So I've been trying to post this for days and days, but I had forgotten my password for the new blogger. Finally remembered it! Woot!
In "School for Hawaiian Girls" I really enjoyed the way the author went back and forth between times and between narrators. I thought it offered a much more personal look into the world she creates rather than having one person narrate the entire story from only one perspective. Something that especially stood out to me was the fact that Sam's stories are contradicted twice in the book. It gives his character less credibility, and I still haven't decided which person I want to believe.
The first time Sam's story is contradicted is when the search party finds Lydia dead in the sugarcane. (pg. 26) He claims that he stays with her all night, and he pulls her skirt down over her legs and moves her arms to her sides. When Bernie tells her version of the same event, (pg. 64) Sam is not even present in the search party, and she is the one who stays all night with Lydia, and adjusts her skirt and hair and moves her out of the sugarcane. Sam doesn't show up until the morning.
Later in the story, when Sam decides to take revenge on Daniel, Sarah tells the story first, (pg. 161) claiming that Sam is pushed to the side after torturing Daniel, and Reverend Christian kills Daniel himself. Later, Sam retells the story from his perspective, (pg. 163) claiming that he tortured Daniel until the Reverend came, and then he and a friend hunted him down later, and finished their gruesome business.
In both instances, the story that comes first is the one we tend to believe. As humans, any fact we hear first is the truth to us, and anything that contradicts it is a lie until proven true. Only when there is no doubt that the latter is true will we accept the former as false. Thus, I am more inclined to believe Sam's version of Lydia's death, but Sarah's version of Daniel's torture. Sam does whatever he wants, with nothing to lose, and makes sure to display the persona that he is a tough guy who doesn't care about anyone. But really he is in love with his sister and cares deeply about her, as we know. So of course he would stay with her all night. Bernie, however, just seems like a goody-two shoes who is jealous of her sister. She seems less likely to care enough about Lydia to stay in the sugarcane with her all night. Then again, Bernie's account of the night is detailed, and Sam's is not at all. He doesn't talk about staying the night, he talks about moving her out of the sugarcane and asking her who did it. Bernie mentions the way the sky changed, and the sound of the rooster crowing.
But perhaps the author doesn't want us to pick one story to believe as the truth. Perhaps neither of the stories offered for either situation are the truth. I think the idea of memory, especially false memory, plays into the major theme in the book of forgetting. Everyone who knew Lydia did their best to forget her, forget everything that happened, and never speak of it again. That is the reason their tellings of these stories are skewed. Memories can be altered, changed to suit each person's perspective of what happened, or the way they wished it had happened. As a result of not remembering tragedies like this, each person will subconsciously make up the best fitting story from what they do remember, or from what they wanted to occur.
I think remembering something incorrectly is worse than forgetting it, but it happens to everyone. Each of us can relate to that: thinking we remember something because our parents told us the story so many times, or looking through old pictures until we think we can remember times when we were only toddlers. The fact that the author uses this device makes the story more mysterious, and the characters more human.