and, as no two individuals can have had completely identical experiences, it follows that no two individuals can view events in exactly the same way. Thus, they will make different choices, and choose different course of action.
So important to Michener are all the minute events that go to make up a life, that prior to undertaking a new narrative, he sets himself the enormous task of finding out everything he possibly can about his subject.
The causal relationship between the characters and the social milieu is complex. In Michener's... novels, this complex interaction between characters and their environment is typically portrayed in finely detailed sketches that beg the question of which causes which. Michener, for example, goes so far as to provide incredible details about the land and environment, reflecting a Montesquieu-like interest in the causal nexus between geography, climate, and history. However, there can be little doubt that these historical novels also stress the critical choices... undoubtedly made. Fortunately for the artist, it is not necessary to resolve the problem of "the hero in history" or to commit to one of several forms of determinism. (Yanarella & Sigelman, 1988, p. 82)
Michener's "pre-occupation" with minor details is a deliberate choice. Nothing he describes is not part of the mix. The sort of psychological determinism that pervades his works fits nicely with all of the other facets of his technique. Realism and New Historicism demand life-like detail. Our world - Michener's world - is a real place. It operates according to fixed natural laws. These laws can be put the test much as a scientist repeats the experiments of his colleagues in order to see whether their conclusions are true. In the case of human beings, fictional or otherwise, it is only difficult to predict the future because the range of experiences available to each individual is so incomprehensibly vast. By providing the smallest and seemingly most innocuous bits, Michener wishes us to see his creations as living beings, and these living beings are themselves placed in an environment that is as solid and substantial as the homes in which we ourselves live; our offices, schools; city streets and fields. The more we absorb of Michener's narrative picture, the more we become a part of that picture. He desires nothing more - or less - than that we empathize with his characters. In fact, we become his characters.
By becoming the characters he creates, Michener is attempting to teach us something. He realizes that many learn best through experience. The effects of negative situations or beliefs, especially, become much easier to understand when we find ourselves at the receiving end. Religious, racial, and ethnic prejudice can be thought of intellectually, but the real sting of the rebuke that the victim of prejudice feels can never be quite imagined by one who is not a victim. Michener instinctively understood these situations himself because he had lived through them. The Second World War - and war in general - took on immense significance for the author. War stripped away the old identities, if at least for a time, and allowed one to experience raw emotion and life stripped down to its bare essentials. It was to this wartime experience, that Michener traced many of the dramatic changes that arose in American society after 1945:
World War II opened up American society. Millions of young men left their homes to go to war. They became more cosmopolitan and less parochial in the process. The walls of economic class were crumbling from the force of economic growth and ready access to higher education. A housing explosion was creating new communities and altering older ones. The movement for black liberation was under way. And the seeds had been planted for a new enlightenment by and about American women. "My generation," James Michener was to write, "after suffering years of hardship and deprivation, stormed back and, in a sense, fought just as bravely to build a new America." 3 it was a new America that no longer fit the simple verities or stereotypes of the decades before the war. Nor was it a new America that comfortably fit the structure of prewar politics. (Mackenzie, 1996, p. 15)
James a. Michener has been so successful an author because he has been able to create realistic worlds into which his readers may enter. Similar down to the last detail to the real places and people they are intended to represent, tone enters at one's peril. For once a member of Michener's world, one is fully subject to all of the triumphs, as well as the tragedies, that his characters suffer. By forcing this "oneness" with his creations upon us, he compels us to come face-to-face with all of the injustices, prejudices, and problems that afflict us. The world of James a. Michener's writings is a kind of photographic image of the world which we actually inhabit. It operates according to the same laws, and so represents for each us, a different, possible, alternative reality, one in which, by the Grace of God or the hand of fate, we might actually have found ourselves.
Adhikari, Madhumalati. (December 2002). "History and Story: Unconventional History in Michael Ondaatje's the English Patient and James a. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific." History and Theory 41, Theme Issue 41, 43-55
Carty, T. (2001). The Catholic Question: Religious Liberty and Jfk's Pursuit of the 1960 Democratic Presidential Nomination. The Historian, 63(3), 577. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=94902913
Grobel, L. (1999). Talking with Michener. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=4931070
Mackenzie, G.C. (1996). The Irony of Reform: Roots of American Political Disenchantment. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=101297024
Severson, M.S. (1996). James a. Michener: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=14822881
Yanarella, E.J. & Sigelman, L. (Eds.). (1988). Political Mythology and Popular Fiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.