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Matea Peček

Multicultural Literature in English

Sanja Runtić, Associate Professor

May 9, 2019

The Act of Bravery as a Character Development Tool in Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-

Proof Fence, Ihimaera’s Whale Rider, and Thomas’s The Hate U Give

In literature, and even in real life, bravery is almost always seen as an act in which one

risks their own well-being in order to do a greater good. When the act of bravery is done, the

character gets recognized and treated differently by the people surrounding them. The

protagonists from Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Ihimaera’s Whale Rider, and

Thomas’s The Hate U Give become changed and developed through their courageous acts. Be

it Kahu’s sacrifice to save her village, Starr’s sacrifice of her reputation in order to save lives

in the future, or Molly’s brave deeds to save her relatives, one thing is certain- these acts change

them. This essay will try to show in which ways bravery changes the main characters of those


Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is a novel which deals with a great

act of courage. Molly, who was still only a child, turned out to be a smart and dependent

character in the face of difficulties she had to endure. She decided to risk her safety and bravely

lead her sisters back home while encouraging them the whole way: “Molly kept reminding

them to be brave and to conquer their fears” (Pilkington 71). In doing so, she grew from a child

that everybody rejected to a savior and a leader. Being rejected hurt her when she was little:

“As she grew older, Molly often wished that she didn’t have light skin so that she didn’t have

to play by herself” (Pilkington 38). Nonetheless her dexterity and determination made her into

a person whom others depend on. The role of a leader, which she chose to take upon herself,
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had many hardships but turned out to bear success regarding their escape. It proves how this

brave decision turned her from a child to a mentally grown up person ready to do anything for

the people she loves.

Another brave central character is Starr from Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. At

first, she was a confused teenager who felt as if she did not belong anywhere. She acted

differently at home than she did at school, mainly because she was afraid to be discriminated

by her schoolmates based on her race: “(…) Williamson is one world and Garden Heights is

another, and I have to keep them separate” (Thomas 29). She was even insecure about her

relationship because of the fact that her boyfriend is white: “As white as Chris. I flinch and

snatch away” (Thomas 50). The turning point was the brave act in which she disregarded her

reputation and stood against the discrimination. Filled with courage in that important moment,

she spoke her feelings about her deceased friend in front of everybody, even her boyfriend. By

that, she chose to be herself and show it in front of everyone. She bravely stood up against

injustice, stating her opinion: “I scream at the top of my lungs, hoping Khalil hears me, and

chuck it back at the cops” (Thomas 269). It comes to show how her courageous actions changed

her perception on things. She came out of her shell in front of people she cares for, and in return

got accepted by them, all of it by bravely fighting for justice.

One more brave protagonist is surely Kahu from Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider. This

bold little girl blossomed in her grandfather’s eyes from an annoying child to a real hero. Ever

since she was born, her grandfather rejected her because she is a girl: “I will have nothing to

do with her. She has broken the male line of descent in our tribe” (Ihimaera 12). That did not

stop her from loving him and trying to appear as best as she could to fulfill his expectations of

his heir: “(…) she’s hungry for him, the old paka. Hungry for his love” (Ihimaera 21).

Nevertheless, when the moment came, she put aside trying to prove herself to anyone and acted

courageously with a single goal of saving everyone: “If the whale lives, we live. These were
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the only words Kahu could think of” (Ihimaera 61). This was not an act of a selfish desire to

be loved, but an act of pure love for her culture and her grandfather. At that moment she did

not only become a Whale Rider, she became a true hero of her tribe. By that, she became

recognized by her grandfather: “You’re the best grandchild in the whole wide world,’ he said.

‘Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter” (Ihimaera 71). This comes to show how her daring deed changed

her life for the best by giving her the respect she deserved.

To sum up, Kahu, Starr, and Molly proved to be brave in the face of hardships they

came to face. They courageously stood for themselves and others by setting aside every selfish

desire and made a significant sacrifice to help others. Molly proved to be a dependable leader

and not a rejected child; Starr became accepted by showing who she really wants to be; Kahu

got acknowledged by the person she admired the most.

In conclusion, all of them acted bravely when it was needed and that experience changed them.

It also made a difference in the eyes of the people surrounding them, because these protagonists

gained the deserved admiration and acceptance.

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Works Cited

Ihimaera, Witi. Whale Rider. Reed Books, 1987.

Pilkington Garimara, Doris. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. U of Queensland P, 2001.

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray, 2017.