Literature Study GuidesTypeeChapters 29 30 Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Typee Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Apr. 2018. Web. 17 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2018, April 2). Typee Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Typee Study Guide." April 2, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2018.


Course Hero, "Typee Study Guide," April 2, 2018, accessed November 17, 2018,

Typee | Chapters 29–30 | Summary



Chapter 29

The island is inhabited by small dogs that resemble large, hairless rats. The narrator is repulsed by them, and he asks Mehevi about killing them. Mehevi tells Tommo that it is taboo to kill the dogs. Tommo also awakens to find a black cat looking at him, and he is mystified as to the cat's origins. He notes an abundance of tame golden lizards and birds as well, neither of which seem afraid of humans. Though no mosquitos have yet arrived to the island, there is an annoying black fly that likes to buzz around people's faces and fly into their mouths. Strangely, none of the birds sing. The narrator notes that "alas! the spell of dumbness is upon them all—there is not a single warbler in the valley!" He also notes that the valley has fine weather year around, which allows for an abundance of fruit in every season that keeps the islanders from experiencing food shortages.

Chapter 30

The narrator watches someone being tattooed and the tools remind him of "that display of cruel-looking mother-of-pearl-handled things which one sees in their velvet-lined cases at the elbow of a dentist." The tattoo artist insists on tattooing Tommo, but he refuses. Tommo runs back to the hut while Kory-Kory fends off the tattooist, Karky. Karky brings up the issue with the leaders of the tribe, and everyone is eager for the narrator to get tattooed. The narrator discovers that the tattoos are related to the islanders' religion, and he is even more set against being "converted." He discusses the concept of "taboo," and relates some stories from early in his arrival to the village.


At this point in the book, the plot of the original story has almost completely disappeared. The narrator focuses solely on anthropological observation, attempting to cover every aspect of the island—from the islanders' culture and history to flora and fauna. In these chapters, he takes time to describe the animals that exist on the island, which seem to be a mix of native animals and possible later arrivals, such as small dogs and a sole cat. Mosquitos are another thing that the narrator blames foreigners for bringing to various islands, though none have reached the island inhabited by the Typee yet.

The narrator uses the topic of tattooing and his own refusal to participate in tattooing as a segue into talking about the concept of the "taboo" in islander culture. While taboo seems to hold a lot of power in the culture and dictate many rituals and traditions, the narrator notes that he "cannot determine with anything approaching to certainty, what power it is that imposes the taboo." By this, he means that there doesn't seem to be any one deity or person responsible for outlining what is or isn't taboo.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Typee? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!