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Moloka’i’: Setting & Genre



Sub Genre

Historical Fiction

Hawaiian Culture


The setting in the novel Moloka'i is a crucial element for many reasons. The first reason is that the settlement on the Kalaupapa Peninsula of the island of Moloka'i was one of only two such settlements in the history of the United States. The location of the settlement in Hawaii was witness to important world-changing events in the middle of the twentieth century. To try and tell the same story in a different setting would have been impossible.

Unlike in other historical novels, we can't classify the setting of the novel Moloka'i according to a single time. The novel spans seventy-nine years, and the time element of the setting changes accordingly. When Rachel first arrives at the settlement, she was still a part of the nineteenth century. Though changes came to Kalaupapa later than much of the rest of the world, Kalaupapa did still experience the rapid technological changes in the twentieth century.

Setting plays another subtler role in the novel. Hawaii is a place that many regard as idyllic. In fact, the words "Hawaii" and "paradise" are often used synonymously in modern language. Pain, disease, and suffering are not things we associate with the tropical island paradise of Hawaii.

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