Literature Study GuidesTypeeThe Story Of Toby Summary

Typee | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Typee | The Story of Toby | Summary



The narrator relates Toby's tale just prior to and then after his disappearance. Toby goes with the tribe to the beach to look for an alleged boat. He doesn't find the boat, but instead, he finds an old sailor named Jimmy, whom he recognizes. Jimmy is a storyteller and a gossip, and he has retired from the sea to live in Nukuheva with the local people. Jimmy, who is a friend of a priest on the island, has earned the status of being taboo. Jimmy manages to enlist the Typee people's help in thwarting Toby's return to the village to retrieve Tommo. Toby is forced to leave with Jimmy. They make their way on foot back to Nukuheva with a young Typee boy, passing through the Happar valley on the way. Jimmy has two wives there who prepare dinner for them. The Typee boy is afraid and stays close to Toby. Jimmy persuades Toby to promise him a reward once Toby gets hired aboard a ship. After leaving the Happars the next morning, they are met by an escort of men from Nukuheva, who take them the rest of the way. Toby manages to get service on a boat and pay Jimmy, but everyone refuses to go back for Tommo. The boat leaves the bay and heads to New Zealand, and Tommo and Toby do not meet again for many years.


Tommo has always supposed that Toby either proved faithless and abandoned him, or that he was killed and eaten by the Typee. It is this latter thought that kindles a seed of distrust in Tommo regarding the Typee.

Jimmy, the sailor, is quickly revealed as a liar and con man. He convinces the Typee to keep Toby from returning to get Tommo, so that Jimmy can take Toby with him and get a reward. Toby, on the other hand, proves himself to be extremely gullible. Toby simply chooses to trust Jimmy without cause rather than remain wary and watchful. When Toby refuses to drink the alcoholic beverage that the native people drink, Jimmy tells him, "he would have something mixed with it, which would convert it into an innocent beverage." While this is obviously totally ridiculous and false, Toby chooses to believe him and begins to get drunk.

In the end, Toby and the Typee are both exonerated from wrongdoing. The Typee never harm Toby, and Toby never willingly abandons Tommo. The final sentence of the chapter hints that the narrator and Toby do in fact meet again, many years in the future.

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