Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 21 22 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 21–22 | Summary



Chapter 21

The narrator describes the popular spring, Arva Wai, where the villagers drink for medicinal and healing purposes. There is also evidence of ruins in the vegetation. Tommo describes huge stone terraces, with large regularly cut stones. The islanders claim they have been there since the beginning of time, but there is no other evidence about their origin. There are also stone foundations that the houses are built on, which seem to have an ancient origin.

Chapter 22

The narrator approaches the Ti, which is the holy building that is off limits to women, as it appears that the men are preparing for some kind of festival. A group of men kill a massive hog and prepare it for roasting. The pig and the breadfruit dishes are cooked in ovens made of mounds of earth piled over baking stones. Mehevi tries to explain the significance of the festival, but the narrator doesn't understand. The next day, everyone dresses up in their best clothes and garlands of flowers and Tommo dresses festively as well.


The narrator thinks the stone ruins predate the islanders, but he is unable to confirm their origin. The islanders believe the stones come from the beginning of the world, which supports the narrator's theory that the stones were there before the Polynesians settled the island. The stones' presence inspires many questions about the island and its history.

The festival is the first organized celebration that has happened on the island. The narrator gives details about the way the pig is killed, dressed, and baked in the earth. These moments provide insight into the culture before colonization. Even though much of the plot is fictional, the observations regarding the people provide real details about the islanders' lives and culture.

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