeha from the government house invite Tuta to there ball.

I get an understanding of the main character Tuta at the start of the short text. As the young Maoris family don’t even believe in Tuta and what he is really capable of they don’t believe that a lower class factory worker could ever possibly be asked to the New Zealand government house ball. They do not see his worth. The invitation was a mystery to him. When it came it came in an envelope bearing a very imposing crest, his mother mistook it for something entirely different “notice of a traffic misdemeanor, a summons perhaps, or even worse, an overdue account.”

It was obvious in the text that Tuta and his family did not accept the fact that he got invited to this ball. I personally found it mournful as Tuta did not believe in himself nor did his family that he could have the capability to attend. Coral began to laugh after she read and understood what the letter to Tuta was addressing “You? Go to Government house? You don’t even know how to bow!” His mother says and laughs. And she laughed and laughed so much at the idea that Tuta couldn’t take it.

The text is easy for me as the reader to read and understand as it clearly identifies that Tuta is the only Maori boy invited to this flash event, which is not in any way related to the Maori people culture but more suited to the Pakeha upper class at the ball. He is only invited so that those in control of the ball and the invite list do not look like they are racist in any way or form. I really feel that this part of the text makes me quite enraged. I strongly feel that everyone should be treated the same. Nobody should feel as if they have to change to please somebody else.

Tuta is having an awful time at the Government ball and he has no friends there nor anyone is making an effort, the harsh reality is nobody in that room is actually interested in a conversation with the only Maori boy in the room. As people start to look and coming up to him the Pakeha people who are at the ball are constantly mispronouncing his name wrong. Tuta is getting called “tūtae” In the Maori language the meaning is “dung, excrement, shit, feces, poop, droppings, stools.”  he replies to the guests ‘No you got it wrong!’, I whispered horrified, not Tutae, that’s a rude word!” The meaning is very disrespectful. It’s your name, Your name is special to you. Tuta is getting very defensive and does not seem to want to respect their abilities, qualities, or achievements or them as an individual. He carries on and talks to different people hoping he would find someone that respects him.

Tuta is made to eat odd food in his opinion, nothing like what he and his family would ever have. Food that he can’t even seem to pronounce the names of. This is a clear message that Tuta is an outsider he does not belong to the group of Pakeha high-class government of New Zealand. He is getting discriminated by the people around him because he is different to all of them.  He is an “outsider” because he simply has a different color of skin his morals the things he lives by are completely different and Tutas mannerism isn’t the same.

Witi Ihimaera uses the phrase referring to all the other guest at the ball at them and them to show that he does not feel like he belongs or that he is at all like them. Yet he finds someone else at the ball that is also a bit different from the others. Someone who is also having an awful time at the event.  He and his new friend were talking about the food “and all that fancy kai, it was just chicken, ham, crawfish cakes, and seafood.” The friend joked to Tuta saying ‘they don’t know how to have a good time, them pakehas.’ referring to the other guests in the room.  

The fact Ihimaera persists and pulls through the night and terrible situation of inclusion of conversations and interacting with the others properly. He says to his friend ‘let’s have a good time’ they say at the end. Determined not to still have a bad night. He shows the reader that by being true to yourself, you are being completely honest with what you feel, deeply value, and respect. You can be confident and have a voice in what you believe in what your morals are. You don’t have to be around opposites and change for their satisfaction.

Witi Ihimaera says to his mother after returning home from the ball ‘it’s hard to be like them.’ again referring to the guest at the ball. Whilst at the event, he also says “ I went and found myself a corner and wanted the floor to swallow me up”  I connected to Tuta when he said this I felt extremely doleful as he felt that low and mistreated. I couldn’t imagine anything like the feeling Tuta was feeling at this time. This ending left me curious if Tuta continued to be himself and confident around other people or not.

I would recommend this text to any teen audience, I enjoyed reading this text it is an eye opener of how we are reacting to the difference of race in our country. And how people like Tuta are really getting treated in situations similar.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Latisha, it is good that you worked on this response over the weekend. You are early to meet the Response 1 deadline, so you can strengthen this response if you want to.
    Here were my thoughts reading your work:
    – Well done for being honest about how this short story made you feel. You do talk about the importance of racial equality (which is great) but you don’t say why is it important that people are treated the same no matter what race they are from. This is an area that you could explain if you wanted to.
    – Be careful using a thesaurus for some words. E.g. “doleful”. Do you know what this word means? It may be better to use words that you are familiar with, otherwise you risk using a word that may seem awkward in a sentence. – It is okay to use more simple expressions for this personal responses assignment if you want to.
    – Read through this response to someone in class- maybe Portia? As you are reading, notice any areas that sound wrong. Make the word, spelling or punctuation changes as you go. You must make the changes on your own but having a good listener will help you to read clearly, slowly and hear the changes that need to be made.


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