Tales of the South Pacific Characters

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Tales of the South Pacific Summary & Study Guide Description

Tales of the South Pacific Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener.

The Narrator, an unnamed Naval Officer, appears in The South Pacific, Coral Sea, etc.

The narrator holds the story line together with his frequent changes in location and his presence in meetings with Admiral Kester on planning the battle of Kuralei and on winning the war. He is an officer on Admiral Kester's staff who typically travels around and keeps in touch with various units. Thus, the narrator gets to meet the other major characters of the stories and tell the stories about them. Though the narrator is almost always present, he is not developed as a character very much. Though he is on the scene at the plantation of the Frenchman's daughter, for example in the story about "Those Who Fraternize," he is not described as having an affair of his own with one of the women there. Perhaps the best characterization of the narrator is in the story "The Strike." There he makes clear that he, unlike Captain Kelley, knows what the objective of the next great offensive is, and the narrator brags of his association with various Admirals. In the story "Alligator," the narrator describes himself as being an undistinguished average man, who is used as a courier for top-secret plans and is careful to not draw attention to himself. As explained in the first story "The South Pacific," the narrator is fascinated with people and tells stories both about situations he has been in and stories that he has heard from others.

Tony Fry is in many of the stories, from "Mutiny," to the report of his death in the last story. Tony is known for his ability to procure endless supplies of whiskey. He also has affairs with Lucy, the dim-witted girl of the so-called Bounty People in "Mutiny" and with the sharp-witted Latouche, who Tony ends up marrying. Tony has the ability to be philosophical and questioning, which angers some of the career Navy types. This is typified by Tony's conversations with Lt. Charlesworth, in "the Cave, where Tony insults graduates of the Navy academy at Annapolis as the so-called trade-school boys. Tony is actually a courageous person, but often pretends to not be this, sometimes as a joke and sometimes on account of laziness. Still, he is happy to go out on PT boat patrol and do other dangerous duties that he might have avoided. This willingly to do more than expected actually leads to his death at the battle of Kuralei, where as beach-master, he could have stayed on the beach instead of going into a dangerous area with some Marines.

Lt. Bus Adams, appears in The Milk Run, The Wine Mess at Segi Point, Those Who Fratern

Bus Adams is a Navy pilot and a major character of "The Milk Run," and "Those Who Fraternize" as well as other stories. Bus is described as a blond and cocky pilot who lives day to day. In the story "The Milk Run," he is rescued from a downed plane in the water at a huge expense in a funny story which shows the superior logistics in-depth of the US Navy. Bus makes an impression as an impulsive romantic when he has an affair with Latouche, the Frenchman's daughter, though Bus is married in civilian life. Bus Adams is the center of many funny situations, typified by his role as the pilot of the Bouncing Belch, a disintegrating plane, as he helps Tony Fry seek whiskey supplies for Christmas.

Seabee Luther Billis, appears in Dry Rot, A Boar's Tooth and, The Airstrip at Konora

Luther Billis is a Seabee and an enlisted man who first appears in the story "Dry Rot." He entertains Joe, the sailor who is stuck on a small atoll, and gets girls back in the United States to write letters to Joe. Luther also appears in "A Boar's Tooth," and "The Airstrip at Konora." He is a Seabee construction worker as well as a so-called Big Dealer, who gets the assistance of the officer Tony Fry. Tony helps Luther to visit the native ceremonies on Vanicoro. Luther is an honorary member of this native tribe. In the story "The Airstrip at Konora," Billis is finally at work trying to build an airstrip there in a very short amount of time.

Lt. Bill Harbison, appears in An Officer and a Gentleman, and Passion

Lt. Bill Harbison is the main character in "An Officer and a Gentleman" and appears in several other stories. Bill is very ego-driven and feels that he is wasting his time and accomplishing nothing in the South Pacific. He decides to pursue the beautiful Nurse Nellie after previously avoiding such love affairs. Bill ends up admitting to Nurse Nellie that he is married, mainly to maintain his snobbish view of the world. It is mentioned in the story "Passion" that Bill is involved with other women. Later, it turns out that Bill arranges to return to the United States and avoid combat in the attack on Kuralei.

