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Fish, Sex and Cannibalism: Appetitesfor Conversion in Melville’s Typee HENRY HUGHES Western Oregon University n Typee, the theme of conversion is dominated by Melville’s unflinching criticism of Christian projects to convert heathens, But conversion is also Iexamined through Polynesian practices - tattooing, dress, eating, and lovemaking -aimed at bringing select outsiders, including white sailors like Melville and his narrator, into the island communities. Although Typee’s narrator , Tommo, participates sartorially, gastronomically, and sexually in Marquesan life, he fears complete conversion, refuses to be tattooed, expresses horror after witnessing the remains of what he believes is a cannibal feast, and ultimately flees the island. The extent of Melville/ Tommo’s involvement with the Typeenatives, therefore, has been the object of some debate.1 William Heath and John Bryant have helped restate the importance of eroticism in Melville’s South Sea adventures. Identifying Tommo’s sexual journey as the “heart” of Typee, Bryant glosses the famous canoe scene of Chapter 18 as an orgasmic union, marking it as the “culmination” of Tommo’s sexual relationship with his island lover, Fayaway.But by Marquesan standards, Tommo may have gone even further, and enjoyed fellatio and cunnilingus as evidenced by eroticized descriptions of eating raw fish in Chapter 28. Cannibalism is also linked to sexual experience but, in the end, Tommo finds that cannibalism caters to class. Cannibalism is, ultimately, the formal signification of enraged conquest, a privilege enjoyed only by the Marquesan male aristocracy from which he is excluded -it is neither an agent of conversion nor an entree into culture. By focusing on eating as a means of gaining cultural knowledge of and acceptance into Polynesian life, one may better appreciate Melville’sappetites for conversion. The autobiographical accuracy of Type was questioned when Melville first showed the manuscript to editors, and it remains a controversy for readers and critics in the twenty-first century Mary I<.Bercaw Edwards’paper “WasHerman Melville Ever Really in the Taipi Valley” (Melville in the Pacific Conference,Lahaina, Hawai’i,3 July 2003) seriously questions whether Melvillehad any actual contact with the Taipi. My essay treats Typee as a literary romance built from experience , research and imagination, and I am comfortablewith Melville’s conflation of fact and fiction as well as his autobiofictional narrator. L E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 3 H E N R Y H U G H E S n June of 1842,after eighteen months at sea as a common sailor aboard the whaler Acushnet, the twenty-two-year-old Melville descried the lush, Isteeply ridged Marquesas Islands. Approaching the landfall of Nuku Hiva, the largest island in the group, promises arose of luxurious beaches, beautiful women, and fresh fruit, but also the threat of horrible death. “‘There-there’s Typee,”’ cries the old salt, Ned, pointing into the jungle. “‘Oh,the bloody cannibals , what a meal they’d make of us . . . .’” * Dangers notwithstanding, Melville and his shipmate, Toby Green, escape into the shadows above Taioha’e Bay and the resulting adventure provides Melville with the basic material for his first book, whose authenticity and proper generic designation (autobiography or romance?) became one of the great literary controversies in American literature.3 The romance of the sea lures young men to sail before the mast, but Tom and Toby are disillusioned by hardships and horrid food that includes meat in a “never-ending variety . . . of toughness” and “sea-bread, previously reduced to a state of petrifaction” (NN Typee 21). Seeking fresh prospects, the men desert the shore party and, after five brutal days in the bush with nothing to eat but a few soggy biscuits, they are weary and ravenous, and it this hunger that drives them toward their first contact with the natives. Discovering the peeled shoots of breadfruit on the forest floor as “evidence of the vicinity of the savages” they soon espy a young couple who lead them to the Typee village. When questioned by the excited natives: Typee or Happar?Tom inexplicably utters, “Typee,”and instead of being eaten, they eat. Served a calabash of mashed breadfruit called “poee-poee,”4Tom (who hereafter is called Tommo by the Typee), crudely paws up a sticky handful and this “display of awkwardness . . . convulsed the bystanders with uncontrollable laughter.” Tolerant of the foreigners’initial trial, but recognizing the need to instruct, Chief Mehevi, “motioning us to be attentive, dipped the fore finger of his right hand in the dish, and giving it a rapid and scientific swirl, drew it out 2 Herman Melville, Typee:A Peep at Polynesian Life, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newherry Library, 1968),25. Hereafter cited as NN Typee. 