Monday, March 4, 2013


A large part of Typee, is observation, observation of the people, the landscapes, and cultural traditions of the people. At some points as the book feels more anthropological than like a narrative and it is interesting to see the dichotomy between the two different types. On one hand Tommo is not an anthropologist and seems to be listing the scenery because he enjoys it, and it is supposed to an autobiographical book so it could be something out of a journal, Meliville describing his surroundings.

There are many instances where Melville seems to be observing and almost conducting research on the Natives. When they first see the Natives down in the Valley, they are looking at them from a high vantage point and they are looking down on them. Tommo often describes the Natives from an outsiders perspective, when he describes the woman and how they are swimming and dancing. He often goes into great detail when describing a person such as Fayaway, or Marnoo, "His unclad limbs were beautifully formed; whilst the elegant outline of his figure, together with his beardless cheeks. . . the hair of Marnoo was rich curling brown, and twined about his temples and neck in a little close curling ringlets" (135).

All of these contribute to the novel seeming like Melville is an outsider sitting outside of the Natives and looking in on their life. He doesn't ever seem to assimilate to them, and he often compares them to his home and society. Tommo does seem to idealize the Natives however and talk about them as if they had a wonderful simple nature without conflict that at times seems better than his regular society. "There were none of the thos thousand sources of irritation that the ingenuity of civilized man has created to mar his own felicity. There were no foreclosures of mortagages, no protested notes, no bills payable, no debts of honor in Typee" (126).

Tommo is not wanting to become part of this society he seems to want to make an educated statement about the people and their culture, while also talking about their traditions and how their daily lives take place. he takes time to describe how they prepare food, and tattoo and how they go about their daily lives, but he is never part of these observations. There is something about foreign cultures and foreign ways of doing things that is appealing to someone on the outside. How seeing someone live differently can be a way to learn, or appealing in a way that evokes pleasure. Such as tourism and seeing a different culture because they are so different from theirs, and they want to see how these people live out of curiosity. Meliville is providing an outlook to "look" and observe these people in a way where it seems okay to look at them and wander about their way of life. 

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