Besides the predatory behavior (which we have actually discussed all over the topic because it does come into everything):
another recurring theme seems to be exile and the hunt to return home, or for the home a character has never had.
I think this might be a less conscious theme. I am not sure what Mitchell's conclusions are about people and predatory behavior, but I am pretty sure that he knows. But the homelessness just seems to keep happening without any clear purpose in the book.
Some people are driven from their homes by predators, from Autua to Zachry, while others like Sonmi or seer Rhee or Javier (minor character I know) never had a home to call home to start with,
But Frobisher, and Cavandish, lost their homes because of their own ungentlemanly behavior; Ewing is a passive observer and tacit accomplice in the predatory world rather than a victim for most of his story, while Goose is equally exiled and an out and out predator; the missionaries too - as a group they are predators rather than victims - Luisa's father chose exile as a part of his mission and, if this is the first of a book series, I feel that she is going to be a wanderer; Meronym made the same choice for a different mission...
Actually, even the Maoris are exiles. I am starting to think "What major characters are succesfully rooted in their home in any of the stories?"
Mitchell's method is to make us dig deeper into the idea of predatory behavior. One who reads only on the surface would think, He's saying the predators always win, so what's the point of trying to be better?
Whether driven from their homes, or never having had a home, the main characters are all "home seekers" - for lack of a better term. So, are any of them successful - that's your question.
Frobisher realized his ungentlemanly behavior would keep him from ever finding a home, so he committed suicide. Maybe, in a sense, his one musical success was his home; since he achieved that, death was the only thing left for him. (OK, I admit that's a bit of a stretch.)
Doesn't Cavendish end up returning home successfully?
Ewing was able to sort out his own complicity in the predatory world as a result of (1) being victimized by Goose and (2) seeing the individuality and humanity of Autua. The missionaries are seeking to establish new homes, so I don't count them as "seeking home" at all.
Luisa's father wasn't really a character, so I'm not considering him in an analysis of the theme. Luisa, if she can be counted as a "real" character (instead of fictionally fictional) continues the search, but the reader has hope for her because she is fighting against the predators.
If anything, Mitchell's implication seems to be that the predators are, on the surface, the successful ones; however, those who are "home seekers" or "freedom seekers" persist in their efforts, and that's why we continue to hope that they (and WE) will eventually succeed. The fact that few - if any - of these characters are successful indicates that the search goes on.
But it is not just the "good guys" who are homeless. The predators generally are too. And I certainly did not feel that the missionaries had any secure roots on the islands, even those who, unlike the Wagstaffs, accepted their future there.
I've been rereading Primo Levi as a consequnce of quote hunting. In ordinary life outside the Lager, he says, we are cushioned by our attachments, by the laws and customs of civilisation. Inside it is different,
Here the struggle to survive is without respite because everyone is desperately and ferociously alone. If some 018 vacillates, he will find no one to extend a helping hand; on the contrary, someone will knock him aside; and if someone,by a miracle of savage patience and cunning, finds a new method of avoiding the hardest work, a new art which yields him an ounce of bread, he will try to keep his method secret.
I never felt the stories as a group as "happy ending" stories, although technically some of them ought to be.
I think now that it might be the lack of a home-coming that is leaving me dissatisfied even if the story is technically happy ending. For instance Luisa's story is successfully concluded according to the formula, but the formula also demands that she will be straight into the next. And we are told that Zachry does make a new home and family, but I don't know them so they don't comfort me. Cavandish would be the happiest: he does not return to his empty home in London, but he does seem to have attached himself contentedly in Edinburgh. (Oh look, another reason why I warmed to that story while still really disapproving of the man - I'm far too easily emotionally manipulated)
OK. If rootedness cushions you frm predatory behaviour, and he wants to look at predatory behaviour, then I guess it makes sense that the characters are so unrooted. I honestly had not seen the connection. I was hoping someone would bring up some source deep in Mitchell's personal psyche or something. But I guess it does all fit toghether.
I just wish he had shown us the happily rooted compassionate people who make all the fighting worthwhile, without then promptly destroying them every time. So I could feel good.