By Peter B. High
A survey of the English prose, poetry and drama of the us from Colonial occasions to the1980s.
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Hence, Queequeg grasps his “negro idol” Yojo and submits to his end. Here, like Pip, Queequeg embodies overlapping realities. Ishmael finds himself mournfully drawn to the transition in progress, especially as he observes in Queequeg an “awe that cannot be named,” “strange things,” and a rounding in his eyes like the “rings of Eternity” (477). Ishmael sees death’s code but cannot decipher it. When death imprints the “last revelation,” Ishmael confronts his interpretive and existential limits since, as Melville explains, “Only an author from the dead could adequately” understand what death begins to reveal to Queequeg (477).
Melville portrays subjects’ limitations where they desire immeasurable power and insight. Interracial exchanges in Typee signal blackness as the destabilization of the subject’s view of observable objects, where upheaval and distress define the subject’s relationship to himself and others. Near the end of Typee, Melville limns dark imagery when the Typees’ honorable treatment of Tommo actually further alienates him and challenges his social identity. The scene begins when Tommo spots Karky, the esteemed Typee tattoo artist, “tapping away” on a “venerable savage” (218).
This racist willingness to murder Indians ushers in a subsequent fantasy of empty plains waiting to be populated and developed. As Melville’s review reflects, this indefensible thinking and behavior occurred in New England and the South and throughout the emergent West. 17 Melville’s review calls them “traders and trappers” (232). But the traders and trappers were also part of skirmishes with Indians that contributed to imperial expansion by reinforcing the idea that Indians were in the way of progress.
An Outline of American Literature by Peter B. High