Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 27 28 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | Chapters 27–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 27

The narrator examines the islanders' form of governance. He points out that there is no obvious legal system, no courts, and no one particularly responsible for law enforcement on the island. It seems that no law enforcement is needed, as theft is not a part of Typee culture. In addition to a lack of theft of personal property, the narrator notes that land ownership is non-existent. This system removes another source of potential conflict. The villagers come together to build new houses, though the narrator points out that women do not take part in this kind of work. In general, he observes, "the gentle sex in the valley of Typee were exempt from toil."

Chapter 28

Members of the tribe go fishing and bring back a large quantity of small fish. Fish are a favorite delicacy among the tribe. The narrator is horrified to see that the Typee eat the fish whole, scales and bones and all. He notes that in this the method of eating "the fish is held by the tail, and the head being introduced into the mouth." He soon joins the feast, however, and eats the fish as the tribe does.

Analysis

The narrator asserts that though he never observed any conflict within the Typee, this does not hold true for the islanders' interactions with other tribes and foreigners. He insists that he has not idealized the culture: "Let it not be supposed that I have overdrawn this picture." In fact, the only fault that the narrator finds with the islanders is their alleged engagement in cannibalism. Even this, he argues, though, is only done with the bodies of slain enemies.

Despite being an island nation, it is interesting that fish are not a more prominent part of the Typee diet. Fruit and even pork are much more present in the narrator's descriptions of island life and diet, though pork is apparently not a "staple."

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