Throughout “School for Hawaiian Girls”, I came upon a few subtle notions of animosity between the Hawaiians and the Caucasians (haoles). Coming from Hawaii, I was able to understand some of the reasons for these feelings that date back to the eighteen hundreds, when Captain Cook and his crew landed in Hawaii. When Cook first arrived in the islands, the native Hawaiians were initially hesitant to interact, and fascinated by these unheard of people. They eventually took them in, and even thought of them as holy figures, given their complexion, and technological advances (at this point, Hawaiians were not even introduced to metal). Over the course of the next two hundred years, the Caucasians took over the land, government, and economy, thus infuriating the native Hawaiians. We see this sense of animosity in the book through Spook’s blatant disregard for Caucasians, and among other indicators, the self control Moani has while dealing with tourists.
The word “haole” was not first developed with a negative connotation. “Ha” translates to “the breath of life”, and “aole” means “no”. Because Captain Cook and his men were so pale, the natives thought they were lacking the breath of life, thus labeling them “haoles”. Now, Hawaiians refer to Caucasians as haoles in a derogatory manner because of the oppression, and seizure of their lands they had faced in the past. This frame of mind that all Hawaiians have been tyrannized by all Caucasians has reverberated throughout the centuries, and is evident in Spooks’ confrontation with Rick: “’What, haole? What’s your problem?’ Spooks said. Next thing I knew it was fucking haole this, fucking haole that.” (p. 175) The problem began with Rick not doing what Moani had told him; accepting Spooks and his family in their campsite. This first impression of Rick caused Spooks to assume that Rick was just another “stupid haole”. Feeling insulted by Rick’s ignorance and arrogance, Spooks took the opportunity to lash out at him, and further his ideology that haoles bring little to no good. Had Spooks’ predetermined attitude not been an issue, this situation may not have been blown out of proportion.
This sense of animosity is evident in Moani’s character, however, she does a better job at managing her temper when dealing with stubborn clients. “Be cool, be nice, I told myself for the millionth time in my kayak career.” (p. 193) She understands that these people do not completely understand the Hawaiian culture, and do not see their own ignorance. She herself thinks that she would have that mentality if she were to travel. “[…] pay top dollar for a week in paradise and, therefore, believe I can do whatever I want. Wear stupid outfits. Waste food. Offend the natives.” (p. 193) What McMillen speaks to with this passage is that it is not always easy to pick up the culture of a foreign land.