Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 11 12 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 11–12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 11

Tommo doesn't sleep well as he worries over their situation and suffers from the pain in his leg. In the morning, Tommo and Toby awake to find themselves surrounded by islanders. Over the course of the morning, they are visited by the young women of the village, who examine the men carefully, then by a group of men, and finally by an important warrior. The warrior turns out to be Mehevi, the leader with whom they exchanged names the previous night. They attempt to talk about the French for a while before Mehevi notices the injury on Tommo's leg. He sends a messenger off, and an old man comes into the tent to look at the leg. The man proceeds to pinch and poke Tommo's injury, causing him extreme pain. Then he swathes the leg in herbs and leaves. A man is appointed to keep watch over Tommo, and Mehevi leaves, too.

The narrator describes the hut, stating that "a more commodious and appropriate dwelling for the climate and the people could not possibly be devised." He praises the cleanliness and construction of the village homes. Tommo goes on to describe the appearance and nature of the man assigned to watch over him, whose name is Kory-Kory. Kory-Kory is somewhat ugly, but extremely good-natured. Kory-Kory's mother, Tinor, and father, Marheyo, are also described as being good-natured. The mother is industrious, but the father works at building a shed without seeming to ever make any progress. The narrator is bewitched with one of the island girls named Fayaway, whom he describes at length as being very beautiful.

Chapter 12

After finally getting a painless, full night's sleep, Tommo is taken the next morning by Kory-Kory to the stream to bathe. Later that day, Mehevi comes again to the hut to visit Tommo and Toby, and he indicates that they should accompany him. Mehevi takes the two men to a place known as the taboo groves. The eerie groves are the site of many of the islander's rituals. The holiest area is off limits to women on penalty of death.

The warrior leads them into one of the buildings that is off limits to females, where they find a large stockpile of weapons. Tommo and Toby sit on mats with a group of wrinkled old men and Mehevi. After drinking and smoking a pipe, they all drift into slumber. Tommo awakens a while later to find the old men still asleep, but Kory-Kory and Mehevi are gone. He wakes Toby, and they see fires in the groves outside the hut. The two men begin to fear that they will be roasted and eaten. However, Mehevi and Kory-Kory return with roasted meat and indicate that the pair should eat. Toby is afraid that the meat is a roasted baby, and so he refuses to eat until he learns that the meat comes from a pig. The two return to Kory-Kory's family hut accompanied by a caravan of islanders carrying food.

Analysis

Tommo mentions being embarrassed by the island women, stating that his "feelings of propriety were exceedingly shocked." The only explanation given for this is that he "could but consider them as having overstepped the due limits of female decorum." Readers may infer that since the young women examine the two men closely, presumably they make gestures that the men find too blunt, or they show interest in the men's foreign bodies.

When Tommo describes Kory-Kory, he focuses on Kory-Kory's outward appearance—especially his tattoos, hair, and other aspects that appear alien. However, in a relatively self-aware addendum, he notes, "Kory-Kory, I mean thee no harm in what I say in regard to thy outward adornings; but they were a little curious to my unaccustomed sight." In this way, the narrator shows an unusual awareness for the time that his own customs are not necessarily the basis by which everything else should be measured. There is an awareness that the only reason any of the attributes which the narrator finds ugly or strange are only this way because they are new to the narrator. Despite this circumspection, Tommo refers to the "hideous blemish of tattooing" when discussing female tattoos.

Later, when the two men accompany the warrior Mehevi to the sacred area in the taboo groves, the narrator mentions that the most sacred areas in the groves are off limits to women. The reader glimpses the narrator's opinion of this rule when he describes the ban as protecting the area "from the imaginary pollution of a woman's presence." In a time when much of Europe and America also viewed women as somehow inferior to men, it is interesting that the narrator seems to disagree with this act of exclusion.

Toby and Tommo experience a moment when they believe they might be eaten. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the tribe roasts a pig for the newcomers instead. This isolated moment of worry indicates that the pair still fears cannibalism, though they have seen no evidence of such.

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