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In James K. Baxter's Pig Island Letters 2 and Ballad of Calvary Street, theme and subject matter are conveyed through imagery. Themes of cultural oppression are expressed through images as are subject matter relating to the rigidity and falseness of the nuclear family.

In Baxter's poem Pig Island Letters 2, much imagery is used to convey subject matter. This is of the family as an ineffective unit and a place of isolation for its members. To express the lack of cohesion in the household, Baxter uses images to convey feelings of either conformity or repressed rebellion which exist within the family. The man of the house is said to be grousing in the pub and discussing sales of yearling lamb. These images encourage the reader to class the father as a conformist with a mundane outlook on life. Her daughter is reading in her room a catalogue of dresses and will vote on the side of the bosses. This indicates too that she is a conformist who has not been encouraged to think any opposing way other than that which has been drummed into her.

However her son has seen an angel with a sword and is prepared to split the house like a totara log but he is still just waiting for the word. These images that Baxter creates contribute to the subject matter of the uncommunicative family but also, they play a large part in contributing to understanding of the theme of the poem, which is the inherent cultural oppression which crushed young New Zealanders, and New Zealanders in general, into a lull of conformity and repressed emotions. Although the son Baxter talks about is quite ready to split the house he will refrain, quite unconcerned until he


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