The Descendants - MATT KING and HIS FAMILY

MATT KING and HIS FAMILY (Illustration) Biographies Ethics Civil Rights Geography Social Studies Sports Film

This image, by noted Hawaiian artist Herb Kawainui Kāne (pronounced KAH-ney), depicts “A Wa'a Kaulua (double canoe) of Hawaiian Nobility of the 18th Century.”  Elected a “Living Treasure of Hawaii,” in 1984, Kāne (1928-2011) helped people to understand Hawaiian culture. Copyright, Herb Kawainui Kāne, all rights reserved. Image provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with his body of work. Online via Polynesian Voyaging Society.


In the acknowledgment section of her book, The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings tells us that part of her story is based on historical facts while the rest is fiction:

I was inspired by historical facts and current events, yet this book is a marriage of reality and fiction, and fiction wears the pants in this family. (Hemmings, The Descendants, page 284.)

It is therefore up to us to decipher which is which, and that investigation begins with Matt King and his family.

We learn that Matt (played by George Clooney in the film) is descended from Hawaiian royalty.  His great-grandmother - the last survivor of the Kamehameha dynasty - was a Princess who married an American (against her parents' wishes).  Hemmings tells us that Matt's royal ancestor was Princess Kekipi.  This part of the story is part of the fiction.

The last surviving member of the Kamehameha dynasty was Princess Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop.  Born in 1831, she was educated by American Protestant missionaries in Hawaii.  Against her parents' wishes, she married an American - Charles Reed Bishop - with whom she had no biological children.  The pair adopted a son who died when he was six months old.

When the Princess was born, there were about 124,000 native Hawaiians living on the various islands.  Fifty-two years later - when she signed her Last Will and Testament - there were about 44,000 native Hawaiians left. 

Appalled by this fact, the Princess believed such a major decline was caused, in part, by various issues.  Chief among them were:

  • foreign-carried diseases (leading to fatal epidemics since native Hawaiians had no built-up immunity to fight things like measles);
  • a lack of education (for native children). 

Charles Bishop, the Princess' husband, later said how much this decline bothered his wife:

Her heart was heavy when she saw the rapid diminution of the Hawaiian people going on decade after decade.

Matt King and his daughters - Scottie and Alex - may have been descended from Hawaiian royalty and white missionaries, but it wasn't from the last survivor of the Kamehameha dynasty.  Matt may have inherited a great deal of prime Hawaiian real estate, but it wasn't as a descendant of the biggest landowner in Hawaii - Princess  Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop.

Even so ... as a hardworking lawyer who paid little attention to the needs of his daughters and his wife - until Elizabeth ("Joanie") King was in a brain-damaged condition - Matt King now tries to make the best of a drastic turn of events

At the split-second of a boat ejection, he alone is responsible for his children.  At the moment his wife ceased to function as his life partner, he alone must make decisions for his family.

One of those decisions is a unique way of notifying people that Elizabeth is about to die.  Thinking a phone call isn't the way to break such news, Matt wants to tell everyone face-to-face.

Brian Speer - someone who was important to Matt's wife - is on vacation, off-island, so Matt and his daughters undertake a journey to find him.

Let's follow their path.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: May 18, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"MATT KING and HIS FAMILY" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2011. Jan 19, 2020.
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