Hawaii by James Michener Summation Hawaii, by James A. Michener, is a novel which covers, on both a fictional and a non-fictional level, the total history of Hawaii from its beginning until approximately 1954. The work traces Hawaiian history from the geological creation of the islands (“From the Boundless Deeps) to the arrival of its first inhabitants, (“From the Sun-Swept Lagoon”), then to the settlement of the islands by the American missionaries, (“From the Farm of Bitterness”). In the novel, as the island’s agricultural treasures in pineapple and sugar cane were discovered, the Chinese were brought as plantation workers to Hawaii (“From The Starving Village”). Years later, when it was realized by the island plantation owners that the Japanese were more dedicated workers, and did not feel the need to own their own lands as the Chinese did, they too were shipped in vast amounts to Hawaii, (“From The Inland Sea”).
The final chapter deals with what Michener refers to as “The Golden Men”: Those who lived in Haw (not necessarily Hawaiians) who contributed a great deal to the islands and their people. Since Hawaii covers such a huge time span, there are a great many plots and sub-plots, all of which show the different situations that each of the many “types” of Hawaiians are confronted with. Michener uses mostly specific, fictional details to support the general ideas of the islands and their various people, that he conveys through Hawaii. I will go into more detail about the plot in the “Documentation” section. Michener’s Hawaii is a superb example of a great work of literature. He paints vivid literal pictures of various scenes throughout the novel. For example, in the first chapter, the Pacific Ocean is described: “Scores of millions of years before man had risen from the shores of the ocean to perceive its grandeur and to venture forth upon its turbulent waves, this eternal sea existed, larger than any other of the earth’s features, vaster than the sister oceans combined, wild, terrifying in its immensity and imperative in its universal role.” Many other stylistic devices are employed; most of them fall into the category of figurative language, (i.e.
metaphors, similes, etc.). As Abner Hale, a missionary , was teaching Malama Kanakoa, a Hawaiian ruler, to rebuild a fish pond for the survival of the village, Malama “ordered her handmaidens to help, and the three huge women plunged into the fish pond, pulling the back hems of their new dresses forward and up between their legs like giant diapers.” Although it is not the most pleasant example of a simile in Hawaii, it is used. James Michener tells the story of Hawaii in the language of Hawaii; he mixes, at times, English with Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese. As readers may encounter these foreign words, the meanings of the words usually become evident to them as they read. Not only does Michener explain Hawaii to a reader in highly descriptive detail, he also makes the reader part of Hawaii, aware that the story lines are just small examples of how life in Hawaii really was for so many people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Documentation The major events that take place in Michener’s Hawaii follow history closely, however, the characters, except for one, are fictional. Likewise, most of the historical events which Michener writes about did take place under the circumstances that he included; however, the people involved and some of the events that take place may only resemble what actually happened. For example, a comparison of Hawaii to actual history can be made through selected events in each chapter of the novel.
In order to compare the events in Michener’s Hawaii, it is necessary to recap the events of the novel. The following selected events from each chapter will serve this purpose. The first chapter of Hawaii, “From the Boundless Deep”, describes the formation of the islands, very descriptively. It states that the creation of Hawaii took place “millions upon millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed, and the principal features of the Earth had been decided.” Although the creation is a purely fictional account, it is known that the Hawaiian Islands are volcanic islands, and it is possible that they were created in the way that Michener describes. Next, in the second chapter entitled “From the Sun-Swept Lagoon”, Michener describes, once again in great detail, who the first settlers of Hawaii were, and how and why they went there.
According to Michener, they were from the island of Bora, which is near the island of Hawaii, and northwest of Tahiti. It is known for a fact that the first people to arrive in Hawaii were from the South Pacific. The Bora-Borans, according to the novel, on their trip to Hawaii, sailed in a long double canoe, with a platform between and a small hut in the center. According to historians, “on voyages of exploration, the courageous sea men used double canoes – from 60 to 80 feet long and three to five feet wide, joined with several pieces of bamboo. They built a platform, 16 to 18 feet wide, straddling the large canoes and, on top of it, constructed a crude shelter.” Although the second chapter is mainly about a pre-historical time period, historians have made some inferences and come to some conclusions about how life may have been before and after the settlement of Hawaii by the various people that planted their roots there. In the novel, there was only one race that arrived; however, historians feel that, because of linguistic reasons, the first people to arrive were Negroids. Next were Polynesians, and finally, Caucasians. In the third chapter, “From the Farm of Bitterness”, the reader is introduced to the New England Missionaries before they depart for Hawaii.
A Hawaiian named Keoki Kanakoa gave a sermon at Yale University, which had great impact upon many people who attended. He stated that in his “father’s islands immortal souls go every night to everlasting hell because.. there has not been any missionaries to Hawaii to bring the word of Jesus Christ.” Abner Hale, who attended the sermon, was deeply moved; so moved that he went to apply to the mission, along with his friend and classmate, John Whipple. Similarly, in 1809, in truth, history records that a certain Henry Obookiah stirred the emotions of religious New Englanders. He was sent to school, for he was a promising candidate to return to Hawaii and preach Christianity.
