Typee is American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 writer Herman Melville's
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 first book, a classic in the literature of travel and adventure
Travel literature
Travel literature is travel writing of literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or...

 partly based on his actual experiences as a captive on the island Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. It was formerly also known as Île Marchand and Madison Island....

 (which Melville spelled as Nukuheva) in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands
Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas Islands enana and Te Fenua `Enata , both meaning "The Land of Men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9° 00S, 139° 30W...

, in 1842. The title comes from the name of a valley there called Tai Pi Vai
Tai Pi (province)
Tai Pi is a province of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, an administrative subdivsion of French Polynesia. The settlement follows the line of the valley and the stream that passes from its mountainous island surroundings....

. It was Melville's most popular work during his lifetime, but made him notorious as the "man who lived among the cannibals." For 19th century readers, his career seemed to decline afterward, but during the early 20th century it was seen as the beginning of a career that peaked with Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...



Typee was "in fact, neither literal autobiography nor pure fiction." Melville "drew his material from his experiences, from his imagination, and from a variety of travel books when the memory of his experiences were inadequate." The three week stay on which Typee is based takes place over the course of four months in the narrative. Melville drew extensively on contemporary accounts by Pacific explorers to add cultural detail to what might otherwise have been a straightforward story of escape, capture, and re-escape. Most American reviewers accepted the authenticity of the narrative, though it provoked disbelief among some British readers. Two years after its publication many of the novel's events were corroborated by Melville's fellow castaway, Richard T. Greene.

Critical response

Critical opinion on Typee is divided. Scholars have traditionally focused attention on Melville's treatment of race, and the narrator's portrayal of his hosts as noble savage
Noble savage
The term noble savage , expresses the concept an idealized indigene, outsider , and refers to the literary stock character of the same...

s, but there is considerable disagreement as to what extent the values, attitudes and beliefs expressed are Melville's own, and whether Typee reinforces or challenges racist assessments of Pacific culture.
Typee's narrative did express sympathy for the "savages", while criticising the missionaries' attempts to "civilize" them:

It may be asserted without fear of contradictions that in all the cases of
outrages committed by Polynesians, Europeans have at some time or
other been the aggressors, and that the cruel and bloodthirsty
disposition of some of the islanders is mainly to be ascribed to
the influence of such examples.

(The) he voluptuous Indian, with every desire supplied,
whom Providence has bountifully provided with all the sources of
pure and natural enjoyment, and from whom are removed so many of
the ills and pains of life--what has he to desire at the hands of
Civilization? Will he be the happier? Let the once smiling and
populous Hawaiian islands, with their now diseased, starving, and
dying natives, answer the question. The missionaries may seek to
disguise the matter as they will, but the facts are incontrovertible.

In Typee, the character Tommo is terrified of being permanently absorbed into native society. Critics have given much attention to his fear of cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

. The novel states that Typee natives ate an inhabitant of one of the neighboring valleys. The natives who captured Melville reassured him that he would not be eaten.

Typee may have provided the writers Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

, Louis Becke and Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

 with the themes and images of the Pacific experience: cannibalism, cultural absorption, colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, exoticism, eroticism, natural plenty and beauty, and a perceived simplicity of native lifestyle, desires and motives.
The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, was a literary magazine of New York City, founded by Charles Fenno Hoffman in 1833, and published until 1865 under various titles, including:...

called Typee "a piece of Münchhausenism
Baron Munchhausen
Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen , usually known as Baron Münchhausen in English, was a German nobleman born in Bodenwerder and a famous recounter of tall tales....

". New York publisher Evert Augustus Duyckinck
Evert Augustus Duyckinck
Evert Augustus Duyckinck was an American publisher and biographer. He was associated with the literary side of the Young America movement in New York.-Life and work:...

 wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

 that "it is a lively and pleasant book, not over philosophical perhaps."

Publication history

Published in 1846, Typee was Melville's first book, and made him one of the best-known American authors overnight. The book was first published in England. The same version was published in the United States; however, critical references to missionaries and Christianity were removed by Melville from the second US edition at the request of his American publisher. Later additions included a "Sequel: The Story of Toby" written by Melville explaining what happened to Toby.

Before its publication, the publisher asked for Melville to remove one sentence. In a scene where the Dolly is boarded by young women from Nukuheva, Melville originally wrote:
"Our ship was now given up to every species of riot and debauchery. Not the feeblest barrier was interposed between the unholy passions of the crew and their unlimited gratification."

The second sentence was removed from the final version.

The inaugural book of the Library of America
Library of America
The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

 series was a volume containing Typee, Omoo
Omoo: A Narrative of the South Seas is Herman Melville's sequel to Typee, and, as such, was also autobiographical. After leaving Nuku Hiva, the main character ships aboard a whaling vessel which makes its way to Tahiti, after which there is a mutiny and the majority of the crew are imprisoned on...

, and Mardi
Mardi, and a Voyage Thither is the third book by American author Herman Melville, first published in 1849.-Overview:Mardi is Melville's first pure fiction work...

, published on May 6, 1982.

External links

  • Typee: A Peep at Ploynesian Life Online version.
  • Typee, 1846 first edition, scanned book via Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

    , other later editions available.
  • Typee, HTML version from Ye Olde Library
  • Typee, audibook from LibriVox
  • Typee, audiobook with accompanying text from LoudLit
  • Typee, Fluid Text Edition at the University of Virginia Press
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