Typee: A Peep At Polynesian Life

A Peep at Polynesian Life
edited by Savannah , Juliya, Ryan, Blake, and Hannah
Tom: His real name is Tom, but he changes his name to Tommo when he meets the Typees because they cannot pronounce his name. He is the narrator of the story telling it in the first person. He is never really described totally, but based on context we can deduct that he is a young man probably in his early twenties. He is very adventurous, daring and smart. We do learn that he isn’t very quick or nible when he’s climbing through the forest with Toby and can’t seem to catch up. He is very accepting of different cultures, and even though he is afraid at first, he eventually feels comfortable with the Typees and their way of life.
Toby: Toby is a very important character in the book, but disappears slightly before the first half. Toby is described as the perfect image of a sailor: somewhat short, extremely dexterous, and holds a complete disregard for personal safety. He is a very kind, yet quiet young man. alive He is so quiet that his character is never really very fully developed. We never really learn much about him. Some say the main point of his character is to oppose Tommo's opinions, there although he was actually there when Melville was in this situation.Toby tends to be very serious, never laughs, and hardly smiles. Was it not for Toby, Tom would have never made it to the Typee village alive.
Fayaway: Fayaway is perceived by Tom to be the most beautiful girl he meets on his adventure. Tom burns though a number of pages describing her physical appearance as well as her mental maturity compared to the other girls. She is a very beautiful girl with blue eyes and olive skin. Tom is rather fond of taking Fayaway on outings to a large pool in the stream which runs though the valley. She is really very innocent and seemingly perfect. We never really know much about her, her character is one of the characters in the book that isn't very deeply developed. The only thing we really know about her that is concrete is that Tommo is in love with her.
Kory-Kory - Kory-Kory, a son of Marheyo. He is Tommos servant. He was appointed by the chief to take care of everything for Tommo. He doesn't even let Tommo walk on his own, he feeds him and bathes him. Although he seems all fun and games, being a more entertaining and funny character with his silly hair and pantomiming, he seems like he always watching Tommo. He helps him out with everything 24/7 and also is there to watch him 24/7.
Mehevi - He is the chief of the Typees. He is very well respected. Everyone in the tribe listens to him and does what he says without him having to force them because he is so well respected. He is very handsome and has a lot of decorations all over him, including a necklace made out of boar tusks and a triangle tattooed on his face, a point starting in the center of his face, and extending to both ears.. He is a good example of a "noble savage".
Marheyo - He is the senior man in the house where Tommo lives. He is very kind and compassionate towards Tommo. He is the one at the end of the book that tells Tommo that he must return to home and to his mother.
Tinor - She Marheyo's wife. She is a really good cook. She especially makes poee-poee really well. She is very hard working, but aside from that and her cooking skills her character isn't developed much at all.
Namonee - Don't hear much about him except that Tommo shaves his head and he is a Typpe warrior. He eventually gets wounded in a battle with the Happars.
Marnoo - He wanders around the island and explores a lot because he is a bit of a "taboo". Everyone, including all of the Typees and Tommo are attracted to him. It is Marnoo that tells the other natives of the island that Tommo is with the Typees, which eventually leads to his rescue.
Captain Vangs - He is the captain of the Dolly, the ship that Tommo and Toby arrived at the island on. He's an evil man, he expects the sailors to work grueling jobs and obscene hours, with little or no food and rest, harsh punishment for minor offenses. He is determined to stop at nothing to fill his boat with whale oil. He is a good contrast to Mehevi, because he is very greedy and wants to enslave his crew, while Mehevi is very giving and laid back.
Mow-Mow - He is a very mean looking, one-eyed chieftain whom only appears in the book a few times at the end. The image he leaves us with at the last scene with the Typees is very inconsistent with the peaceful image that has been developed throughout the book.
Karakoee - Native who comes to Tommo's rescue. He lives around Nukuheva and has a lot of contact with the Europeans

