Why do Tom and Toby continue to be wary among the Typee despite being treated well?

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Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to why Tom, called Tommo by the Typees, and Toby remained wary among the Typee despite being treated with great favor and kindness by them lies in Chapters 10 through 13. These recount the brief time during which Tom and Toby are in the village together.

In Chapter 13, Toby effects a plan to sail round to Nukuheva--his earlier attempt at reaching Nukuheva over the mountainous land having dismally failed--in order to get medication for Tom and to mediate their rescue and escape from the Typee. From Chapter 14 onward, Tom is the solitary guest in the village. As a consequence, circumstances that occasion Tom to be wary--especially if considering whether he might have been pressured to adopt Typee religious practices--are restricted to him alone thus cannot address the question of why Toby and Tom felt wary despite kind and generous treatment.

An examination of Chapters 10 through 13 show that there are essentially seven reasons for the continued wariness felt by Tom and Toby toward the Typee despite being feasted and cared for as though revered guests.
  1. Toby and Tom got off on the wrong foot: Toby displayed vehement pantomimes denigrating the Typee tribe before knowing absolutely whether they had fallen in with a Typee or a Happar girl and boy.
  2. The Typee's reputation was renowned: Stories of Typee atrocities were recounted among sailors; the French fleet at Nukuheva was fearful of approaching the Typee valley bay; the Typees were renowned for fierce cannibalism and treachery.
  3. Toby and Tom had well-formed opinions about the Typees based on their reputation for savagery and  cannibalism: They viewed the Typees as repugnant, duplicitous, capricious, treacherous, thus not trustworthy.
  4. Toby and Tom were prohibited by multiple mysterious taboos: They were forbidden to go to many locations and to engage in many activities based on Typee religious taboos, which were both pervasive--being many taboos about many things--and incomprehensible, intertwined as they were with island religion and philosophy (such as Mehevi and Kory-Kory liked to enlarge upon regardless of the language barrier).
  5. Tom and Toby felt real terror: The passions displayed by Typee savages in the excessiveness of their tattoos, taboos, fire-lighted feasts and frenzies combined with Tom's and Toby's deep forebodings of the ultimate outcome of the savagery, making them feel destined to be the victims of catastrophic cannibalism.
  6. Tom and Toby felt the extreme limits of their situation: Tom and Toby had no means by which to repay the kindnesses they were honored with, a deficiency that might accelerate the jeopardy in which their lives hung. Tom's leg injury made him totally dependent and deprived him and Toby of any certain hope of escape.  
  7. Tom's and Toby's growing realization of their captivity: They feel the full force of their captivity as prisoners having no possibility of release, rescue or escape. In Chapter 13, Kory-Kory's restrictions on Tommo (Tom) deepen the realization, and, as recorded in the Sequel, Toby's encounter with Jimmy on the beach further deepen Toby's realization.
After examining this list, it's actually quite easy to see why Tom and Toby felt wary and had such apprehensions in the midst of the Typees despite the kindness and luxurious care bestowed upon them. This is especially true considering that Toby betrayed his disdain for the Typees with his initial display of pantomimes denigrating them and favoring their enemy, the Happar. What with ghastly stories of cannibal orgies and of captured sailors who were never seen again; what with the French naval fleet daring not to enter the Typee valley bay; and what with cannibalism confirmed as an actual, active practice, it is no wonder that Tom and Toby were wary and apprehensive at all times as they faced a real potential for savage duplicity and treachery. In other words, the Typees may have acted the part of good fellowship just in order to catch them off guard and to make them the main course (instead of the main guests) at a cannibal's feast.

Other Interesting Questions Arising from the Typees' Kind Treatment of Tom and Toby
 
Before delving into the seven reasons in some detail, it's worthwhile to think about some more interesting questions that arise from Tom's and Toby's situation. One more interesting question might be why they were treated well at all; why weren't they viewed as unwelcome intruders or, worse yet, as instant cannibalistic meals as the Typee's reputation suggested they would be? Another interesting question is why they were not allowed to leave the Typee valley?

