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Surrealist Elements in Herman Melvilie’s Typee and Omoo

Raihana Akter

2(2), Apr-May-Jun

Certain passages in Herman Melville’s Typee and Omoo are striking because they appear to be vigorously irrational in communication. Early critics have struggled to decipher these passages along with Lawrence (1923) for labeling them as unconscious communication of cultural neurosis. Later critics such as Witherington (1970) have challenged this interpretation by explaining scenes such as the author’s “entry into the dread cannibals of Nukuheval” as an example of symbolism and allegory. Somewhere between these two interpretations is the position that at several points in his writings of Typee and Omoo, Melville tended deliberately towards a conscious deployment of surrealism. In fact, specific techniques and themes of these two early works yield to the considerable evidence that Melville was a forerunner of that literary movement that first coalesced in France in the 1920s.
Keywords: Surrealism, allegory, symbolism, rationalism, black humor, rebirthmyth, psychic automatism, myth-maker.

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