November 12, 2005:
Hierarchy of race. Melanesians, Polynesians, Tonks, American Blacks, French, and all the subtle gradations of mixed caste leading up to Whites as a pinnacle which everyone, especially the Whites, take literally. The author hides his own attitude behind the words of his narrators but you have to think this pyramid is much of what's on his mind.
Hierarchy of gender. The white women are virtual prisoners. The nonwhite women are literal prisoners, held separate for their own safety from the Americans.
Hierarchy of class. Looming everpresent in the unspoken is the fear of the ranks, who appear principally as shadowy gangs of would-be rapists.
Who do the officers love the most? The half-cast women who act like White men, refusing to be dominated by the hierarchies all acknowledge, but not all serve.
Multiple narrators, a different one for each chapter. Unlike Ulysses the work was received as a collection of independent stories linked tenuously by the overlap of characters. Why the confusion? Perhaps the word "Tales" in the title contributes. But you have to think it's the difference between European and American audiences, where the Europeans are more cognizant of tradition and of technique, while the Americans are more interested in a fetchin' yarn.
That there are two South Pacifics, the Melanesian and the Polynesian.