Melville's Typee Essay
Stories about sea adventures were always popular among critics and readers
Today, we can mention many books with such topic and, in any case, we read about travelling, adventures, and desert islands with curiosity. Such stories excite our imagination. We are waiting for the resolution and quite often imagine ourselves in the place of the main character. It is interesting that when someone gets in such conditions, there are incredible changes and disclosures of personality. In the essay of Bruce A. Harvey based on the example of “Typee” by Melville is illuminating such personal changes and what is connected with them. He confirms that too much abridgment induces people to do strange things. In Typee the main character is tired of suffering captain’s mockeries. He decides to run away from the ship and to spend some days on the NukuhevaIsland.
Observing the life and customs of the natives based on the system of taboo, Tom comes to a conclusion that the opinion of people of islanders is deeply wrong. However, the so-called civilized people bear troubles and ruin. They have an ability to destroy all the living and by right can be considered as the most blood-thirsty beings on the earth. Such a conclusion has become a reason for discussion of many critics. After all, Melville accurately points out that laws are not perfect and people are so absorbed by problems and cares that do not notice what occurs around.
Tommo was on the ship where the law is the captain
As later noticed by Bruce A. Harvey in the sketches about Typee, Tommo ran from the lawlessness to find rescue in other unwritten laws, i.e. in the laws of a Typee tribe. In Harvey’s opinion, it was exactly what Tommo needed (403). On the one hand, Tommo cannot stand a tyranny of the captain and, on the other hand, cannibals of Typee do not make the place where he wants to remain too. He experiences a feeling of apathy, humility, and even sympathy. However, he does not get a feeling of freedom. He is not left by a feeling that he is a stranger among Typee and if he stays with them longer, he could be a stranger at home.
During his escape in an odd way, Tommo injures a foot
Melville makes his main character weak and needing help in such a moment when both feet are necessary for movement. Probably Melville wants to show that all of us are equal in trouble. He specifies that a civilized person with orders and laws becomes simply helpless before the primitiveness. According to Harvey, Tom's injured foot is a symbol of bleakness and certain infantilism. He is like a small child needing guardianship and support. “He flees from Captain Vangs's hypocritical "paternal solicitude" (30), but he does not thereby become an adult. Rather, he regresses into an infantile state, in which the natives cater to all his needs except that for freedom” (Harvey, 1993). Infantilism is really present in Tommo's behavior. He does not know what he wants. He cannot choose where it is better to stay. He wants freedom from one “guardian” and gets to the whole tribe of “anxious parents”. Tommo lived where there were written laws and got there where they were unwritten heart laws. However, when we are speaking about Tom’s weakness, hesitation, and uncertainty, we forget that he is just twelve.
Maybe, such a state of things is quit normal for a young fellow
When you are young, the spirit of adventurism prevails over common sense. You want to change the world, to change people, and to bring something new in life. Sometimes, the spirit of adventurism forces us to make the most extraordinary acts. It is also strange that Harvey symbolize Tommos injured foot with sexuality (404).
He feels pain and some woodiness but it could be only a symbol of fear, uncertainty before future and thoughts about past life. We can agree that there was a limitation on the ship and that for the young guy was hard to bear it. He breaks free and injures a foot. It causes only again feelings of limitation and inferiority in him, but does not match sexuality problems. In the essay a significant part assign to the concept of the written and unwritten law and the system of taboo. Melville tries to show us the law from the different parties, he forces us to think and choose what is better – to live under the law, which is written on paper or which is written in soul. “…the narrator (or Melville) evades resolving whether or not natural legalism, the "precepts graven on every breast," constitutes a less or more coercive form of social rule than that which is based upon written law codes” (Harvey, 1993). Of course it is interesting to read more about Typee tribe and their culture. Harvey shows us those things which did not shown in text. Probably he considers Typee only from the law point of view. He specifies again that all problems of mankind are connected with discontent and written laws. But why such statement should be the main point of Typee? Everything is reduced to that the person can not be changed.
Sooner or later it comes back by the historical beginning
Lest we did not compare our written law and unwritten law of Typee. Criticizing laws Melville made a start from personal experience and the done travel. However, we should remember that the main law stays unchangeable inside us. The person decides itself what to do and under what laws to live.