Nurse Nellie Forbush, appears in An Officer and a Gentleman, and Our Heroine

Nurse Nellie is a beautiful and intelligent young woman from a small town in Alabama. She dates Lt. Bill Harbison for a while and ends up asking him to marry her. She ends up being rejected by Bill, because he is already married, and is a social snob. Nellie is moved to an island to the north and becomes involved with Emile De Becque. Her racial prejudices are challenged when she considers marrying De Becque, and finds out about his children with women from the South Pacific.

Emile De Becque, appears in Our Heroine

Emile De Becque is a French plantation owner who is in his forties and has had many women though never has been married. He is a leading follower on his island of Gen. de Gaulle and the French forces that are allied with the Americans. Emile decides to marry Nurse Nellie. He has many children from earlier affairs with women that are Tokinese, Javanese and Melanesian.

Dinah Culbert, appears in An Officer and a Gentleman, and Our Heroine

Dinah Culbert is an older nurse who goes out with Lt Bill Harbison for a time, though she is almost twice his age. Dinah gives advice to Nurse Nellie on how to deal with her confusing love-life. Later, she carefully and thoughtfully encourages Nurse Nellie to marry Emile De Becque.

Admiral Kester, appears in The South Pacific, Alligator

Admiral Kester is the narrator's commander and operates from Noumea on New Caledonia. Admiral Kester plays an important role in developing Operation Alligator, the seizure of the island of Kuralei.

Joe, appears in Dry Rot

Joe is an ordinary young Navy man who spends the entire war on a small coral atoll that has two airstrips. Joe tries hard to avoid getting in trouble, but does not always succeed in this. Joe meets Seabee Luther Billis, who gets girls to write Joe letters. Joe is extremely frustrated because he fails to see how he is actually playing an important role in the American war effort.

Teta Christian, appears in Mutiny

Teta Christian is a ninety-year-old woman who is a descendant of the mutineers from the ship Bounty. Teta is an old woman but is healthy. She leads the islanders that are trying to stop the building of an airstrip on Norfolk Island, and the cutting down of a row of pine tree across its central plateau.

Atabrine Benny, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Atabrine Benny is a man of about fifty, who supervises malaria prevention programs in a sector of the New Hebrides Islands. Benny enjoys being free of his nagging wife and posing as a doctor, when he is really a pharmacist's assistant back in Texas. Benny is constantly going from one island to another delivering Atabrine, and serves to bring Joe Cable to Bali-ha'i and to other islands.

Dr. Paul Benoway, appears in Passion, A Boar's Tooth

Dr Paul Benoway is a friend and colleague of characters such as Lt. Bill Harbison and Tony Fry. He is a careful and quiet man, unlike some of his wilder friends. Paul Benoway wonders why he does not have the passion for his wife as men like Bill Harbison has for women. He is interested in things out on the islands and goes along on the expedition to the native pig ceremony on Vanicoro Island.

Marine Lt. Joe Cable, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Marine Lt. Joe Cable shares some of the snobbishness of other well-educated officers. Unlike other well-educated men, he gives the impression of being a real man. Joe Cable gets Bloody Mary to stop selling grass skirts and other items. Soon he is captured by Mary's admiration, and then the physical passion of Mary's daughter Liat. This interferes with his mission to suppress Bloody Mary's trading activity, and causes Joe other problems.

Bloody Mary, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Bloody Mary is a Tonkinese woman who is an indentured servant in the New Hebrides Islands. She is daring and successfully trades in grass skirts, and at night in bootleg whiskey. Bloody Mary decides to give her daughter to Lt. Joe Cable and marry her off to him. This is a bit confused, because Mary is also arranging Liat to marry the French planter Benoit, but Joe Cable is her first choice.

Captain Samuel Kelley, appears in The Strike

Captain Samuel Kelley is the commander at the supply Depot. He is known for his extreme harshness, though he is an effective officer. His planning saves the Depot from the worse effects of a hurricane, but his command style infuriates other officers. These officers stage a type of strike against Captain Kelley. Later it is revealed that his strictness caused the suicide of his daughter.