3 Thompson, G. R., and Eric Carl Link, Neutral Ground: New Traditionalism and the American Romance Controversy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 19991, 128. According to Thompson, Typee is best labeled a romance, but given the transgeneric nature of the text, novel, romance, and book are used interchangeably in this essay. Poee-poee is properly romanized as popoi. Marquesan popoi is baked breadfruit that has been pounded with the addition of water into a sticky mash. This is a common Polynesian dish, similar to Hawaiian poi made with fermented taro root. Chapter 15 of Typee is devoted largely to descriptions of breadfruit preparation, including a “luscious” cocoanut and breadfruit combination called “kokoo.” Tommo enjoys nearly everything he tastes save the “salinesalads” of seaweed. 4 L E V I A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S coated smoothly with the preparation. With a second peculiar flourish he prevented the poee-poee from dropping to the ground as he raised it to his mouth, into which the finger was inserted and drawn forth perfectly free from any adhesive matter” (NN Typee 73). Enjoying the humor accompanying this cross-cultural contact, Melville depicts the Americans as near barbarians who must be taught proper Marquesan table manners. The scene represents only one of the lighter examples of the Pacific savage’s superior civility,but it stimulates a series of lessons on the delicacies of Marquesan life Food becomes an important entree in Polynesian culture and, not surprisingly ,it is blended with other sensuous experiences. Tommo is hand fed by both his male friend Kory-Kory and the women who share his hut. Among these women, Fayaway becomes his paramour. Melville devotes several pages to an adoring description of Fayaway - she appears as the “perfection of female grace and beauty.” Among the more eatable features, she has rich “olive”skin and a soft mouth like the “‘arta,’a fruit of the valley,”luscious in its “red and juicy pulp” (NNTjpee 85).Although critics have treated Fayaway as a “cryptically voluptuous abstraction,” or “cream-puff out of sentimental novels” with whom Melville only dreamed of making love, all historical and anthropological evidence supports the great likelihood that a straight man with the slightest inclination toward sex would have feasted in the Marquesas Islands of the early nineteenth century.5 Contact with Polynesia provided many young American sailors in the nineteenth century with their first heterosexual experiences. After many months in the homosocial shipboard community, Tommo expresses affection for the darkly handsome Toby; and these homoerotic intimacies continue with his male companion, Kory-Kory, who carries, bathes, and feeds him. But the presence of Fayaway seems to bring out greater passion in Tommo. Since the novel’spublication, readers have enjoyed Tommo’s erotic romp among the Typee,and we can easily believe Laurie Robertson-Lorant’sdescripJ . C. Furnas in Anatomy of Paradise (1937; New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc., 19+7), 435, and Edwin Haviland Miller in Melville (New York:Braziller, 1975), 130, provide these airy descriptions of Fayaway Miller also reads Fayaway as a “protective mother” who uses the canoe in Chapter 18as a “cradlefor the incapacitated lad who may be impotent, asexual or paralyzed by fears of castration” (128). For a summary and analysis of related critical attitudes see William Heath‘s “Melville and Marquesan Eroticism,” The Massachusetts Review 29 (1988): 43-65. Challenging the claims ol Melville’s incapacity and frigidity,John Bryant, in his introduction to T y p e (New York: Penguin, 19961, xix, writes, “Athome in New York, in Liverpool, and at sea, he had seen a full range of sexual practices. If the twenty-two-year-old had managed to save himself From ‘fornication’this long. , . he could not have chosen a safer place for safe sex adventuringthan Taipivai.”Bryant concludes, “Melville’ssly innuendoes about short courtship in Taipi clearly indicate that the mariner availed himself of the islands opportunities.”For records of Nuku Hivan oral histories involving Melville and Fayaway see Robert C. Suggs, The Hidden Worlds of PoIynesiu (NewYork: Harcourt,Brace and World, 1962), 193-203. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 5 H E N R Y H U G H E S tion of Melville in Lansingburgh “surrounded by a bevy of village girls who were attracted to him by Typee’saura of sensuality and danger .. . .”6 When the sexy sailor settled down in the summer of 1847,a cheeky marriage notice for Herman Melville and Elizabeth Shaw in the New York Daily Tiibune jested, “The fair foresaken Fayaway will doubtless console herself by suing him for breach of promise.”’ Among contemporary critics revisiting Melville’s sex life, John Bryant has carefully traced Tommo’s sexual growth from “puerile” fixations and titillations to “masturbatory fantas[ies]” and finally genuine contact and sexual union. Considering the severe censorship of Melville’spublishers, Bryant also examines the author’s rhetorical strategies that “submerged the sexuality of the books fiction.”a One such skillfully rendered sex scene ostensibly dramatizes Kory-Kory’s use of the fire plow. The scene occurs after Toby has departed the island, leaving Tommo worried and depressed. But Tommo quickly overcomes this melancholy with the aid of heavenly aka rubs provided by the Typeewomen who “wouldanoint my whole body with a fragrant oil . . . ” (NNTypee 110).These delightful massages are followed by a period of repose and a calming smoke, which necessitates Kory-Kory’s striking of a light. Kory-Kory , . , quickens his pace, and waxing warm . . . drives the stick furiously along the smoking channel, plymg his hands to and fro with amazing rapidity, the perspiration starting from every pore. As he approaches the climax . . , he pants and gasps for breath, and his eyes almost start from their sockets . . . . The next moment a delicate wreath of smoke curls spirally into the air . . . and Kory-Kory almost breathless, dismounts from his steed. (111) Not a line was expurgated from the American edition, and Bryant claims that “Melville’sreaders, immersed in the technical details of this fire-making‘lesson,’ are made to overlook Tommo’smasturbatory fantasy.”’, Melville also adds a bit of comparative sociology,stating that although a European can strike a light in an instant, he “is put to his wits’ end to provide for his starving offspring” (112), while the Marquesan merely plucks lunch from a tree. Finally, the comic touches of the sketch also distract from the hardcore autoeroticism, and we see that Melville’s “sexual matters . . . are contained largely through humor.” 10 Laurie Robertson-Lorant, Melville: A Biography (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1996), 151. HermanMelvilleand ElizabethShawweremarriedon 4 August 1847. The marriagenotice appeared on 7 August 1847.Jay Leyda,ed. The Melville Log (New York Harcourt,Brace, 1951),1: 256. John Bryant, Melville and Repose: The Rhetoric of Humor in the Amcrican Renaissance (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 19931, 133. ’ , Bryant, Melville and Repose, 168. lo Bryant, Melville and Repose, 152. 6 L E V I A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S Figure 1. The fish eating scene from Typee, Chapter 28. Pen-and-China ink drawing on Bristol paper (14 x 11 cm) by the American illustrator, Joseph Bolden (1920-1979). The drawing (ca. 1920) was one of forty illustrations completed for a proposed illustrated edition of Typee. The illustration was formerly of the Blackburn Collection. Reprinted with permission by SergeDunis, University of Tahiti. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 7 H E N R Y H U G H E S The symbolic expression of sex and its diversionaryhumor appears in the famous canoescene of Chapter 18.Although taboo forbidswomen from entering canoes,Tommo obtains a specialdispensation,has his long boat loadedwith food and tobacco, and sets off with Fayaway across the smooth waters of a swollen river. While Tommo paddles gently, Fayaway opens her robe of tappa and “spreadingit out like a sail, stood erect with upraised arms in the head of the canoe.”Joking that “WeAmericansailorspride ourselvesupon our straight clean spars,” one may easily imagine more than one erection in that windward vessel. With Fayaway completely exposed to Tommo, the “canoeglided rapidly through the water, and shot towards the shore . . .until it dashed up the soft slopingbank, and Fayaway with a light spring, alighted in the ground (NN Dpee 134). It is not difficult to appreciate the sensuous arousal and shared pleasure of Tommo and Fayaway as the phallic canoe glides through the feminine lake and “dashe[s]up the soft sloping bank.” Bryant concludes that the chapter “marks Tommo’s fullest sexual development.”l1 The scene does appear at the beginning of what T. Walter Herbert identifies as the second phase of Typee, “thefelicitiesof savage life,”’*when Tommo dons tappa robes, and indulges in what Melville calls the “wild enjoyments” of food and sex. It may be argued, however, that Tommo’s consummating picnic with Fayaway marks only the gateway of this sexual passage. Among many Polynesian women, oral sex is held to be even more intimate than coitus. Conscious of Melville’srhetorical strategies for disguising erotica in symbolic gesture and humor, Chapter 28, appearing near the close of this felicitous phase, seems to reveal Tommo’s deepest and most delicious encounter. wakened at midnight by the words “‘peheepemi’ (fish come),” Tommo discovers the stirrings of an orgiastic feast made possible by a moonAlight haul of fish.13 Naked boys glide under the “wild glare of these enormous flambeaux, lighting up with a startling brilliancy the innermost recesses of the vale,” leading to a banquet that is “lighted by several of the native tapers, held in the hands of young girls.”14Unlike the catered canoe picnic and the later cannibal dining rites, there is something wild and spontal1 Bryant, Melville and Repose, 181. Walter T. Herbert, Jr., Marquesan Encounters: Melville and the Meaning of Civilization (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), 166. l3Although Melville’s description that the fish were “about the size of a hemng, and of every variety of color”suggestsseveralspecies,John E. Randall,seniorichthyologist at the BishopMuseum in Honolulu, confirms the most likely feh of Chapter 28 to be niha, the Marquesan sardine (Sardinella marquesensis) of the hemng family This fish may grow to seven inches (letter to the author, 28 Dec. 2000). l4 NN Typee, 208. The erotic depiction of children is significant in the context of aboriginal Marquesan culture where heterosexual activity begins between the ages of eight and twelve. See Robert C. Suggs’s Marquesan Sexual Behavior (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1966), 52. 