Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The final half of Tales of the Tikongs, from “Paths to Glory,” is noticeably less humorous than the first half. The tales still deal with very serious subjects but they are not veiled with humorous anecdotes and quips. Also, the Tikongs are no longer presented as fun-loving, sexually charged, easy spirited humans but capitalistic and individualist people. The stories themselves are blunt and in some cases, like “Blessed are the Meek,” are incredibly depressing. Hau’ofa almost totally abandons his sense of humor here because he moves from poignant vignettes about the solidarity of the Tikongs to their more “developed-minded” sensibilities.
In this second half, the jaded voice of Manu suddenly becomes much more viable as the reader sees the kind of atmosphere the self-absorbed nature ideas of development and money-hoarding bring. Puku Leka’s family in “Blessed are the Meek” are a perfect example of this. They use the physically powerful and emotionally subservient Puku to work their land and gain profits for themselves while he is left behind by both family and state. Sailosi Atiu in “The Second Coming” is the model hypocrite and even admits to enjoy “lording over” (52) his employees like an imperial while his wife remains sexually frustrated. Ole Pasifikiwei in “The Glorious Pacific Way” continues to shelve his self-respect even after his reason for assistance “goes down the drain” and in fact becomes “a first-rate, expert beggar” (93), which are the concluding lines of the novella.
In these final stories, the light-hearted tales of hormonal development in the face of Christianity and sinning two opposites to cancel the sins out are gone. In their stead are grim portraits of islanders subjected to the pressures of development whether they’re the ones perpetuating the pain or not. So, Hau’ofa is not even in a position to use humor to portray the Tikongs, a microcosm for the “sea of islands,” when they are systematically destructed without being fully aware of it because to put a veil over this situation would be just as harmful.

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