Lt. Colonel Haricot, appears in Those Who Fraternize

Lt. Colonel Haricot is a man in his forties and a bachelor. He leads a raid on Madame Latouche Barzan's plantation and aims to seize all the American equipment that has been brought there and traded for other things like food. Haricot gets only a small number of goods confiscated. Then Latouche plots successfully to get Lt. Colonel Haricot involved with her sister, Laurencin. Haricot ends up marrying Laurencin.

Commander Hoag, appears in The Airstrip at Konora

Commander Hoag is the commander of the 144 Seabees, and agrees to build an airstrip on Konora within fifteen days of landing his equipment on the island. Hoag drives his men, but is also sensitive to their suggestions and abilities. He gets a Jewish soldier named Lt. Pearlstein to fill in the ravine and build an airstrip over it. Hoag is killed by a Japanese suicide attack just when the first bomber successfully lands on the airstrip on schedule.

Lieutenant Grant, appears in Coral Sea

Lieutenant Grant is a New Zealander who pilots a PBY seaplane from the eastern end of Vanicoro Island, at the beginning of 1942. At the time, the Japanese are on the offensive and there is fear that they will continue towards New Zealand. Lt. Grant keeps very tight discipline and works hard to track the Japanese. When the Japanese are defeated at Coral Sea, Grant makes a speech and then collapses totally drunk.

Latouche Barzan, appears in Those Who Fraternize

Latouche Barzan is one of the daughters of Frenchman Emile De Becque with a Javanese woman. She is married to Achilles Barzan, but Achilles is forced to flee after their island is secured for the pro-Allies DeGaullist forces by Latouche's father Emile De Becque. Latouche gets into affairs with American soldiers, and helps her sisters Josephine, Laurencin, and Marthe do the same.

Liat, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Liat is the Tonkinese daughter of Bloody Mary. Joe Cable is brought to Liat on Bali-ha'i Island, and Joe and the seventeen-year-old girl immediately start an affair. Liat and Joe are aware from the beginning that their affair is a temporary thing, and that Liat is to marry the French plantation owner Jacques Benoit.

The Remittance Man, appears in The Cave

The Remittance Man is a man of British-origin who is a coast-watcher on one of the Japanese-held islands in the New Hebrides Islands. He sends radio broadcasts to the Allies about Japanese forces heading south towards them, until he is stopped by the Japanese.

Timothy Hewitt, appears in Passion

Timothy Hewitt is a young navy man who is married. Tim writes passionate letters to his wife that are considered subversive by the officers that censor the mail. Dr. Paul Benoway meets with Tim and decides that his letters to his wife are harmless as long as they are kept private.

Jacques Benoit, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Jacques Benoit is a French plantation owner who is in his forties. He has many native women, but decides to marry Bloody Mary's daughter Liat. He meets Joe Cable but does not realize that Joe has been Liat's lover.

Lt. Charlesworth, appears in The Cave

Lt. Charlesworth is an Annapolis Naval Academy graduate that leads a group of PT boats from a base on the island of Tulagi. These PT boats are responsible for stopping the transport of Japanese troops on barges to Guadalcanal. Charlesworth has argues with Lt. Tony Fry, but soon shares Tony's obsession with the coastwatcher giving the Allies radioed intelligence, the Remittance Man.

Sister Clement, appears in 'Fo 'Dolla

Sister Clement is a French nun on the island of Bali-ha'i who is in charge of maintaining the hospital on the island. Sister Clement is familiar with the education of Liat, the young daughter of Bloody Mary. Sister Clement resents Joe Cable's affair with Liat and seeks to disrupt it.

Polikopf, appears in The Strike

Polikopf is an enlisted man who is recruited by officers including the narrator to run a comic disruption of the supply Depot in the story "The Strike." He notifies guards of a the presence of Japanese saboteurs in the middle of the night, but this is a false alarm. The comic story of a man saying he is Naval Intelligence and getting guards to shoot into the air, ends up not involving a prosecutable crime. Polikopf is freed, though he denies getting any assistance or encouragement by Bus Adams and others.

The Preacher, appears in A Cemetery at Hoga Point

The Preacher is a Black-American serviceman who has been assigned to maintain the cemetery at Hoga Point on Konora, along with his friend, another black man, Denis. The Preacher talks in a heavy black dialogue and wonders if good men like Commander Hoag can be replaced.

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