Terror in the South Seas: Violence, Relationships and the Works of Louis Becke

Jennifer Fuller

Abstract


While largely living in the shadow of Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad, Louis Becke popularised a style of realistic narrative that highlighted the brutality and moral ambiguity of life in the Pacific islands. Becke’s letters and short fiction reveal a frightening version of British Pacific settlement that links trade with violence and undermines traditional notions of “civilised” and “savage” societies. Becke both champions and criticises the adventure tradition of Pacific stories and presents the men and women of the islands, white and native, not as nineteenth-century stereotypes but as complex individuals navigating an ever-changing system of shifting identities.


Keywords


Louis Becke; By Palm and Reef; Pacific islands fiction; South Seas; “Bully” Hayes; “The Chilean Bluejacket: A Tale of Easter Island”; “The Revenge of Macy O’Shea”; “A Memory of the Southern Seas”

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