Although initially rejected as too fantastic to be true, Typee was immensely popular and regarded in Melville's lifetime as his best work. It established his reputation as the literary discoverer of the South Seas and inspired the likes of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson. Two common sailors jump ship and are held in benign captivity by Polynesian natives. Through the narrator's eyes we see a portrait of the people and their culture presented in vivid, even scientific, detail. Melville's racy style and irreverence towards Christian missionaries caused a scandal and critics denounced the narrator's suggestion that the native life might be superior to that of modern civilization. An adventure story above all, albeit one with a philosophical bent, Typee is a combination of elements that even early in Melville's career hinted at the towering ambition he would fulfill with Moby Dick.
In this book the reader will find a fast-moving adventure tale, an examination of the nature of good and evil, and a frank exploration of sensuality and exotic ritual. A provocative and lively account of Melville's exploits in the exotic South Seas during the early 1840s.