Study Guide

Typee Chapter 4

By Herman Melville

Chapter 4

  • Not many days after the ship has landed at Nukuheva, Tommo decides he can't take any more time at sea. He makes his mind up to desert the crew. He had volunteered to sail for a particular amount of time under particular conditions, but it's turned out Captain Vangs is a domineering jerk.
  • There was a ship called The Perseverance, Tommo says, which was long thought lost. After twenty years, it returned to port, and the sailors who had left as young men were now past middle age.
  • Even though Tommo's only been at sea for fifteen months, he's feeling real antsy and a bit worried that his own ship will take a turn like The Perseverance.
  • After he makes up his mind to leave, he goes about researching Nukuheva best he can, knowing that the information will come in handy once he escapes.
  • The island is a kind of folded semicircle, its center the Bay, with mountains and forest on either side.
  • The natives live in bamboo huts in the valleys of these mountains, and also along coastal inlets.
  • On the land adjacent to the bay, live two warring tribes: the Happar and the Typee. While the Happar are supposed to be sweet and friendly, the Typee are said to be cruel cannibals who eat their victims.
  • Tommo has even heard a tale of an entire crew murdered by the Typee. For obvious reasons, the French have been avoiding this tribe.
  • All of this being said, Tommo wants to make a note about the use of the word "savages," and how it's a subjective term.
  • The ship moves from the Bay of Nukuheva to the Bay of Tior, just a little way down the coast. Soon after they arrive, the French come to occupy it.
  • Tommo watches the local chief and the French admiral approach each other, one nearly naked, the other in heavy military garb, and both, Tommo notes are "noble-looking men" (3.41).