8 L E V I A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S neous about the fish eating scene. The catch is distributed to everyone “inthe most impartial manner” and the feast commences, but Melville has no experience in this manner of consuming. The fish is held by the tail, and the head being introduced into the mouth, the animal disappearswith a rapidity that would at first nearly lead one to imagine it had been launched bodily down the throat. (NNTjypee 208) Here, as in the fire-making masturbation scene, technical detail distracts readers from the fellatio image of the phallic fish disappearing into the mouth. Marquesans have always eaten raw fish, but not quite in the manner illustrated by Melville. In 1798, Edmund Fanning saw Marquesans “take fish, from four to six inches in length, just as they were caught, and eat them, beginning by first biting off the head, so on by a mouthful at a time . . . .” David Porter calmly expressed, “thepractice of eating raw fish was disagreeable to me,” after witnessing Chief Gattanewa’s salty snack in 1813.As shown later in the discussion , Melville may have borrowed Porter’s word “disagreeable”to contrast his own increasingly positive experience. In the early twentieth century, Willowdean Handy describes a young woman on Hiva Oa who snapped up a fish, “popped it into her mouth, and crunched the small bones.” InJuly, 2003, with the assistance of Jonathon Vidalis, I interviewed several residents of Taioha’e Bay who testified that they “sometimes ate raw fish by biting into their flanks” but “not by dropping them whole into [their] mouths.”l5 Melville’s alteration away from this piscivorous biting and bone crushing makes his image more deliberately sexual. With his rhetorical skills now adapted to the humorous tone of an exotic travel sketch, Melville introduces Fayaway. Raw fish!Shall I ever forget my sensationswhen I first saw my island beauty devour one?Oh, heavens!Fayaway how could you ever have contracted so vile a habit? However, after the first shock had subsided , the custom grew less odious in my eyes, and I soon accus15 Fanning, Edmund, Voyages & Discoveries in the South Seas, 1792-1832 (Salem, Mass.: Marine ResearchSociety,1924),99. David PorterJoumaf ofa Cruise, ed. R. D. Madison and Karen Hamon (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1986), 335. Willowdean C. Handy’s Forever in the Land of Men (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co, 1965), 25. Handy further comments, “As I saw its flapping tail disappear, I was overcome, not with admiration, but with nausea,” but she eventually comes to enjoy raw fish marinated in seawater and limejuice. Other historical accounts of eating raw fish in the Marquesasinclude those by Edward Robartsin 1799: “WhenI first came to live among these people, 1did not like to see them eat raw fish. . . , One evening, as I was at supper with the Chief in a cave . . .He gave me a small bit of raw Boneeto. 1shook my head at it. He prest me to try it. I put it in my mouth and eat it [sic]. 1 found it pleasant and relishing, being sowced in salt water. And from that time I eat raw fish in preference to broiled,” The Marquesan ]oumal o f Edward Robarts: 1797-1824, ed. Greg Dening (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1974),251-252. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 9 H E N R Y H U G H E S tomed myself to the sight. Let no one imagine, however, that the lovely Fayaway was in the habit of swallowing great vulgar-looking fishes:oh, no: with her beautiful small hand she would clasp a delicate , little, golden-hued love of a fish, and eat it as elegantly and as innocently as though it were a Naples biscuit.16 From the beginning of the romance, food has been an objective correlative for cultural participation and sensual delight, but never has it functioned so explicitly In Chapter 4, while visiting the glen of Tior, a rather disaffected Tom speaks of “the golden-hued bunch of bananas . . . of which I occasionally partook.”l7 But here a heterosexually charged Tommo enjoys Fayaway’s “beautifulhand” as it “clasp[s] . . . golden-hued love . . .” that is “introduced into the mouth” (NN Typee 208). Despite traditional Marquesan promiscuity, the passage betrays Tommo’spride in,Fayaway’ssexual exclusivity: “Let no one imagine, however, that the lovely Fayawaywas in the habit of swallowing great vulgar-looking fishes: oh, no: with her beautiful small hand she would clasp a delicate, little, golden-hued love of a fish.”l8Tommo may even be distinguishing his love offering from those other “greatvulgar-looking fishes” in keeping .with classical (and often racist) notions -obvious in Greek and Roman statuary -that modest penis size is a sign of civilized status, as opposed to magnums of a more animal nature. In Typee, Chapter 26, the gluttonous consumption of “raw fish” is linked to the excessive “sensual indulgences” of the debauched and diseased puppet king