Library of Little Masterpieces 14 Humor

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Let us take this dissipation as a gift and explore the possibilities it presents as Melville does. Pairing Melville’s Typee with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I will argue that democratic maturity requires giving up on progress and being always ready to reframe our perspectives to see the world as it appears before us. This is the lesson Ellison’s protagonist learns through a course of misadventures. ”2 I will argue that the savages Melville’s protagonist encounters are quite civilized, because they, like Ellison, comprehend a world of possibility without progress: they understand that to stage a picture of the world is to exercise power and political agency.

It begins when French sailors kidnap and rape “a number of women from the shore” and continues as guerilla attacks by the Tahitians are met with increased assaults by French sailors, who, “infuriated with liquor, gave no quarter” (452–453). 8. Wendy Stallard Flory points out that a concern for publicity explains the strange and contradictory behavior of one of Tommo’s Typee friends, Marnoo. In just one paragraph at the end of Typee, Marnoo tells Tommo that escape from the valley is impossible, that it is a wonderful place to keep living, that he should never have come originally, that they will eat him, and that he will help Tommo escape (279).

Missionary Positions Many theorists have examined Melville’s development of nature in its antipathetic relation to culture. The unrepresentable nature of the great white whale at the core of his masterpiece points to a large array of symbolic Who Eats Whom? 16 The behavior of those who hope to capture and constrain the wild represents not only a distrust of natural order, but also a dismissal of other humans’ points of view. The organization of civilization opposes both the greatness of nature and the particularity of democratic respect.

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