Books and Movies Reviews

Why Melville Idealizes Life Among the Polynesians

Melville became an explorer of the South Seas in the nineteenth century longing to find his ideal paradise. Escaping his voyage on the Acushnet he set out to explore the Marquesas Islands. Melville never actually recorded his time among the Polynesians until he wrote Typee. "Typee had been- a combination of memory, imagination, and research…" (Howard, 9). He was then the narrator of his own adventure that led him from being an explorer to being an observer of the native ways. Embarking on the culture of the Polynesians left him with a bias opinion of what their life was. Melville idealizes life among the Polynesians in hopes that he has found his paradise and he sees no reason for the French to try to corrupt their culture in anyway. He finds, outside of civilization, that living among the natives is more of a civilized place than any.While Melville is held captive for four months among the Typees he carefully observes their lifestyle.
According to Milton Stern, Melville has four Techniques in gathering his worldly views. "All four test reality in terms of experience, not theory, and find transcendental perception a delusion" (Bowen, 6).From these techniques he is able to form an understanding of his experiences and implement them into his work. Melville uses reinforcement, almost a form of repetition, where in his observations he finds things to reinforce his views. He suggests "man must depend on man," and in that he uses what man gives him to create his works. Melville finds the contrast in his views that help him define what he perceives reality to be. He defines reality in terms of "relations, ambiguities, and limitations, not transcendental equations and infinite possibilities" (Bowen, 6). In gathering his views "Melville denies the whole truth to any individual" (Bowen, 72). Melville believes one must have multiple views in order to test reality through multiple viewpoint…


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