Randy's Reviews > Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

Typee by Herman Melville
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's review
Jan 04, 2010

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Read in December, 2009

My interest, in going chronologically through Melville's early works, is in watching the growth of the craftsman. The first two, Typee and Omoo, are both semi-biographical travelogues and adventure chronicles that detail the exotic locales of the South Pacific islands. Even at the time of publication, their content would have been sensational, but hardly groundbreaking.

In Typee, the narrator jumps ship and finds himself living as a captive among a native island tribe (the Typee), who may or may not be cannibals (this is a source of tension throughout the story). What stands out to me here is Melville's already-vast descriptive capacity and his deeply universal human sympathies. It would take five full novels plus his reading of Shakespeare to work up the capacity to write the masterpiece that is Moby Dick. But the tools to do so were already apparent.
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12/06 page 2
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