Study Guide

Typee Chapter 24

By Herman Melville

Chapter 24

  • The festival gets Tommo thinking about religion, that the Typee practices hardly seem as terrible as the Western descriptions he's read of immolated bodies and the like.
  • Tommo wonders whether a single inventive native person could author and perpetuate stories un-reflective of tribal life.
  • As far as he is concerned, the Typee don't seem bothered by larger existential questions and beliefs, but he does admit that he never quite asked either, not wanting to pry.
  • Despite his ignorance, he does notice a mausoleum out past the lake, covered with white tappa. The area is undisturbed, accompanied by a dead chief's effigy, sitting in a canoe. In seeing this, with Kory-Kory, Tommo is able to ask about the afterlife, which Kory-Kory describes basically as "a very pleasant place" (24.11), just slightly more pleasant than their own valley.
  • Elsewhere in the village, there are other signs of religious practice: little altars spread with fruit, small
  • grinning idols, and the like.
  • The priests seem happy, Tommo observes, noting in particular a man named Kolory, who seems to be the leader, a warrior-priest who carries a spear and a broken club wrapped in white tappa, a symbol for the tribe's god. Middays in the Ti, Kolory leads the men in ceremony.
  • Tommo explains that, though he sees signs of religion everywhere, it remains alien to him what is sacred and what is not. One day, he stops to examine an idol propped against a tree, and Kory-Kory pushes it upright. When it falls, Kory-Kory beats it a bit, then holds it up for examination. Tommo is totally confused about how to react.
  • Tommo believes that the Typees aren't really that religious, that they could use some whipping into shape in this regard.