Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life



The Pequod Review:

Herman Melville's first novel, Typee, is a fictionalized (and exaggerated) account of Melville’s own experiences as a 23-year-old when he abandoned his whaling ship and spent a month living with Polynesian natives on an island in the South Pacific. Already Melville's prose had an infectious exuberance and descriptive charm: 

All of them at length succeeded in getting up the ship's side, where they clung dripping with the brine and glowing from the bath, their jet-black tresses streaming over their shoulders, and half enveloping their otherwise naked forms. There they hung, sparkling with savage vivacity, laughing gaily at one another, and chattering away with infinite glee.


Alas! I say again, for the land-lubber at sea. He is the veriest wretch the watery world over. And such was Rope Yarn; of all land-lubbers, the most lubberly and most miserable. A forlorn, stunted, hook-visaged mortal he was too; one of those, whom you know at a glance to have been tried hard and long in the furnace of affliction. His face was an absolute puzzle; though sharp and sallow, it had neither the wrinkles of age nor the smoothness of youth; so that for the soul of me, I could hardly tell whether he was twenty-five or fifty.

Typee may not have the scope or philosophical depth of Melville's later books, but it is nonetheless a fine adventure story.