An answer that suggests itself for the first question is that the Typee culture had strict regulations as to which individuals were suitable for cannibalistic feasting and for head-shrinking (as we know they practiced the art of head shrinking because of what Tom saw when he inadvertently interrupted an inspection of the third hanging package) and which were not. Since it is clearly suggested that cannibalism was reserved for the chiefs and other elders of the tribe, it may be inferred that the Typees believed, along with some other cannibalistic tribes, that the individual's strength was consumed along their flesh. If this were the belief, it stands to reason that anyone professing themselves to be friends of the Typees--as Tom and Toby did do after they realized where they were--would be "taboo" for cannibalism whereas enemies would be targeted for cannibalism. This supposition sheds light upon the initial meal shared between the Typees and Tom and Toby: Mehevi stared a long time into Tom's eyes trying to see into his soul before asking "Typee? Happar?" It may be supposed that had Tom followed Toby's early lead and decried the Typee while embracing the Happar, Tom's record of his experiences would have been much shorter and would not have extended beyond another day or two, as he and Toby would have been the chief's dinner.   

An answer that suggests itself for the second question is that Toby and Tom were prohibited from leaving the village because it was taboo for a foreign man to enter, then be allowed to exit the village because in doing so he would be taking with him sacred knowledge of how the Typee live. In a culture in which the society is small and dependent upon religious taboo and practice, any cultural information--such as daily routines and habits, social norms, women's activities, locations of the buildings of elders and religious rites--that found its way to enemies could easily be used against them in ambushes or invasions. As a consequence of this secretiveness, although Toby and Tom might be received as friends, the Typee would carefully avoid running the risk of exposing their cultural secrets by allowing them to leave. As is seen in the Sequel, it was only the efforts of a protected man--a taboo man (one who could not be approached by natives without much harm befalling the native)--that persuaded the Typees to let Toby go to Nukuheva for Tom's medicine, illustrating the importance of keeping cultural and social secrets safely within the Typee valley.
 
Seven Reasons in Some Detail

As well as understanding the reasons for Tom's and Toby's wariness, it's also important to understand what cannot be put forth as reasons for Tom's and Toby's wariness. A good deal of the record Tom presents is of events that occurred after Toby's disappearance. While it might be tempting to suggest that the exertion of Typee coercion to force Toby and Tom to adopt Typee cultural ways was a cause for the wariness they felt, this is an incorrect suggestion. Firstly, no such coercion occurred while Toby was there. Secondly, in chapters 14 onward, instead of meeting coercion, Tom gained two significant triumphs over Typee culture and taboos when (1) he voluntarily switched to Typee tappa garb, yet modified it to reflect Western modesty and when (2) he won the two favors of having a boat brought to the lake and--greater yet--of having Fayaway exempted from the strict taboo--one requiring death for violators--against women entering boats so that she could be his daily boating companion.

Thirdly, Tom did encounter strong coercion from the tattoo artist and, later, from the whole village to submit to tattooing--so much coercion in fact that he was compelled under duress to offer his forearm for disfigurement only to find the tattoo artist would have his face or nothing: "I now felt convinced that in some luckless hour I should be disfigured in such a manner." However, with timely intercession from Kory-Kory, Tom won out, triumphed over Typee culture and (literally) escaped being tattooed. Fourthly, in addition to the absence of general coercion to conform to Typee cultural norms (except for the unfortunate pursuit by the tattoo artist), the villagers exerted great care to protect Tom from the darker Typee practices that would alarm him or disengage him from the friendship of the Typees. The most significant incident of this sort was the care with which they guarded the knowledge of what was contained in the third hanging package and the subsequent horror they exhibited when Tom, coming upon some villagers unawares, caught a glimpse of the shrunken heads that were in that third package, a package that was hastily and ashamedly bundled up and whisked from sight (one of the heads was of a white man, so not all white men encountering the Typee were treated with beneficent kindness).
 
The evident alarm the savages betrayed filled me with ... with an uncontrollable desire to penetrate the secret so jealously guarded. Despite the efforts of Marheyo and Kory-Kory to restrain me, I forced my way into the midst of the circle, and just caught a glimpse of three human heads, which others of the party were hurriedly enveloping in the coverings from which they had been taken. One of the three I distinctly saw. ... Although it had been quickly removed from my sight, still the glimpse I had of it was enough to convince me that I could not be mistaken.
 
With a clear perspective on what can and cannot be put forward as reasons for Tom's and Toby's wariness, the details underlying the seven reasons, repeated in brief here, can be presented in a focused context.
  1. Wrong foot (wrong first impression)
  2. Typee reputation
  3. Well-formed opinion
  4. Multiple taboos
  5. Terror
  6. Limits of their situation
  7. Captivity
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

Toby and Tom make a wrong first impression, thus they start off on the wrong foot, when they first encounter Typee islanders. Toby is so determined to believe that the valley they see and have access to is the valley of the Happar, who are touted as the more friendly and the less cannibalistic of the two tribes (Happar and Typee), that he is immediately ready to launch into an attack on the Typee and an embrace of the Happar. Tom is more rational when it comes to assessing the odds of the valley they came upon being the valley they wanted to come upon (two valleys, 50/50 odds), so he exercises caution and refrains from adding his concurrence to Toby's denunciation of the Typees as the older boy and girl whom they encountered lead them further into the valley.
 