After six grueling months at sea on a whaling ship, The Dolly, pulls into a port in the Marquesas Islands located in the South Pacific. The main character and narrator, Tommo, as he’s later named, decides to jump ship and wait on the island surviving on tropical fruits for another European ship to come along so that he can escape. He brings along his fellow shipmate Toby. When they are alone on the island they have to hide because they don’t want to encounter the cannibal and very violent Typees. The first night on the island after Tommo and Toby escape, Tommo hurts his leg. They spend a few nights on the island. They are very cold and wet and hungry, and Tommo needs medical attention due to the injury on his leg. They see a beautiful valley below and decide to descend into it hoping it is the home of the friendly Happars, despite the fact that they may run into the Typees. It is a very dangerous trip into the valley. They finally arrive in the heart of the valley. They see a native woman and man standing by a tree with tropical fruit on it. Desperately in need of food and medical attention, they offer the natives a piece of calico cloth thinking that they are the friendly Happars. They follow the natives to a close village. They are approached by the chief of the tribe and they are asked if they are Typee or Happar. Tommo chooses Typee despite his before thoughts on the matter. Everyone in the village starts to chatter happily. The Typees give Tommo and Toby a place to sleep and something to eat. Mehevi orders Kory-Kory to be Tommo’s servant. Tommo spots a beautiful girl named Fayaway, and right away feels very attracted and intrigued by her. Tommo starts to feel a little more comfortable with the Typees. Kory-Kory feeds Tommo by hand, carries him everywhere, and bathes him every morning in the stream nearby. Although Toby and Tommo feel a little more comfortable, their fear of the Typees being cannibals never subsides. The first time that the Typees serve them meat, Tommo decides that it is human baby, and won’t eat it, but the meat turns out to be pork. Nevertheless, Tommo is still afraid that the Typees are indeed cannibals. Eventually Toby starts for Nukuheva to get Tommo some European medicine, but has to turn back because of a spat between the Happars and Typees. Some foreign ships pull into the Typee valley and Toby goes with the Typees to greet them, hoping for medicine, and never returns. Whenever Tommo asks where Toby went, the Typees sort or avoid answering clearly. Tommo begins to think that the Typees killed Toby. As time passes, he gets more and more comfortable with the Typee lifestyle and he stops worrying so much. Tommo’s leg begins to heal. He spends a lot of time with Fayaway and Kory-Kory, and bathes every morning with beautiful women in the stream. He gets good night’s sleep every night and becomes good friends with Mehevi. They talk often at a religious location called Ti where women aren’t allowed to go. He begins to believe and thoroughly describe how the Typees actually are far more civilized than European cultures, as well as Americans. Even though the fact that they may be cannibals still hangs in the air, he still thinks that their civilization is better than any others because others have done comparably horrible things. Tommo still worries about the Typees intensions. The Typees want to tattoo Tommo, and it makes him really anxious and distressed. He begs them until they subside. Although they don’t go through with it, the pressure to be tattooed makes Tommo want to escape even more. Soon after, he sees Typees holding up shrunken heads, and one of them is white. He discovers that the Typees are cannibals. Shortly after a battle with the Happars there is a feast held and Tommo isn’t allowed to go. He finds a half eaten body of a Happar. He constantly worries about how he will escape. Soon a native to Nukuheva, Karakoee, comes to the Typee Bay and he wants to buy Tommo’s freedom for an Australian whaling ship captain. Tommo waits until the Typees aren’t paying attention and jumps into the boat with Karakoee, and they row away as fast as they can. Some Typee men swim after the boat hoping to get Tommo back. Tommo saves himself by making a bad blow to Mow-Mow’s head. They both escape to safety. Tommo faints as soon as he is free. Later that night Tommo tells stories of his adventures being with the Typees.

