Christopher McCune September 23, 2010
EN 384D: Travel Literature Blog Post #2
The Tikongs: A Foil to the Western World
Tales of the Tikongs, a novel by Epeli Hau'ofa, provides the reader with a fascinating look at the idyllic lives led by the native island people of the South Pacific. However, with his sharp wit and gleeful humor, the author is also provides the reader with an even more intriguing look at western culture. By viewing western civilization through a different lens, from the unique perspective of the Tikongs, the reader is placed at a remove from what we consider "normal" in today's society of . Thus, we are challenged by the Tikongs to question why we place certain things, such as the value of hard-work, money, progress, and development, on great marble pedestals, to be worshipped by our society.
The relationship between Hiti George VI, a Tikong, and Mr. Charles Edward George Higginbotham, an English public servant, perfectly highlights this difference between the Tikongs and western culture. Charles Edward simply cannot grasp how little value the Tikong culture, which is lazy and lax in regard to work, puts in the "Puritan work ethic." So much of western culture is defined by what we do for a living, and the long hours we put into our jobs, that Charles Edward simply cannot comprehend why the Tikongs do not care about work. Meanwhile, the absurdity of the fact that Charles Edward is dramatically reducing the quality of his life by going to the island, simply so he can earn a bigger paycheck that he does not live long enough to enjoy, is not lost on the reader.
Hau'ofa also causes us to question many other staples of western civilization during the first half of this novel. For example, Sione, another Tikong, is desperately trying to halt the tidal wave of development that is threatening to sweep over the island. Sione firmly opposes the Family Planning Agency that the imperialists want to found on the island, and, like many Tikongs, argues for a continuation of traditional Tikong life. Meanwhile, Ika Levu and Toa Qase offer us cautionary tales of how the imperialists helped them grow and develop their fishing and poultry businesses, respectively. Surprisingly, the dramatic rise in their finances, and thus their work load, only served to destroy the happiness of these two Tikongs
In Tales of the Tikongs, Hau'ofa makes some very astute, fascinating criticisms of western society and what we value. By contrasting our society with that of the Tikongs, Hau'ofa masterfully casts doubt on many of the institutions, principles, and codes by which we live by in the modern world. However, he does so with a mischievous wink and a playful smile, which is why this novel is both a light read and, simultaneously, a deep one.