I broke through the covert and advanced, waving the branch in token of peace towards the shrinking forms before me.
    They were a boy and a girl, slender and graceful, ... An arm of the boy, ... was thrown about the neck of the girl, while with the other he held one of her hands in his; and thus they stood together, ... as if half inclined to fly from our presence....      I now threw together in the form of a question the words “Happar” and “Mortarkee,” the latter being equivalent to the word “good.” The two natives ... after some consultation ... answered in the affirmative. Toby was now in ecstasies, ... [he] broke out into a pantomimic abhorrence of Typee, ... our guides ... [being] at a loss to account for our conduct.
 
As it happens, Tom's caution was merited since the "wiley couple" shed no real light on the identity of their tribe. Toby's "pantomimic abhorrence of Typee" confused the boy and girl sufficiently, since it was alternated with pantomimed expressions of love for the valley they found themselves in, that Tom and Toby were given opportunity by the chief to clarify whom they abhorred, the Typee or the Happar. Fortunately for them both, Tom was judged to be the saner and more lucid of the two so was selected by chief Mehevi to be the spokesperson, and, with further good fortune, Tom proved adept at reading the signs in the faces around him and selected the right tribe--the Typee--to express love for during the chief's examination, thus in all probability saving their skins (probably quite literally).

This starting off on the wrong foot with a bad first impression--albeit a true first impression--of feeling abhorrence for the Typees was an implied cause for continuing wariness on their part despite the kind treatment they received. This is because of the possibility that one of the chiefs might come to understand, upon further reflection, their own error in judgement and the duplicity played out against them by Toby and Tom. If the Typees came to a true understanding of Toby's pantomimes and of Tom's false professions, then cannibalistic enmity might surely have been directed at them. In other words, it is highly unlikely that, upon discovering the truth, the Typees would act as guides to escort Tom and Toby to the valley of the Happar, the Typees' blood-enemies, nor is it likely that the generous hospitality, extended toward honored guests, could continue after the truth was discovered. With this implied threat looming, Tom's and Toby's initial encounters with the Typee would certainly be cause for continued wariness despite hospitable treatment.

The Horrors of the Typee Reputation
 
[C]annibal banquets ... horrible idols—heathenish rites and human sacrifices. ... These celebrated warriors appear to inspire the other islanders with unspeakable terrors. ... the very name of Typee struck a panic into my heart which I did not attempt to disguise. (Chs 1, 3, 7)
 
During Tom's six month journey in the South Pacific seas, he heard many stories from other sailors and from his captain about the three tribes living on the island of Nukuheva--the Nukuheva, the Happar and the Typee--two of which, the Nukuheva and the Happar, were friends with each other and friends with the French, with a fleet anchored in the largest Nukuheva bay. One story that was told on-board the Dolly of horrifying encounters with the Typee began with Typees in boats offering to guide a ship's captain to safe anchorage in Nukuheva bay only to shanghai them to the smaller Typee valley bay. It ended with Typee men boarding the ship under cover of night when "at a given signal [they] murdered every soul on board." It was the Typee reputation for duplicity and treachery of this sort, for savage rituals, for banquet feasts of sacrifices made to savage idols that lay at the foundation of all of Tom's and Toby's thoughts regarding the Typee. Since treachery and duplicity were an integral part of the Typee reputation among sailors and their fellow islanders--"the dreaded Typees, the unappeasable enemies of both these [other] tribes"--Typees were far from being trustworthy. Consequently, the reputation of the Typee for murderous treachery was a continuing cause for Toby and Tom to be wary despite how well they were cared for and feasted.

Deeply Entrenched Opinions

Since Tom and Toby had so much exposure to horrifying stories about the Typee--like the one told by Captain Vangs on the Dolly about the party of sailors who were given shore leave and were kidnapped by the Typee (although it was denied earnestly by the islanders) and who never returned except for the three who managed to escape a week later--their opinions of what the Typee were like were fully formed and cemented and, what's more, fully unshakable. When, during their escape-route journey across Nukuheva, they were presented with the possibility of entering the first valley they had access to (after all efforts to do otherwise were met with failure), Tom's heart "struck a panic" at the thought of falling into the hands of "bloody-minded Typees" and he judged it an "act of mere madness" to take the risk. In their sojourn with the Typees, their well-formed and ardent opinions about the "cruel savages"--based as they were on reputation in two quarters (sailors and neighbors)--formed the foundation for continued wariness in Tom and Toby despite Typee kindness.

