I had a most pleasant experience over Spring Break: I sat on the beach at
Waikiki and reread the Sandwich Islands portions of _Roughing It_. That alone
should be enough, but I had also had the pleasure of visiting most of the
places Mark Twain mentions, notably the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island. It
was interesting to note what had and hadn't changed in the past 125 years or
so. It also put into perspective for me what I felt was a rough journey by
plane to read of his ocean voyage and sqaulid inter-island hop.
Rereading the book in this light made me rethink my judgment of _Roughing It_.
Like most critics, I think, I've always felt that the Sandwich Islands
section was just padding and filler, a digression from the essential Western
plot. (My marginal notes from over a decade ago marked my denigration of the
whole section from earlier readings.) But now I'm not so sure in my judgment.
In a way, Mark Twain seems to have been prescient in recognizing that Hawaii
would be America's westernmost point, and as such, the section is indeed an
important part of the larger narrative.
But maybe I was just bewitched by the islands. What do others think? I
haven't decided for sure; I just feel myself a little more open to
appreciation of the section and ready to grant its merit. Any opinions?