“In Search of the Emerald City” is a Short story by Witi Ihimaera. It is about a Maori family who leave their whanau and roots behind to seek the opportunities of the big city. Witi Ihimaera wants the audience to understand the desire working class people have to rise above their station in life and out do the expectations that society have for them. The father wants his children to be smarter, wealthier and have a better life than he did. “I’ve got to start looking to the future and to get my kids educated.” He believes the solution is in Wellington or ‘Emerald City.’ “Wellington’s the place. Plenty of jobs, plenty of money.” Perhaps Ihimaera used the name ‘Emerald City’ to portray the idea “Grass is always greener on the other side.” Using the word emerald to describe Wellington makes it seem desirable and sought after. It makes life in Wellington look worth aspiring too much like the fantasy land ‘Emerald City’ in the Wizard of Oz. “The road leads to Wellington. The big city, The Emerald city!” In the first book The Wizard of Oz the walls of the city are green but the city itself is no different in colour to any other.
The people in the city are made to wear green tinted glasses which affect their perception of the city. Ihimaera may have used this analogy to ‘Emerald City’ to show that the perception of Wellington being better may not have been true. Witi Ihimaera explored the idea of cultural change. As in leaving their whanau the family was also leaving their cultural roots. “Waitahi is where our bones are but we got to move. Not much room for Pa living anymore.” I think Ihimaera is showing how the Maori culture may not fit in to the modern world, that living in the traditional way can be difficult with little chance of betterment due to lack of work and educational opportunities. The father thinks he needs to adapt to the modern ways in order to get ahead in life. He wants to follow the Pakeha way of life because he thinks it is becoming the only way of life. “You’ve got to go where the money is. That’s the Pakeha way.” He feels the world is changing and old Maori culture and ways are falling behind. Waitahi is just one example of a traditionally Maori populated area that is losing their people to the city, the Pakeha way of life. The narrative helped me understand the great effect of the young people leaving the small, traditional Maori towns. The people who are left behind are often the ones who are older and committed to a more traditional way of life.