of Hawai’i (188-189),but Tommo comes to find nothing unseemly in Fayaway’s appetite. Pleased with Fayaway’s “clasp,”Tommo wants to reciprocate and share the experience, though he descends on his subject behind the veil of social commentary. l6 NN Typee, 208. The Naples biscuit is a desert food appropriately loaned to Marquesan culture where the word for orgasm, manini, literally means “sweet,” signifying the final pleasures of Tommo’s sexual feast. Naples biscuits are long and narrow, typically 4-6 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter. l7 Melville, Qpee, 29. As in many cultures, Marquesanhumor associatesthe banana with the penis. Bananas are used in female masturbation, and S u g s recordsjokes like “thetired banana” (meika pa’u pa’u)said to women who might have been indulging in this activity(MarquesanSexual Behavior,84). l6 In his Tahitijournal, Noa Noa (1893), Gauguin also expressesa strong desire for a faithful lover (at least for a time) in the midst of native promiscuity A curious story about fishing,fish eating,and sexual behavior beginswhen Gauguin hooks two tuna in the lowerjaw The nativeswhisper and laugh, eventuallytelling him that “a fish caught by the lower means infidelityby your vahine [lover]while you are away fishing.”Back on shore, Gauguinand his lovereat the tuna, but he has his cooked,while she eats hers raw, suggesting his retained civility and Westem-based morality as opposed to the woman’s more primitive, raw, unmanaged freedom.Gauguin confronts his lover about the suspected infidelity and shedenies the charge.Gauguinreplies,“You’relying. The fish has spoken.” SeeNoa Noa: Cauguink Tahiti. Trans.Jonathan Griffin (London:John Calman and Cooper, 1985),39-42. 1 0 L E V~ A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S When in Rome do as the Romans do, I held to be so good a proverb, that being in Typee I made a point of doing as the Trpees did. Thus I ate poee-poee as they did; I walked about in a garb striking for its simplicity;and I reposed on a community of couches;besides doing many other things in conformity with their particular habits; but the farthest I ever went in the way of conformity,was on several occasions to regale myself with raw fish. (NNQpee 209) This is exactly the kind of discourse Bryant identifies as Melville’srhetorical “redherring” that both leads and misleads readers from the novel’s erotic treasure .19 Furthermore, commensurate with Tommo’s increasing heterosexuality is the careful feminization of the fish. Tommo subjects them “to a slight operation with my knife previously to making my repast” (NN Typee 209). He takes the phallic fish, feminizes it by slitting it open, exposing the smooth, slippery, pink walls, and partakes: “remarkably tender, and quite small, the undertaking was not so disagreeablein the main, and after a few trials I positively began to relish them . . .” (209). Melville may have had in mind Porter’s expression that “eating raw fish was disagreeable,”but Tommo’s hunger is of a different sort. With a reluctance known to many unversed lovers, Tommo admits something “disagreeable”about his first taste (one need not mention adolescent jokes about fishy smells or confessions from the Vagina Monologues). But Tommo declares “after a few trials I positively began to relish [it].” In Marquesan Sexual Behavior,Robert C. Suggsdescribes fellatio (kai’i tepia) and cunnilingus (kai ma te to’e) as part of more mature, adult pattern sexual behavior as well as a gesture of greater intimacy. New lovers are more likely to engage in rapid copulation, such as that symbolized in the canoe scene;whereas seasoned lovers and married couples tend to enjoy more foreplay and oral stimulation. According to Suggs,it was also common for a more sexually experienced Marquesan woman -as Fayaway surelywas -to lead a callowyoung man toward the pleasures of oral sex. Angling for the sexual nature of fish imagery is also promising in the context of the Marquesas where islanders view the sea as a life-giving force. Nuku Hivans recall myths of women copulating with eels, and eel patterns appear in sexually symbolic tattoos. A common slang for a particular penis shape is “likea stingray barb” (hapa potea) and the female vagina is sometime likened to bivalve mollusks. Relevant to the procurement, preparation, and service of food, fishnet weights and poi pounders were carved into obvious penis bulbs, and the surfaces of bowls were decorated with abstract vagina l9 Bryant, Melville and Repose, 133 A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L ES T U D I E S 11 H E N R Y H U G H E S designs.20 Sexual imagery is pervasive in aboriginal Marquesan culture; it is the male form, however, that is most commonly represented, as in the sculpted tiki, which presently appear on the Marquesan territorial flag. It is significant, therefore, that Melville feminizes the phallic fish, not only to permit his sexual repast, but also to invert the male hierarchy of the tribe. I would argue similarly that the canoe in Chapter 18becomes open and feminine when viewed from above, and Fayaway is, as Tommo tells us, an erect mast. Tommo and Fayaway challenge the male privilege taboo and upset the