Unfortunately, in 1818, he died of typus or pneumonia. His death caused much grief, and among those who felt the impact were Reverend Hiram Bingham, and Reverend Asa Thurston. It is possible that Abner Hale and John Whipple represent Bingham and Thurston in Hawaii. In the novel, eleven missionary couples and Keoki Kanakoa went to Hawaii on the brig the Thetis. They left on September 1, 1821, after prayers .
In fact, there were seven missionary couples, and three Hawaiians, who were trained as teachers, that went to Hawaii on the Thaddeus, also after prayers. All of the missionaries, in fact and in the novel, were selected by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. After the missionaries arrived in both cases, they targeted their efforts on introducing Christianity to the King, Queen , and the High Priests. After a while, both Kaahumanu, the real Queen, and Malama, the Queen in the novel, became interested in learning to read. Next, the missionaries built churches built churches; but membership was difficult to attain.
In both cases, one had to have been truly converted in order to become s member through a long and grueling process. After establishing themselves in Hawaii, the missionaries tried to keep control of the islanders and help them break from old customs, such as the system of tabus and the worshipping of idols and the ancient system of gods. In chapter IV, “From the Starving Village”, Michener gives a quick history of a Chinese village. The farmers, in the early 800’s A.D., due to a famine, had to travel and find food. Eventually, they decided to sell a daughter for food and double-cross the buyer. They killed the rich man, took all of his food, and fled to the mountains.
A village was established there and then the time shifts back to the late 1800s. Next the Kee family is introduced. They were from a Chinese clan, in the Punti village. Three hundred Chinese were selected to go to Hawaii to work on plantations. They were put in the hold of a ship, and were treated like livestock, not human beings. The captain of the ship feared a mutiny by the “Chinese pirates” he was transporting.
“Compared to the brightness of the day on the deck, all was gloom and shadowy darkness in the hold.” After they arrived, most of the Chinese were sent to work on plantations; however, Kee Mun Ki and his wife, Char Nyuk Tsin, were offered jobs as cooks by Dr. Whipple, a former missionary. Dr. Whipple was the man who arranged the experiment of bringing the Chinese to work on the plantations. The pay was lower, but Kee Mun Ki would learn English and become skilled. History notes that in 1852, the labor problems in the fields in Hawaii had become serious.
“In desperation, the owners turned to oriental labor and, as an experiment, in 1852, brought a total of 280 coolies from China, to work under contract for five years.” With the Chinese came the mai Pake – the Chinese sickness – otherwise known as leprosy. Kee Mun Ki began to get sores, and eventually, was shipped off to the leper island. Char Nyuk Tsin accompanied him as a kokua, or helper, and after he died she later returned to Hawaii. The description of the island was a fairly accurate one, comparing it to the historical leper colony of Molokai. Conditions were terrible.
When a leper died, his or her body would either remain where it was or be thrown into a lake by other lepers. Those who had a kokua were sometimes buried. When leprosy actually came to Hawaii is not known; some say about 1840. However, 1863 was the first public concern over the disease. The Board of Health set up the colony at Molokai.
Those sent were confirmed lepers. Since conditions were so bad, “attempts were made to improve the situation, but most of them proved ineffectual.” This was partly because not many people realized the mental as well as physical anguish that the lepers suffered from. The next problem that confronted the characters in Hawaii dealt with the sugar and agricultural industries. Whipple Hoxworth, the grandson of Dr. John Whipple, decided to utilize a large area of the Hawaiian islands. But they were barren, with no water to support the produce he wished to grow.
He thought of boring miles through the neighboring mountains, but instead took a more practical approach. He found a man named Mr. Overpeck, who had studied Artesian water – fresh water that was trapped under pressure in the earth. He proposed to build a well (which he designed), and as he predicted, he found millions of gallons of water. Factually, before Artesian wells were bored, huge ditches were dug to carry the water to the plantations. “The first Artesian well was bored in July, 1879, at Ewa Plantation, and thereafter, with the aid of great pumps, the underground water supply of Oahu was made available for use.” After whip had succeeded in buying up more than six thousand acres of land, he turned the management of his sugar lands to Janders and Whipple, and set out, once again, to see more of the world.
When he did so, he usually brought back various fruits. The first time he had mangoes. The next time, he returned with orange trees, coffee beans, and ginger flower. He did so in order to try to introduce new agricultural goods to Hawaii, thereby gaining entrance in to new markets. It was very important to Char Nyuk Tsin that one of her five boys be educated at an American college or university. Since each one was well rounded (spoke four languages, were above high school level in some subjects, etc.), her decision was a difficult one.
She consulted Uliassutai Karakoram Blake, the only character who “is founded upon a historical person who accomplished much in Hawaii.” Blake was a teacher at the school that the Kee children attended. Char Nyuk Tsin finally decided, after a lot of debate, to send Africa, one of her sons, to Michigan to become a lawyer. The importance of an education was not underemphasized in Hawaii. “Among the people of oriental or mixed background, most of whose parents or grandparents were plantation workers, education [was] a cherished privilege.” The reason why the Orientals worked so hard was because they did not want to revert to the “ko-hana,” hard physical work, of their parents and grandparents. Meanwhile, in the novel, Wild Whip Hoxworth, as he was now called, was concentrating on getting the United States to annex Hawaii. His motive was that he, and the eight other prominent men who owned sugar plantations in Hawaii, were losing mon …