Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 19 20 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 19–20 | Summary



Chapter 19

After the incident with Marnoo, the villagers are notably colder toward Tommo—especially Mehevi. The situation improves when Tommo teaches the village children how to make popguns. Suddenly, everyone in the village wants one. For days, the popping of the toy guns is heard all over the village. Marheyo asks Tommo if he may have Tommo's old shoes. Tommo agrees and later sees Marheyo wearing the shoes over his shoulders like an ornament. The narrator describes the making of tappa, the only cloth worn by the villagers. It is made from the inner bark of a certain wood through a process of mashing, soaking, and drying.

Chapter 20

The narrator describes a typical day in the Typee valley. Everyone wakes up late, well after sunrise, and goes down to the lake to bathe and swim. Afterward some people gather firewood and start a fire. Then breakfast is prepared and eaten, and the household sits and languidly smokes their pipes. The women of the village comb their hair and put on oils or weave grass mats, while the men carve tools and weapons or gather food from the groves. Tommo learns to do several of the activities, including spear carving and making tappa. At noon, everyone naps, then the largest meal of the day is prepared. Sometimes in the evenings, the island girls dress up and dance by the moonlight.


The narrator waxes anthropological in Chapter 19 with his interest in detailing the making of tappa fabric. Also, in a very anthropological exercise, the narrator spends all of Chapter 20 detailing a typical day in the lives of the Typee. While the description appears luxurious and easy-going, it is also clear that the narrator isn't partaking in much of the work done in the village. While he tries his hand at different activities, he still has his meals harvested and prepared for him and isn't expected to do any chores. The reason as to why he has no duties or tasks assigned to him is unclear, as is his exact standing in the village.

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