Dr. Juniper Ellis
26 January 2015
A Journey to the Self
While the protagonist in Albert Wendt’s novel Black Rainbow, may not be actively traveling to foreign territories, he is on an intrinsic journey to find his true identity. Although there is much mystery to the novel, the overall theme is self-discovery. Throughout the novel, the protagonist is unclear as to who he exactly is because he lacks the knowledge of his past life. However, once he learns his past identity as a member of the Tangata Moni and as a trained assassin, he finds that even though some factors of life are predetermined, such as gender, race, and social class, he has the ultimate decision in deciding his fate. He says, “and though the Game of Life is stacked, as they say in cheap thrillers, I did have a choice in the ways of fulfilling my quest and my dying/living” (Wendt, 265). Even though he was predetermined to be a hunter and then eventually rehabilitated into a banker, he still has the power to choose his actions and path in life. Furthermore, the main character finally learns that a label, such as an assassin, Tangata Maori, or banker, does not encapsulate the whole person, since he is “all that and more” (Wendt, 264). The overall message of Black Rainbow teaches the reader that the journey to find one’s identity is tedious and one label cannot simply define a person.
Like the characters in the fictional novel, we have predetermined characteristics that will affect our lives, yet cannot be completely defined by these characteristics. For example, I was born as a Caucasian, middle-class female, but these traits cannot completely define my whole person. I made the choices to be where and who I am today, which cannot be simply categorized like gender or ethnicity. This connects to Kolvenbach’s lecture “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” in his discussion of the Jesuit mission to “educate the whole person” (Kolvenbach, 34). To achieve promotional justice and make large changes in the world, we must not simply perform service, but transform into “men and women for others” by learning our place in the world (Kolvenbach, 30). We have the choice to change our mindsets and serve others, but we must first understand ourselves.
Although Black Rainbow may take place in an imaginary and futuristic society, many of the messages about identity are extremely pertinent to today’s world and how we view ourselves, as well as others. Like the main character, we must take the journey to find ourselves, yet we cannot be accurately described by one name and our preset characteristics do not encrypt our life choices and actions.
Kolvenbach, Peter-Hans. “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in
American Jesuit Higher Education” Commitment to Justice. Baltimore, Maryland. Apprentice House, 2000.
Wendt, Albert. Black Rainbow. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1992. Print.