sexually symbolic codes of the valley. As Richard Chase, Milton Stem, William Spanos and others have shown, this inversion of social hierarchies and cultural domains becomes one of Melville’schief strategies as a literary social critic.21 Melville seems to be anticipating twentieth-century Freudian readings when he exclaims earlier in Chapter 28: “But, alas! it was after all a raw fish (NNTypee 208). But eatingfish has long been used as a metaphor for sex. In Aristophanes’Lysistrata, the war-deprived women exclaim hyperbolically that they could suffer the loss of men but not “theeels” -“Surelyyou’d spare the eels?”And Shakespeare abounds with fishy vulgarisms, including Iago’s implication that some ladies may “change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail,” that is, give up men for women.22 As Robert Shulman and others have long observed, Melville delights in sexual innuendoes involving fish and whales, most famously in “The Cassock,” Chapter 95 of Moby-Dick.23 In Typee, the 2o Suggs,Marquesan Sexual Behavio,: 147. 21 See Richard Chase, Herman Melville: A Critical Study (New York: Macmillan, 1949), Milton Stern, The Fine Hammered Steel ofHerman Melville (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1957),and William Spanos, The Ewant Art o f Moby-Dick: The Canon, the Cold Wal; and the Struggle for American Studies (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998). 22 Othello (2.1.153). 1 am grateful to Thomas Rand for other examples from Shakespeare that include Claudio’s seduction advice in Much Ado About Nothing, “Bait the hook well; this fish will bite” (2.3.112-113); and from The Winter’s Tale, jealous King Leontes’ fear that many a man has “his pond fished by his next neighbor” (1.2.195); as well as a folktale from that play about “a fish that appeared upon the coast . . . and sung this ballad against the hard hearts of maids. It was thought she was a woman and was turned into a cold fish for she would not exchange flesh with one that loves her” (4.4. 274-278). Associations between fish eating and sex appear in the arts of many cultures. Freud andJung identify fish as universally phallic; there are hungry lyrics sung by female blues singers: “You ain’tthe only fish in the sea, honey, and I’m about to change my bait”; and, most explicitly, “naked sushi” now appears in fine restaurants in Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. At Seattle’sBoneai, late-night sushi and sashimi are served on a reclining nude model covered in plastic wrap. See The Seattle Times, “Sushi in the Raw,” 11November 2003. 23Robert Shulman, “TheSerious Function of Melville’sPhallicJokes,”AmericanLiterature33 (1961): 179-194. In “The Cassock,” the mincer skins the whale’s penis and dons it, making himself appear as a candidate for an “archbishoprick;see Herman Melville,Moby-Dick; or The Whale, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newbeny Library, 1988), 420; hereafter cited as NN Moby-Dick. ~ 1 2 L E V I A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S young women swimming out to the Dolly’s floating orgy are mistaken for “a shoal of fish,” though Tom finally settles on their being “nothing else than so many mermaids: -and very like mermaids they behaved too” (NNTypee 14), reminding readers of folkloric associations between ladies of the sea and long desired sex. Later in the narrative, Tommo likens himself to a “cumbrous whale” when swimming with nude Marquesan women who “darted through the water, revealing glimpses of their forms” and handled him as easily as “a legion of sword-fish.”24 Nakedness and sex are also naturally connected to rawness. In The Raw and the Cooked (1964), Claude Levi-Strauss observes these associations in several cultures, some are well-known in English idioms like “sleepingin the raw” and “a raw joke.” Although dealing primarily with European and South American cultures, Levi-Strauss also illustrates social conversions that take place through cooking. The “intervention of the cooking fire,” writes LeviStraws , “hasthe effect of making sure that a natural creature is at one and the same time cooked and socialized.”25 Cooking is to public and social intercourse as rawness is to private life. I might also say that catering is to social intercourse as spontaneous preparation and eating are to private life. The “unceremonious style of eating the fish” in the Trpee Valley allows Tommo deep gastronomical and sexual participation without social formalities or the threat of conversion associated with those frightful cooking fires. In MobyDick , a shy but desirous Ishmael “confesses” that he once “stole behind the foremast to try” a well marbled piece of raw whale, comparing it, strangely enough, to a man’s thigh.26 True cannibalism, we learn from the Typee, is a feast of and for men, and it is also a formalized rite connected closely to cooking . In sharp contrast to those spontaneous and impartial raw orgies of delight, cannibalism dominates what Herbert calls the third phase of Typee, characterized by disillusionment, fear, and revulsion. nlike the spontaneous parties following a moonlight haul of fish, e ika, “fishingfor men,” the literal term used for catching human sacriUfices ,was a deliberate and highly ritualized activity.According to Greg Dening, when a Marquesan of high rank died, men would go “fishing”for vic24 NN Tvpee 132. By describing the women as “swordfish,”Melville again reassigns phallic and, in this case, penetrative symbols to women, inverting stereotypical binaries. In Moby-Dick, however , Melville describes “sword-fish and “sharks” as the “strong, troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea” (NN Moby-Dick 542). 