Throughout They Who Do Not Grieve, there is constant focus on the physical and emotional abuse that both Malu and Alofa face. They are confronted with beatings as well as verbal abuse that is brought upon them by both their families as well as the whites. When reading these horrific stories it is impossible to not cringe at the gruesome violence and horrific language that is presented throughout. However, it is significant to look at the change in behavior and sign of strength that emanates from both Malu and Alofa in the second half of the book.
Alofa finds her voice during an encounter at the supermarket. This simple occurrence portrays a very big and significant moment and differs greatly from the events that have been previously described. A white women bumps into Alofa and blames it on her calling out “Bloody Islander, you should be looking where you are going...”. This finally pushes her over the edge and Alofa finally discovers an inner strength and defends herself, “ She found that she wasn’t afraid anymore to speak. That she could even be angry in English.” She throws questions at the lady like “What is it about us that makes you hate us so much?” and calls her a bully for not apologizing. The reader sees an entire new side of Alofa, one that has finally broken through that wall that had been holding her back for so long. Up until this point she has not shown any type of confidence in speaking English, let alone speaking up to a white person. This demonstrates the life that is still within her even after all this constant oppression. A white older man then embraces her after witnessing what just happened. His apology and display of affection toward her as a human being also provides a new perspective. There are people who do not participate in this racist behavior, although they may be rare, they do exist. This moment really shines a new light on Alofa’s development as a person. Also it gives the reader some new faith in what it means to be a human being which is done through the kindness of the older man.
Similarly Malu finally breaks through her own barrier that had been holding her back from expressing herself for so long. When talking to her Aunt Ela she says, “ I’m not as stupid as you seem to think I am.” She continues by defending the work she does as a servant explaining,
“ You all make fun of me scrubbing those white people’s house. But at least it feeds everyone...And the joke is not on me but on you. On you all!” Malu has come to terms with the fact that she is constantly under appreciated and treated like she has a lack of intelligence. This is a moment of empowerment for her and is the very first time that her view of things is presented. It was previously about her getting yelled at and beaten by her grandmother, but now Malu has mustered up enough anger and strength to speak up to her Aunt. When she says “ I know who I am” this is a clear turning point. This weak, shy, confused little girl has matured and managed to grow up despite all the horrors the have come her way.
When comparing both Malu and Alofa together, it allows those who are reading this novel to truly appreciate them as characters, but also the human beings they represent. The Samoans had to suffer in many ways and Figiel captures this beautifully. However, the true message is in the way both of these two women are able to fight back and not lose who they are no matter what they have been through.