in a native village essay by louis becke

A Village of Hypocrites In Louis Becke’s short story, “In a Native Village”, tensions build between the native islanders and a white trader from Australia. Throughout the story, there are many incidents in which people are in constant search for ways to benefit their own selfish needs through financial gain. From the village elders to the young children, there are attempts to swindle the Australian trader by false accusations. A constant back-and-forth battle occurs between the trader and the natives by the enforcement of fines for the villager’s monetary gain.

The island is populated by hypocritical natives that claim to practice Christian principles, but are truly a group of selfish and greedy people. In Becke’s story, his interpretation of the villagers is that of a savage group of people that do not even seem to realize their own hypocrisies. It is revealed in several parts of his story that the natives had at some point in time adopted Christianity, but the actions of the people speak otherwise.

In the trader’s words, “In the course of a few weeks some terrific encounters had taken place between my women servants and other of the local females, who regarded them as vile usurpers of their right to rob and plunder the new white man” (par. 1). Villagers attempting to rob and plunder the trader, certainly does not uphold the Christian morals that the people of the island claim to practice. The town councilors of the village are a group of people known as the Kaupule.

The group consists of respected elders that are responsible for running the village. People that are looked up to such as the Kaupule, would most likely be a group of people that uphold good morals for others of a younger generation to follow. The fabrication of the Kaupule’s story of a horse brought from New Zealand to the island that has damaged the villager’s crops is symbolic of the villager’s feelings towards the white man on the native island.

The conversation between the trader and his Samoan cook is as follows, “Harry looked very uncomfortable and disinclined to speak, but at last let the cat out of the bag and revealed a diabolical conspiracy – the horse had been brought back from my undoing, or rather for the undoing of the strings of my bag of dollars” (par. 10). The Kaupule does not set a good moral example for others to follow, but in reality are the complete opposite of the moralities that they claim to follow. The common view of a “Christian” person is that of a clean cut person who does not swear, lie, and steal from others.

Becke’s description of the town deacons is that of a group of men with tattoos covering their faces, and one man having one eye. A deacon is not typically known to fit this description, and the villagers once again appear to be the opposite view of the normal interpretation of Christians with good morals. During the confrontation between the villagers and the trader, “A dirty old ruffian with one eye and a tattooed face regarded me gravely for a moment, and then asked me in a wheezy, husky voice if I knew that Arianas and Sapphira were struck dead for telling lies” (par. 19).

It is ironic that the deacon is accusing the trader of lying when he is the one that is lying, and the quoting from the bible does not seem right coming from these types of men. Becke’s interpretation of these native islanders is that of a selfish and greedy group of people from the elders to the young children. The morals that the Kaupule have exhibited has most likely taught the children how to behave. The trader’s pigs are symbolic of the foul and detestable deeds that all of the villagers do to swindle the white trader. The pigs are a means for the lying children to get money out of the trader by theft and lies.

After the children return the traders piglets, the trader states, “Glad to recover the squealing little wanderers at any cost, I gave each lying child a quarter-dollar” (par. 28). The trader recognizes that the children are just like any other villager, a lying, swindling, greedy, person. The villagers appear to be a greedy group of people swindling the trader for money to finance the building of their church. It is ironic to steal to obtain money for a house in which to worship God. Becke’s interpretation of these people is of a group of hypocrites to the extreme.

In the story, the trader’s words are “Twas mine own prized black Australian boar, daubed over with splashes of coral lime whitewash. And the whitewash came from a tub full of it, with which the natives had that morning been whitening the walls of the newly-built church. The one-eyed old scoundrel of a deacon told me next day it was a judgment on me” (par. 30). It is if the natives do not realize the extremeness of their deceitful behaviors. By tricking the trader into killing his own pig, and the one-eyed deacon stating that it was a judgment on the white man.

Becke’s story is an interpretation of a large group of people that are lying, deceitful, hypocrites that never see the error in their ways. The morals of these people are the complete opposite of the “Christian morals” that they claim to practice. The white trader is just a pawn in the islanders lying and cheating ways in order to get what they want. The entire story is an ironic tale, of a village of people that never see the error in their hypocritical ways. Work Cited Becke, Louis. “In a Native Village. ” Classic Reader. Blackdog Media. 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2012

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