In Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, the main theme is racial prejudices. The two main characters, Emile de Becque and Nellie Forbush are faced with these problems as they attempt a relationship. Two other minor characters, Lt. Joe Cable and Liat, are faced with the same dilemma. Both Nellie and Joe Cable have a hard time copping with their own racial prejudices; Joe loves Liat, yet cannot marry her because she is Tonkinese ; Nellie loves Emile, but cannot marry him because of his former Polynesian wife. It is these prejudices that set the state for what might be the most significant scene in the production.
In act 2, scene 3, Nellie reveals her prejudices to Emile.
I can't help it. It isn't as if I could give you a good reason. There is no reason. This is emotional. It's something that is born in me.
She looks to Cable for help in describing what she feels, but he offers no help.
Emile tells her that it is not born in her, that it cannot be born in her. Nellie, who is crying, runs off. Emile is left with Joe, who is thinking over his own relationship with Liat. Emile asks him why he and Nellie think that these prejudices are born in them. Joe, giving him the product of his thoughts, tell him 'It's not born in you.'
It is at this point that Joe Cable begins singing 'Carefully Taught,' a character song in which Joe is able to vent his frustrations and anger about his own prejudices. The music is slightly upbeat, which helps to illustrate that by singing this song, he is beginning to feel better. The words that Joe sing tell the audience that he realizes that prejudices aren't born within someone, but taught...