Monday, March 19, 2007

What, Haole?

By using point of views from characters that are a part of different generations we are able to explore the way in which ideals and culture have or have not changed with time. Throughout the book there are many interactions between Hawaiians and haoles. Through McMillen’s manipulation of time in School for Hawaiian Girls we begin to understand where stereotypes of Hawaiians and the Hawaiian/Haole relationship originate from.
Jaydene mentioned that the true meaning of haole is without breath, because when westerners first came to Hawaii, Hawaiians were surprised with the color of their skin. But it is clear from the context of the book that through time there is much more meaning and feeling that comes with the use of this word. By using different point of views, in retelling the story of Lydia’s death, we are able to understand the feelings that back the word haole.
Based off of this story, it is apparent that missionaries, like Sarah and her family thought very little of the Hawaiians. “‘You have to understand that the Hawaiian is only three generations removed from human sacrifice,’” Sarah’s father explains to Everett (McMillen 119). Although true at this time, it is with this negative attitude that the missionaries and westerners began to take over Hawaii, believing that with their own religion and ideals, their way of living was much more advanced than the Hawaiians. McMillen’s use of different point of views exemplifies the way the missionaries did not take into consideration the beliefs and rituals of the Hawaiians; because their ways were different they felt that they were superior to the Hawaiians.
So, how fitting it is that McMillen uses Daniel’s character to be the one that rapes Lydia. His character, which exemplified the actions that Everett and Father Christian looked down on from the Hawaiians, contrasts the superiority that the Christian’s believed they had. He drinks and he smokes, he looks at Hawaiian women and messes around with another man. His actions raping and killing Lydia can be interpreted as a reflection of the impact that missionaries had on the Hawaiian lives. Not only did they disrupt the Hawaiian culture by bringing a different kind of religion and education to the islands but also in ways which disturbed their peace. The rape of Lydia as a Hawaiian girl, by a haole man is significant because of the stereotypes that the missionaries had of the Hawaiians at this time. It is almost as if Daniel felt that he had the authority to take advantage of Lydia.
In contrast, we are also able to understand how the word is used differently during the 1980’s in the scene on the island where Moani invites friends to join her and her tour group for breakfast. Everything about the way that Moani was raised was different from her grandmother Bernie. Moani was actually sent to the mainland for school and given privileges equal to people of all other races. With just this aspect of Moani’s life, we can see how lives of Hawaiians and privileges have become a part of American culture. But, despite the blended cultures that Hawaii is now accustom to, McMillen gives a good example of how the word haole can sometimes be used sixty years later. “‘I didn’t pay to feed other people’s kids,’ Rick said (McMillen 174).” In response, the father of the kids says “What, haole? What’s your problem” (McMillen 174)? Although the mix of races have clearly changed at this point, Hawaii becoming a prime tourist spot for mainlanders, this scene shows the animosity that can still be held behind the world haole. In one blog, this animosity is too much to explore thoroughly. But, just from this short novel we are able to understand where the strong feelings behind the word haole originate; years of having to adopt aspects of another people’s culture and feeling subordinate to another race.


Jordan said...

You have brought up a very interesting point. What I have noticed throughout the books is that the American culture that is being introduced to the Asian people is something the Asians strive for in all books but "The School For Hawaiian Girls". In "Dogeaters", there is the attraction to Hollywood. In "The Interpreter", Suzy seeks out American men,and now in "My Year of Meats", the Japanese T.V. ratings are increasing because of a show that is focused on introducing the American culture. For the Hawaiians in McMillen's novel however, I feel that their rejection of the culture has to do with the oppression by the Caucasians they have faced in the past, which is a little similar to the situation African Americans faced.

lauren_oliver said...

This is an excellent blog. In the previous books that we have read in class we have seen an admiration of Whites and Western culture. This is the first book that explores a negative view of Whites. I think that McMillen is painting a picture of Hawaiians that contradicts everything that the media has ever shown us. We are not reading about the happy Hawaiians who spend all day Hula dancing and all night at a luau. We are seeing Hawaiians as complex human beings struggling to find their place in a world that is no longer for Hawaiians.

Devery Mitchell said...

This was an interesting blog and I agree (somewhat) with the two comments that follow (although I have yet to start "My Year of Meats"), but I do have a few questions regarding the points made thus far. I agree that Daniel is the venue in which McMillen chooses to show the corrupt entities beneath the Christian missionaries' efforts. The point made about his actions being a reflection of the impact of missionaries on Hawaiian lives is what I find most interesting. It is almost as if Daniel is the inverse of this supposedly humane and just system of religious colonization. He proves it to be as false and corrupt as the Hawaiians know it is. However, I don't believe this is the first book we have read which demonstrates the negative effects of white colonization on an Asian/Eastern society. In "Dogeaters" Hagedorn uses her characters plight for American/Hollywood ideals to create and cause thier downfall. Lolita Luna is a product of American culturization (a word I just decided to make up to describe the idea of a culture highly influencing the culture of another country, lets just say a modernized version of colonization... i hope it works). As she strives to be the most perfect and coveted "westernish" kind of actress, (another word I just decided to coin) Hagedorn reveals how the rest of her life is torn and tattered, a bleak version of her technicolor, full-screen outside. The Interpreter of Maladies also touches on several forms of the negative connotations surrounding white culture, the Das family being a prime example. I am sure there are several more instances in more of our texts and I wish I had the drive to write more but right now I need to get back to writing my essay. Thanks for the food for thought!