Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 23 24 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 23–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23

Tommo attends the festival. The men lounge at the feast, eating and smoking in the Ti. The narrator notes the abundant presence of tobacco among the tribe, though he also notes that among the other tribes "the weed is very scarce, being only obtained in small quantities from foreigners." On the second day of the festival, the narrator is awakened by loud pounding sounds and family commotion. He walks back to the Ti in the sacred groves to find the entire area full of women. A few elderly widows dance naked, jumping up and down. Beyond the women, in another clearing, the men have prepared a feast. Some are beating drums, and priests are chanting, while everyone eats and drinks. This activity goes on until sunset and repeats the next day. Then, it is over.

Chapter 24

Tommo explains that he never saw any elaborate or violent religious rites while staying with the tribe. He suspects others who have written of the Polynesian tribes' violence were misinformed or embellishing. He claims that "there is a vast deal of unintentional humbuggery in some of the accounts we have from scientific men" regarding religious traditions in the tribes.

The mausoleum near the lake of a previous king or warrior is a place of religious importance to the Typee. The narrator notes, however, that for all the sacred places, religion seems to be at a "low ebb" within the tribe. He describes a ritual in which no women ever take part: the priest Kolory brings a wooden club-like doll that is one of the gods of the island to the Ti where all the men have gathered. Then there is a ritual wherein the god finally speaks in Kolory's ear, and he tells the men what he has heard. The narrator notes that generally the islanders treat their gods with very little reverence, often knocking over or beating their images.

Analysis

The narrator notes that the islanders smoke a lot of tobacco, seeming to grow the leaves themselves, though he states he "never saw a single plant growing on the island." It's mysterious as the other two tribes on the island have been noted to get their tobacco only from European boats.

The narrator mentions that pork "is not a staple article of food" among the islanders. This is curious because they seem to eat it frequently in the narrator's accounts. Many of the meals he eats include pork, and it seems to be an important food for festivals.

Additionally, the narrator ascribes a lot of the fantastic stories told about the islanders, their religions, and their cannibalism to missionaries with agendas or to people who get embellished information from sailors. He observes their religious practices do not include any of the acts of cannibalism or sacrifice that many of the European scientists have claimed. However, the narrator also views the Typee as being at a religious low and lacking devoutness. He is of the opinion that "they are sunk in religious sloth, and require a spiritual revival." This is, of course, the narrator's opinion, based on the fact that the narrator is unable to understand the details or more complex philosophy behind the islanders' religious practices because he cannot understand their language.

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