Multiple Typee Taboos

Taboos are an interesting element of many cultures and difficult to understand even when the continuance of your life does not depend upon honoring the taboos. Among the Typees, Tom and Toby were introduced to cultural taboos, some of which resulted in death for the offender who dared to violate the taboo. Two instances of such taboos are that women were forbidden to enter boats or to enter the religious "'hoolah hoolah' ground" where religious rites and sacrifices were enacted.
 
[T]he use of canoes in all parts of the island is rigorously prohibited to the entire [female] sex, for whom it is death even to be seen entering one when hauled on shore.
 
In the midst of the wood was the hallowed “hoolah hoolah” ground—set apart for the celebration of the fantastical religious ritual of these people ... guarded by ranks of hideous wooden idols ... defended from profanation by the strictest edicts of the all-pervading “taboo,” which condemned to instant death the sacrilegious female who should enter ... or even so much as press with her feet the ground made holy by the shadows that it cast.
 
Since neither Tom nor Toby understood the reasoning behind what was taboo and what wasn't and why it was so, they were continually being surprised by shouts of "Taboo!" for the--seemingly to them--most commonplace actions. For example, in Chapter 29, after a feast, Tom--whom the Typees called "Tommo" as they couldn't seem to pronounce the simpler, shorter word "Tom"--passes a piece of tobacco to Toby, seated one person away, over the head of the man seated between them. Amidst an outcry of "Taboo!" they learn not to defame a person's sacred head in such a manner--but the reason for the taboo, aside from courtesy, eludes them.

The concept of the taboo applies in two ways, either to objects and persons or to actions. When applied to objects and persons, the adjective "taboo" indicates that the person or object is too holy or, conversely to that, too evil to be used, touched or approached. This application of taboo describes the taboo related to the prohibition against Typee females entering boats and the hoolah-hoolah grounds: both the grounds and the boats are too holy to be entered by women (who were of a lower status than men). When applied to actions, the noun "taboo" indicates that an activity must be avoided--the action or activity is prohibited--because it violates religious doctrine or is an offense against the community. This application of taboo describes the taboo related to passing tobacco--or anything--over the head of another person: the religious concept related to this is that the head is connected to the divine, the connection to which must not be violated by the interposing presence or actions of another person.

Regarding the action with the tobacco and the man seated between them, Tom and Toby interposed themselves between the head of the man and the divinity he worshiped thus violating the connection and committing a taboo action. The seriousness and pervasiveness of taboos (violations possibly resulting in death) gave a significant cause for continued wariness despite the kindness of the Typees, especially since the taboos remained a mystery to Tom the duration of his forced sojourn with the Typees, because their taboos were tied to and grew out from their religion, which Tom had no hope of understanding because of language barriers and philosophical divergences, he being Western and they being savage cannibals.
 
For several days after entering the valley I had been saluted at least fifty times in the twenty-four hours with the talismanic word “Taboo” shrieked in my ears, .... The day after our arrival I happened to hand some tobacco to Toby over the head of a native who sat between us. [The native] started up, as if stung by an adder; while the whole company, manifesting an equal degree of horror, simultaneously screamed out “Taboo!”
 
True Terror Gripping Tom and Toby
 
[W]hen all at once, from the depths of the grove, in full view of us where we lay, shoots of flame were seen to rise, and in a few moments illuminated the surrounding trees, casting, by contrast, into still deeper gloom the darkness around us.  
      While we continued gazing at this sight, dark figures appeared moving to and fro before the flames; while others, dancing and capering about, looked like so many demons.
 
That Tom and Toby were in the midst of native islanders who looked to them like "so many demons," who moved "to and fro before flames" of a robust fire, who danced and capered and jumped in excitation, whose actions could be traced at a distance before "shoots of flames," is a good indicator that Tom and Toby were gripped by real terror of these island "savages" about whom such a horrible reputation was advanced. To increase their terror, on the first morning after their encounter with the Typee chief called Mehevi, they were unexpectedly honored with his presence in Marheyo's home (where they had been assigned to dwell), with his person decked out in full Typee regalia related to his position as highest chief. While it was the signifying mark of Typee power, might and status, his regalia added to the weight of terror Tom and Toby already felt. Mehevi entered in so regal a state and with his former appearance so altered that neither Tom nor Toby knew him at first. Tom finally recognized him as Mehevi when that same "rigidity of aspect under which [Tom had] absolutely quailed" the night before bore into his eyes once again.