25 Claude Levi-Straus, The Raw and the Cooked, trans. John and Doreen Weightman (1964; New York Harper Q Row, 1969), 336. Also see note 18for an interpretation of Gauguin’s use of raw and cooked fish in his Tahitijournal, Noa Noa. 26 NN Moby-Dick 417. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 1 3 H E N R Y H U G H E S tims. Recreating a late eighteenth-century scene among the people of Vaitahu, Dening describes the return of the man-fishing canoes. They flung onto the shore the four bodies tied hands and feet to four poles. In their mouths were placed large metau, fish hooks, and small baskets of bait were tied to their arms. Their skin was painted red. After the men and boys had danced and shouted around the bodies and played with their genitals with sticks, the carcasses were carried off, two to be baked in a large earth oven and eaten by priests and warriors, two to be hung like the sacrificial fish they were in the me’ae in the deepest part of the valley27 Melville’scannibalism liminally mingles with sensual fear and desire in the first chapter of Typee as “jumbled anticipations” conjure up the significantly associated images of “Naked houris -cannibal banquets -groves of cocoa-nut” (NNTypee 5).Later Tommo and Toby explore the Typee village and find “the Taboo groves of the valley -the scene of many a prolonged feast, of many a horrid rite” (91). It should be noted that in an earlier draft, Melville wrote, “thescene of many a sensual feast.”28The specter of cannibalism, present from the beginning, makes its first truly palpable threat at a barbecue where the Americans are presented with a trencher of steaming meat. ‘“[Ylou are not going to eat any of that mess there, in the dark, are you? Why, how can you tell what it is?”’pleads Toby. “‘Bytasting it, to be sure,”’says Tommo, “‘and excellently good it is too, very much like veal.”’ “‘[Y]ou are bolting down mouthfuls from a dead Happar’s carcass,”’cries an incredulous Toby (95). But it turns out to be, after all, puarkee, pork. Throughout the novel there are speculations on cannibalism and, as Paul Lyons points out, Melville caters to the tastes of readers who want to be reassured that there is a difference between savages who eat people and civilized folk who do n0t.29 But in the spirit of Montaigne, Melville also challenges western notions that designate cannibalism as a mark of ultimate barbarity. Of cannibalism, Melville says: a rather bad trait . . . but they are such only when they seek to gratify the passion of revenge upon their enemies;and I ask whether the mere eating of human flesh so far exceeds in barbarity that custom which only a fewyearssince was practiced in enlightenedEngland . . . , (125) 27 Greg Dening, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land. Marquesas 1774-1880 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1980), 67. 28 See the transcription of the reading text in the appendixes of Typee,ed.John Bryant, (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), 295. 29 See Paul Lyons, “From Man-Eaters to Spam-Eaters: Literary Tourism and the Discourse of Cannibalism from Herman Melville to Paul Theroux,” Arizona Quarterly 52.1 (1995): 33-62. 14 L E V I A T H A N H E N R Y H U G H E S Melville’s narrator admires the Typee despite the fact that they are anthropophagi. And though Tommo was determined to taste the steaming meat, we can imagine his reaction were it found to be human: “Emetics and lukewarm water! What a sensation in the abdominal regions!” (NNTypee 95). Tommo’s gut reaction is emotionally and intellectually substantiated later in the novel when the Typee finally engage the Happar in a battle that incurs casualties. Wrapped in huge palm leaves, the bodies of the slain are carried to the Ti, but Tommois forced to leave the grounds when the warriors gather. The next morning he hears drums resounding from those sacred grounds and wants to investigate, but Kory-Kory refuses to escort him, and Tommo learns that this is a ceremony for chiefs and priests only: “they were determined I should not be present” (236).But with a “curiosity I could not repress” (238), Tommo steels onto the taboo grounds and glimpses the remains of a “human skeleton, the bones still fresh with moisture, and with particles of flesh clinging to them here and there!” (238). Caleb Crain attempts to explain this “emotionaldouble bind -of horror and fascination, of attraction and revulsion [to cannibalism]” in terms of nineteenth -century sublimations of homosexuality.30Borrowingfrom Eve Sedgwicks notion of “homosexual panic,” Crain argues that Tommo’s horror and rejection of eating men is really a manifestation of his homophobia. In Typee, however, Tommo’s greatest fear is that he is among violent people who eat their enemies.3’ Cannibalism functions as neither an entrte into culture nor an agent of conversion. Tommo admits a “morbid curiosity” and wants to see some evidence of the event, but he is also disgusted by and excluded from this all-male, elite religious rite. The religion of cannibalism and its communion of cooked offerings signifies male power, terror, revenge, and privilege that excommunicates women and foreigners.32 30 Caleb Crain, “Loversof Human Flesh: Homosexuality and Cannibalism in Melville’s Novels,” American Literature66.1 (1994): 33. 