Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 15 16 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 15–16 | Summary



Chapter 15

The narrator describes the varieties of food eaten by the Typee, including seaweed and breadfruit. Salt is a precious commodity. There are many different ways that the islanders prepare breadfruit, but all require it to be roasted over fire first. The main dishes prepared with it are called bo-a-sho, kokoo, amar, and poee-poee. According to the narrator, breadfruit is the staple fruit of the islanders, as it grows abundantly in the Marquesas.

Chapter 16

Tommo's leg continues to worsen, at times causing agonizing pain. Three weeks after Toby's disappearance, a report comes that boats have been seen heading toward the bay. When Tommo tries to walk toward the beach, he is prevented by Mehevi and a group of men. It becomes clear to him then that he is a captive. Overcome by despair, he refuses to eat or move. When the islanders come back, he is unable to verify the truth of the report of boats, though the islanders claim there were none. Tommo continues life among the Typee much as before, not understanding why they dote on him when he provides nothing to the village. The only service he provides is shaving the head of a warrior with his dull razor.


These two chapters focus on description of Typee culture, food, and customs. The only plot element that occurs concerns a report of approaching boats, but Tommo is not permitted to go down to the bay with the others to meet them. The purpose of this plot development is to clarify Tommo's status among the Typee: he is a captive. Though he is treated lavishly and kindly, this event makes clear that his choices are not his own. The mystery regarding the Typee treatment of Tommo is not explained. Even Tommo questions his status as an honored guest when he contributes nothing to the village. This is the first time this line of thinking occurs to him.

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