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Tommo, the narrator, is the most fully developed character in Typee. It is through his eyes that everything in the Polynesian world is witnessed. It is with his tone and style that everything is described. The narrator is a young man. He is a true adventurer who is looking for freedom and liberty. Initially it seems that he is just looking for freedom from his oppressive whaling ship, but actually he truly is also looking for freedom from a repressive European/American culture. It is perhaps for this reason that he shows no hesitation in remaining on an island populated by possibly cannibalistic natives. Furthermore, although he is initially apprehensive, he eventually becomes quite opened-minded about the native culture. Tommo's willingness to respect and appreciate the Typees for their nobility and skills differs from most of his American contemporaries who would have dismissed the Polynesians as heathen barbarians.
Although Tommo wants to be a part of the Polynesian world, ultimately he clings too tightly to his identity to truly join the Typees. Tommo suffers from a chronic leg injury that acts up whenever he feels threatened by the Typees. Initially, it acts up because he fears that they might be cannibals. Later, it acts up because he fears that they want him to become part of their culture. When they suggest a tattoo, he remains adamantly opposed. Although he has been willing to wear their clothing and to join in their activities, he is unwilling to mark himself for life as one of their tribe. Tommo's unwillingness to fully become part of the Typee world may seem contradictory with his constant praise of its superiority. Yet, he always remains an open-minded figure, even though he still is a young man struggling to understand himself. Despite his sense of adventure and desire for freedom, he cannot yet truly let go his inborn, historic self.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Typee!