Herman Melville’s ‚Typee‘
A Melancholy Look at Civilization and its Other
Pages 5 - 17
Melancholy is a distinctive feature of many of Melville’s characters, apparent from his first book, ‚Typee‘. In this autobiographical novel, both the narrator and his companion are represented as melancholy, a feature belonging to the romantic stereotype of the restless outsider. In this article, I intend to show how Melville creatively used this stereotype in ‚Typee‘ to present a detached and critical view of Western society. However, it is the inability of the melancholy subject to identify with the monotonous lifestyle of the Marquesas Islands that avoids reducing the book to a mere antimodern pamphlet. Melancholy appears simultaneously as a product of Western culture and modernity and as a privileged point of departure for a constructive criticism of it, affording a perspective that will prove fruitful not only in this book but also in Melville’s subsequent works.