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Herman Melville




_____ 1. Toby's role in the book is to provide a

    A. second observer of the idyllic life
    B. chronological narrative exclusive of Tommo
    C. contrast with Tommo
_____ 2. An obvious theme of Typee is
    A. society's corrupting influence upon the natives
    B. the inevitable clash between two differing cultures
    C. civilized man is no match for his native brethren
_____ 3. Melville's ironic touch is seen throughout in his description of
    A. tattooing
    B. food
    C. tribal marriage
_____ 4. Tommo and Toby fall into the hands of the Typees
    A. after being cast overboard by Captain Vangs
    B. while searching for the peaceful Happars
    C. while foraging for fruit for their shipmates
_____ 5. Tommo's principal trait is
    A. a rejection of civilized society
    B. a desire to educate the cannibals
    C. his lack of ambition

6. Analyze the character of Tommo, especially with regard to how his point of view shapes the story of Typee.

7. Is Typee really a novel- or is it a travel book with some dramatic passages thrown in?


  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. A

6. Since Tommo tells his own story, one good way of analyzing his character is to discuss his tone. You could choose a vivid and comic scene, such as the stripping of the missionary's wife by curious natives in Chapter 1, to point out his exuberance, sense of humor, and irreverence. Next consider his point of view. With which group does he identify the most- the Typees or the Europeans? Or is he equally aloof from both? His comparison of the two "chiefs" from each camp in Chapter 4 gives you a good clue: While he studies them both, he's standing in the shade eating bananas. Why does Tommo jump ship? What does he hope to avoid- and to find? Use these questions to get into a discussion of Tommo as a romantic quester. Also contrast him with the practical-minded Toby, whose character is sketched in Chapter 5.

7. If you think Typee really works as a novel, you'll want to talk about how Melville blends fact and invention with such imagination that he makes the succeeding mixture seem more true than reality: It conveys the feeling of experience as only a work of art can. You should mention how Tommo's lively voice unifies the whole, how he uses suspense in sections, like Chapter 8, where he and Toby cross the mountains, and how the whole book builds to an exciting finish. You might also talk about how influential Typee has been on such 20th-century novelistic blendings of fact and imagination as In Cold Blood and The Executioner's Song.

If you see Typee primarily as a travel book, you'll want to discuss Melville's intention that it be accepted as "the unvarnished truth," and point out how scholars have verified many of the facts it presents about the customs and habits of the Typees. You should analyze its structure in comparison with conventional novels and show how little it has in common with them. In several places in the book, plot and character development cease altogether, for example in Chapters 20 through 31, where Tommo describes feasts, wildlife, temples, and a typical day in the valley with hardly a single dramatized incident. You could argue that the book doesn't cohere as a novel but falls apart into different narrative modes which dull its overall impact.

[Billy Budd and Typee Contents]


  • Melville says that the Typees raised his opinion of human nature. Why and in what ways?
  • Choose a scene in Typee that you find comic and explain what's funny about it. Is there humor in the tone, action, or contrasts in point of view?
  • Does Typee give you a coherent picture of the culture of the Typee people? Describe their religion, their family life, and their marriage customs. Do they have law or money?
  • Discuss the relationship between Fayaway and Tommo. Does he give you a clear idea of what he feels for her? Do you know what she feels for him?
  • Why does Tommo want to go back home? Would you, if you were in his situation? REFERENCE

    ECC [Billy Budd and Typee Contents] []

    © Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
    Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
    Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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