Typee is the first "romance" of the South Seas, a semi-autobiographical account of life in the Marquesas Islands in the 1840s. A blend of personal experience and the narratives of explorers and missionaries, it influenced many later writers on the Pacific, including Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London.
Melville's first published novel, a literary foreshadow of the great heights he will achieve with "Moby Dick", is a semi-autobiographical account of his three week (though in the book, it's 4 month) stay as a captive of the rumored cannibalistic Typee tribe in the Polynesian Marquesas Islands. Melville's in depth anthropological perspective of the Typee and sensual tropical imagery marked the novel as a monumental achievement upon it's release, making Melville a household name overnight. Praised for its surprisingly sympathty with "the Savages" in a time of Pacific turmoil and for being a thrilling adventure, "Typee" has been sighted by proceeding authors as a prime source of influence in the genre of Polynesian adventures.--Submitted by Anonymous
As an American literature teacher, often working with advanced high school students, I feel compelled to teach Melville as part of the standard canon of American literature. Moby Dick, however, is just a little too much for even the best readers--I usually recommend they read it later in life. But Typee has an enduring appeal and is, for the most part, easily understood. To be sure, the redundant descriptions of the island can get tedious, but put in the perspection of Romanticism, it becomes tolerable. The issue of the encroachment of civilization upon the idyllic Typees still provides some spirited discussion. I think Typee is a better introduction to Melville than anything else. Afterall, it was his major work during his life and remained so until he was "rediscovered" in the 1920's. Maybe it needs to be "rediscovered."
I found this to be a most extraordinary book and would strongly recommend it to *everyone*. Just before reading TYPEE (which I have just finished), I read Nathaniel Philbrick's "In The Heart Of The Sea", which sets the scene perfectly for both TYPEE as well as any bold enough to thoroughly engage with MOBY DICK.
What is truly unique about this book is that it is, at points, an anthropological study of a Polynesian society -- from an unwilling captive perspective -- before the influence of Western society has really been felt at a cultural / social layer.
My only cautionary word is that I found reading it ultimately made me sad because I am going to TYPEE (aka TAIPI) valley soon ... actually making the trip ... and I know that what remnants may still exist of TYPEE culture will be little more than a shadow of what it once was. That's life. That's Western influence.
READ THE BOOK. FIVE STAR PLUS RECOMMENDATION.
I'm just reading Hermann Melville's Taipi and I think it's really a great novel. A very fascinating description of life in the Southern Sea with quite modern thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of civilization. I#m not very much into American literature and thought until now that Melville is just Moby Dick. Does anyone know if this novel is autobiographic. I mean did he really live for a while on such an island or is ist based on his experiences as a sailor? I personally can only recommend this novel for reading. Are there more interesting works from Melville than Moby Dick and Taipi?
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