Study Guide

Typee Chapter 26

By Herman Melville

Chapter 26

  • Thinking about "King Mehevi" (26.1), Tommo discusses the polluting greed of royalty and how Mehevi is an exception.
  • He also talks about the presence of matrimonial relationships. He notes that, while Marheyo and Tinor seem to be in a committed, domestic relationship, some partnered men consort with other women. Mehevi himself seems to be a bachelor, despite his meetings with one particular young lady who also has dealings with another young man, sometimes at the same time. Indeed, he says, polygamy seems to be part of the society.
  • Tommo also discusses courting rituals and reproductive trends, noting that no one seems to have a lot of kids, which is typical for Polynesian communities, so far as he knows.
  • In regards to death and funeral rites, Tommo that admits he is ignorant, since no one dies during his stay in the valley.
  • He did, however, witness a death in Nukuheva—that of a young man. While close mourners sat by the body, the rest of the people celebrated.
  • Tommo also sees three embalmed bodies, wrapped in tappa with their faces exposed. Enemies' heads are strung from the victor's homes.
  • Tommo continues to estimate the population, its awareness of the self, and whether the Typee are in need of "civilization." (Yes, he thinks, but gently.)
  • He is upset about the way in which missionaries seem to bring sickness, death, and degradation to island communities, and wonders whether it does any good at all. It isn't that it's not a good idea, he says, only that there are some problems in the system, as illustrated in Honolulu or the Sandwich Islands.
  • Tommo is cautious about saying this, as he identifies as a Christian. He permits that he may be wrong about the whole thing, that his opinions are based on what he's seen.