31 As Crain argues, this, too, is related to sexual power exchanges. Although recognizing the penumbra of homosexual interest and revulsion in ljpee, 1want to argue that Tommo has a more basic fear of Typee violence. The anthropological fact that cannibalism was practiced in the Marquesas and Melville’s awareness of that fact must also qualify Sanborn’ssemiotic readings in The Sign o f the Cannibal (see note 33 below). “There is no stage effect going on here. The Taipi meant business,” explains Suggs who has excavated many sites on Nuku Hiva that were “littered with cooked human bones” (letter to the author, 30 Sept. 2001). 32 This is Melville’sversion of cannibalism in Taipi. According to Marquesan and pan-Polynesian beliefs, one acquires the spiritual powers (mana) of a person whom one eats. In a society where mana passes down through male primogeniture it was usually unnecessary or wasteful for women to partake in human flesh.Accordingto Suggs,however, “Womendid partake of human flesh under appropriate circumstances. Cannibalism was part of certain kinds of feasts where everybody took part” (letter to the author, 26 Sept. 2001). A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L ES T U D I E S 1 5 H E N R Y H U G H E S In Sign of the Cannibal (1998), Geoffrey Sanborn argues that Melville’s ambivalence toward the cannibal Typee functions as anti-colonial rhetoric that deconstructs Western stereotypes of savagery. Sanborn also contends that the Tpee use cannibalism as a kind of “stage effect” to scare away outsiders. Toward the end of the romance, Marnoo says, “Allwhite men afraid Typee, so no white men come” (241). Sanborn writes, “though it is still true that cannibalism cannot be divorced from rage against strangers, it now also seems true that it cannot be divorced from the desire to exhibit the sign of its consummation .”33 This is a signifying banquet for which Melville has no appetite. t might follow that in a book concerning cannibalism, every act of eating becomes significant.But we may also say that in a book about sex, eating is .very important, especially the eating of human beings. As Robert K. Martin writes, “Melvillemakes frequent use of food as a metaphor for love.”UWhether it is Redburn dropping bread and cheese to the starving family in Launcelott’sHey , Whitejacket’s social mess, the steamy repasts of chowder shared by Ishmael and Queequeg, the decadent dinners of wealthy bachelors, or the diminishing nibbles of a fading Bartleby, food fuels the human condition. In Tjpee, the lovelessDolly provides only hard and briny galley rations that are given up for a tropical smorgasbord of delicious delights and affections that flavor a young man’s sexual passageinto maturity As earlier critics have made clear,Melvilledisguised his sex scenes with metaphor, meticulous “factual”description, social commentary , and humor. The sexual explication of the fish eating scene in Chapter 28, contextualizedby ethnographic descriptions of Marquesan sexual behavior, may extend this appreciation of Melville’s subtle art and the depth of Tommo’s sexual knowledge.35 If we speak of conversion in the most basic terms (what Melville calls “conformity”),it is clear that Tommo converts (if only for time) to the eating and sexual practices of the Typees. And if we accept the possibility that Tommo and Fayawayenjoyed oral sex,we may conclude that Melville-whether imaginativelyor physically -got further into Marquesan society than many of his Euro-American contemporaries. But if true conversion to the Typee way is marked by tattooing and cannibalismthat promises lasting community membership and the adoption of religious and cultural values, then Melvillewas barely touched. Eating raw fish, Tommo tells us, “was the farthest I ever went.” 33 Geoffrey Sanborn, The Sign o f the CannibaI: MeIvilIe and the Making o f a Postcolonid Reader (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998), 109. 34 Robert K. Martin, Hero, Captain,andStranger:MaIe Friendship, Social Critique,and LiteraryFonn in the Sea Novels o f Herman Melville (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986),46. 35 Hints of this interpretation of Chapter 28 appear in the film Enchanted Island (1958), a loose adaptation of Typee directed by Allan Dwan. A smitten Tommo (Dana Andrews) attempts to seduce Fayaway (Jane Powell) who offers raw fish instead of a kiss. ...

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ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 3-16
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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