Hawaii


By James Michner

Starting with the very geological foundation of the islands, Michner goes through the history of the islands in his usual, fictionalized manner. The story line is compelling, and the charachers are easy to relate to. The book was a fun read, despite it's nearly 1000 pages, though it did take a while to finish.

What really struck me, as is usual with the books of Michner that I have read, is the social commentary and the understanding of what forces really affected the Islands. The Missionaries that originally Christianized the Islands are explained very well, both in motivation and in eventual results. The novel, while portraying the modernization of Hawai'i very well, leaves off in the 50's, before Hawai'i turns into a truly modern state, but does show the process that led to it's arrival there.

One part of the novel that especially interested me was it's characherization of the various sociological groups that inhabit the Islands. The Japanese and Chinese, who were originally imported to provide cheap labor, but eventually educated themselves out of poverty and into positions of prominance on the Islands, and the unintentional suppression of the native Hawaiians.

Basically, Michner presents the power structure of the islands as an inevitable product of essentially four factors: Firstly, the fact that import labor was needed, and no laborers were content to remain so, but instead educated themselves and their children. Secondly, the natives were decimated by the arrival of the white man, and did not recover to be able to take over the island politically. Thirdly, the 2nd World War put many young Japanese into political prominance, and, lastly, that the rich conservative white plantation owners wanted to control the economy and politics for personal gain.

Overall, the view is compelling in light of the evidence shown, and the limited amount I know about Hawai'i factually, but whether it is a realistic assessment is beyond me.

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