The Negative Effect of the Europeans on the Natives
• Melville opens Typee saying that the Natives would’ve been much better off if they’d had no contact with the Europeans, or been discovered at all.
• Melville uses missionaries, colonists, and merchantmen to portray the image of the damage to their native culture throughout the book.
• The merchantmen take out their sexual desires and frustrations on the native girls leaving them with a legacy of venereal disease, and a dent in their population.
• Even before the sailors on Tommo’s ship arrive at the island they refer to them as “savages” and dismiss their culture and underdeveloped and lesser than their own. As well as fearing them before even meeting or seeing them because they thought that they may be cannibals.
• The Europeans refer to the natives as “barbaric” because of their differing sexual views (the natives are clothing optional and if they wear clothes they don’t wear much at all).
The Natives are Culturally and Naturally Superior
• The Typees are very civilized towards each other and always treat each other with respect.
• The Typees are giving and never greedy. (Contrast between Chief Mehevi and Captain Vang).
• They have the utmost integrity; they never lie, cheat or steal.
• They are all equal. No one in their tribe is starving or in debt to any other tribe member. They share, what belongs to one belongs to all.
• They have laws, but their laws are never enforced with violence.
• They live much simpler and happier lives.

Harsh Life of Being a Sailor
• Cruel, greedy captain who severely overworks his crew.
• He mentions how they were on short supplies and food, saying there was only one chicken left a week before they charted course for Nukuheva.
• Captain Vangs wouldn't turn back the ship in due course, so the ship began to suffer, as well as the tearing sail and broken-spirited sailors, who wanted nothing more but to see land.


The suspense of whether or not the Typees are cannibals is a major central idea in the book. Cannibalism is discussed far before Tommo’s ship even reaches the island. Tommo and Toby worry constantly about running into the Typees when they are traveling on the island because they have heard of their cannibalism. When they finally reach the Typee valley and have to stop for food and because of Tommo’s leg injury Tommo constantly about being eaten. He is given some “pork” by the Typees and he is absolutely convinced that it’s human baby. Although it is extremely distressing for Tommo and Toby, is a real suspension builder for the reader. If this weren’t such a pressing issue throughout the book, the interest of the reader would not have been as intense.
Tommo’s Leg Injury
This motif seems to reoccur every time Tommo gets anxious, worried or nervous. His leg gets injured the first night that he and Toby are on the island. We never really know how he hurts his leg in the forest. His injury will not seem to heal when he first stays with the Typees. His leg doesn’t start to feel any better until Kory-Kory takes care of him and makes him feel comfortable with the Typees. His leg starts to hurt again when he starts to get nervous and afraid because the Typees want to tattoo him, and also he finds out that they are indeed cannibals.

Man vs. Man:
1.Tom and Toby leaves despite Captain's will.
2.Toby leaves, and it seems like he betrayed his friend in doing so.
3.When Tom first meets Marnoo, Tom feels jealous beacuase of Marnoo's attention.
4. When Marnoo talks to Tom of news outside of the Typee, Mehevi makes him quiet.
Man vs. Nature
1.The struggle of going through the forests at the beginning of the novel.
2.Surviving the harsh conditions of the rain and climate before the contact with the natives.
Man vs. Himself
1.The Worry of the fact that the Typees might be cannibals.
2.Tom having to work through his wounded/hurt leg.
Man vs. Society
1.The men are terrified of the Typees.
2.The cultural differences made it a little difficult to communicate (at least at first).
3.The feeling of impending doom due to the possibility of the tribe eating them.
4.The tribe wouldn't let Tommo go see the second ship that came when Toby went.
Society vs. Society
1.The Happars and Typee were constantly at quarrels with eachother.
2.French abuse on the natives of Nukuheva.
3.The fact that the Europeans and Americans interacted in the first place; Tom obviously feels that it would've been better if the cultures had never clashed in the first placed, as revealed throughout the novel (and also a theme).

Writing Style

First person perspective from Tommo. Cross between a travel narrative and a travel guide. It has characteristics of a travel guide because it has true facts. It has characteristics of travel narrative because it has some fictional parts. There is also no dialogue.