Study Guide

Typee Chapter 30

By Herman Melville

Chapter 30

  • After mentioning the tattoos on the Typee, Tommo describes an artist at work.
  • The tattoo artist, Karky, attempts to convince Tommo to get a tattoo himself, but Tommo manages to avoid it. This makes him think about his captivity, that he could be permanently marked forever should he ever get home.
  • After this first encounter, Mehevi and other chiefs team up with Karky to try to get Tommo tattooed. He continues to resist, realizing that to do so would be a gesture of conversion to the Typee religion.
  • The tattoos, part of the order of taboos, seem to Tommo endlessly complicated.
  • An un-tattooed Tommo stops to watch several women making tappa, and he absent-mindedly picks up a piece of fiber to pick apart. The women begin to shriek, and he realizes that the fabric they were making was taboo, which men could not touch.
  • Sometimes taboos are marked with a loop of grass on a pipe, or a wreath of leaves on a tree, reserved for the gods.
  • When, shortly after Toby's disappearance, Mehevi ties grass around Tommo's wrist, he is also
  • pronounced taboo, and is treated with kindness ever after.
  • Exactly what the word "taboo" signifies, and how taboos are deployed, remains largely a mystery to Tommo.