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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 299

Whereas a typical Michener novel focuses on a specific place from prehistory to the present, The Drifters is unique to the Michener canon in the sense that it focuses on a specific period, the late 1960's. As the tide suggests, the novel's setting changes constantly as Michener offers glimpses of various places as they existed at an isolated moment in history. If Michener's primary intention in the novel is to capture the mood of America's youth during the Vietnam War, he provides valuable perspective by having his American characters intermingle with youth from Scandinavia, Israel, and Africa. Michener thus suggests that all youth worldwide, not just in America, were traveling abroad at the time in search of alternatives to traditional values. As the Americans travel through Europe and Africa with their newfound friends from abroad, Michener suggests also that America's social turbulence in the late 1960's is not an anomaly, but rather another manifestation of the revolutionary spirit that has existed in all societies since the beginning of time. For example, protesters at the Democratic Party's national convention in Chicago in 1968 are compared to medieval Crusaders; and one popular song of the 1960's reminds Michener of Mozart, Homer, and Sappho. The excessive construction of hotels for tourists on Spain's southern coast recalls how, four hundred years ago, Spain ruined its agriculture and began its tradition of abusing the land by allowing sheep unlimited grazing rights. The people who help draft dodgers escape to Canada during the Vietnam War are compared to the underground railroad, the network of citizens who helped runaway slaves escape to Canada before and during the American Civil War. In writing about a specific period in history, Michener makes history itself a theme in the novel by invoking precedents for the revolutionary ideas of the 1960's.

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