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Typee

Herman Melville

Chapters 12–15

Chapters 9–11

Chapters 16–18

Summary

Chapter 12

Kory-Kory immediately proves to be a highly attentive servant. He feeds Tommo at each meal, not even letting Tommo place food in his own mouth. He carries him everywhere and thoroughly bathes him in the stream each morning (scrubbing Tommo's entire body). The next day, Mehevi arrives and takes them all (Tommo being carried by Kory-Kory) to the "taboo groves," where the Typees keep their religious altars. Near the graves stands a large structure called the "Ti" (that is forbidden to women), as well as the "hoolah hoolah" grounds where religious rituals are conducted. As they are waiting in the Ti, Tommo and Toby observe that a fire has been lit outside. They start fearing what it is for. Soon after, some meat is brought to them. Tommo starts eating, but Toby refuses to, declaring that the meat is "roasted baby." Tommo feels a wave of panic, but later observes that the meat is roast pork. Tommo still feels wary about the possibility of cannibalism.

Chapter 13

For another week, the Typees treat Tommo and Toby with utmost attention. Toby cannot stop his worrying, however. Tommo's leg continues to throb, despite native treatments. Toby agrees to travel to Nukuheva for him to get some proper medicine from a French ship. The Typees tentatively consent to the plan and Marheyo walks Toby down the trail to the border of the Happar territory. Several hours later, Tommo hears screaming in the village and comes out to find a bloody and unconscious Toby. After Toby wakes, he explains that on his journey he came across some Happars who attacked him with a spear. Toby then collapsed on his way home, until some random Typees found him. The Typees use Toby's story to confirm that the Happars are a bad and savage group, even explaining that the Happars are cannibals. Toby and Tommo take the news more somberly, realizing now that it will be very difficult for them to escape the area.

Chapter 14

Tommo's leg continues to pain him, as does his anxiety over whether or not the Typees will eventually eat him. One morning as he is resting, he hears a great commotion because a group of French ships have sailed into the Typee bay. The natives all start gathering produce and goods to bring to the ships. Tommo wants to go too, but Kory-Kory refuses to carry him there. Eventually, the Typees agree that Toby can come to get the medicine for Tommo, but that Tommo needs to stay and rest. Around sunset, the Typees start filtering back. Toby, however, does not return. The Typees seem evasive when explaining where Toby has gone. Eventually, Tommo seeks out Fayaway. She explains that Toby went away with one of the boats and plans to return in three days. Tommo feels depressed and also trapped in the village. The natives show increasing kindness toward him, however, and treat him with the utmost attention, especially Kory-Kory and Fayaway.

Chapter 15

While the whole community treats Tommo well, the household of Marheyo is especially solicitous. For example, one day Marheyo prepares an extensive seaweed salad for him. Tommo does not like it, but tries to eat it anyhow. He also describes in length how "poee-poee," the classic breadfruit dish, is prepared.

Analysis

The question of whether or not the Typees are cannibals continues to haunt the men and Melville's readers here. The Typee community certainly is not acting like a group of ferocious man-eaters. In fact, life in the Typee valley is quite nice. Kory-Kory is a diligent servant and his attentiveness pushes Tommo even further towards a state of infancy. Kory-Kory feeds and bathes him as if he were a child. Kory-Kory carries him everywhere as well. Tommo lives in a completely regressed state here amongst the Typees. While he once acted like a full adult on a whaling ship, ever since he entered a paradise-like valley he has reverted to a more primal form. It is in this condition of quasi-infancy that Tommo slowly begins to enjoy himself, even though he still worries about the question of cannibalism.

Toby remains more firmly a skeptic. This skepticism becomes comically evident during the scene at the Ti. When Toby sees that a fire has been lit, he immediately suspects that it is meant to roast them and suggests this to Tommo, who is not initially suspicious. Then, when meat is brought in, Tommo starts happily eating it while Toby calls it "roasted baby." This scene is comical because it plays off Toby and Tommo's differing perceptions of what is happening around them. Tommo is much more willing to accept the bliss of the Typee lifestyle, whereas Toby remains suspecting. Toby's declaration that the pork is "roasted baby," is comically ridiculous. With this line, Toby mirrors the beliefs of many Europeans and missionaries who falsely proclaimed native behavior to be savagery when it really was not. The meat, they later discover, simply was pork, delicious pork to be exact. But Toby lacks the open-minded qualities of Tommo and his prejudiced suspicions against the Typees make him much more consistent with the behavior of other similarly biased Europeans.

Still, Toby's skepticism does live in Tommo as well. Tommo enjoys the pork, but promptly places it down and begins to feel ill when he thinks that it could be roasted baby. What if Toby was right and Tommo was simply ignorant? His fears resurface strongly and start to compete with his happiness. Tommo's emotional competition creates tension within himself, as well as within the storyline. We ourselves may feel exactly like Tommo—should we enjoy the lushness of life in the Typee valley or should we be constantly afraid that the Typees are soon going to kill and eat our hero? With Toby's disappearance, this uncertainty grows worse. The natives, even the lovely Fayaway, offer limited explanation for where Toby went. Without an explanation, all remains uncertain and we, like Tommo, are forced to wonder whether Toby has been killed and eaten and whether the Typees truly are cannibals.

The level of Tommo's skepticism and anxiety relates to the condition of his leg injury. As he grows more uncertain, his leg injury worsens. The injury, which appeared mysteriously in the first place, is a symbolic representation of Tommo's level of distress. It is an indicator of what is happening in his mind more than an indicator of a true physical ailment.

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