Chief Mehevi had his "warlike personage" adorned with a tall feather headdress, "necklaces of boar's tusks" resting on his "capacious chest," "barbaric trinkets" of "sperm whale teeth" in his ears, a heavily folded loin cloth of "dark-colored tappa" [tappa (tapa): cloth woven from tree bark in the South Pacific isles], with "anklets and bracelets of curling human hair," a fifteen-foot two-ended spear and tattooing "over his whole body." The tattooing display added to their sense of terror and the trepidation noted in Toby's face the night before. Mehevi was tattooed on "every noble limb" in "grotesque variety and infinite profusion," with a tattoo of two "broad stripes" forming a triangle crossing his eyes, "staining his lids," and sweeping in a "straight line along [his] lips." Mehevi's appearance was calculated to inspire awe in his visitors and to establish beyond a doubt Mehevi's power and importance.

In addition to impressive war-like power and might, Mehevi's regalia provided another cause to continue to be wary of the Typees despite the great friendliness and courtesy Tom and Toby were treated with since their futures were held in the hands of the Typee elders. On the one hand, Tom and Toby knew they had reason for terror: "what dependence could be placed upon the fickle passions which sway the bosom of a savage?" On the other hand, Tom realizes (even if Toby at first didn't) that their "subsequent fate" would depend heavily on the "good-will of this individual," this highest chief of the village, who holds the authority to "exert a powerful influence" on their behalf (or against them): "I forthwith determined to secure, if possible, the good-will of this individual, ...." Tom and Toby would continue to be wary, despite kind treatment, until they could be sure of the extent of their success in gaining Mehevi's goodwill.
 
I forthwith determined to secure, if possible, the good-will of this individual, as I easily perceived he was a man of great authority in his tribe, and one who might exert a powerful influence upon our subsequent fate. In the endeavour I was not repulsed; for nothing could surpass the friendliness he manifested towards both my companion and myself.
 
The Limits of Their Situation

Tom's and Toby's situation was severely limited by two important factors. The first and most obvious was the injury Tom sustained to his leg. It is a mystery as to what happened to his leg. Tom doesn't know. The venerable old "leech" of an island Hippocrates called in by Mehevi to examine and treat Tom's leg doesn't seem to know (it's probable Tom was bitten by a spider or other insect since the injury recovers then resurges). What Tom and Toby do know however is that Tom's leg limits their chances of escape. Tom can hardly stand and walk; Kory-Kory puts Tom on his own back and carries him. Tom surely can't respond to the necessities of stealth and speed required to undertake an escape, especially an escape in hazardous mountainous terrain. The limit imposed on their situation by Tom's physical difficulty is a cause for continued wariness despite kindliness from the Typees. What if beneath those "fair appearances, the islanders covered some perfidious design, and ... their friendly reception ... might only precede some horrible catastrophe?" Should Tom and Toby find occasion to flee from "perfidious design," they would not be able to do so; Tom's leg would limit and prevent flight, thus wariness was a continual necessity despite kindness.

The second important factor was that they possessed nothing of their own. They had already given away the few gifts they brought with them, and the warrior-chief Mehevi rejected one proffered gift: "I took some tobacco from the bosom of my frock and offered it to him. He quietly rejected the proffered gift, and, without speaking, motioned me to return it to its place." In American culture (the character Tom and author Melville are American), as in British culture, accepting kindnesses from someone puts the recipient under an obligation to repay the kindness by some means or other at some future time. Superimposing his culture onto the island culture, Tom worries that, with the increasingly generous kindness bestowed, he and Toby might be required to repay the gifts by some means ... but by what means could that possibly be? Because of this cultural concern regarding obligation to repay, Tom and Toby have an additional cause for continued wariness despite--in this case, actually, because of--the increasingly generous kindness shown by the Typees. The following quotation expressing Tom's concern in this regard is a little difficult to understand, so the paraphrase can help sort Tom's meaning out, which is also clarified by knowing that this meaning of "render/rendering" carries with it the sense of giving back because of duty or obligation (a giving back that is not optional).

Paraphrase: The Typee, motivated by some mysterious reason or desire, day after day multiplied the extent of their attentions to us. Their generous manner towards us was inexplicable. Surely, thought I, they would not act with such goodwill if they meant to do us harm. But why, then, this excess--this overabundance--of respectful kindness (as though for an honored and revered personage), or what object or service of equal value as all their feasts and attention can they think us capable of offering in return for the kindness as a fulfillment of our duty and obligation toward them?
 
The natives, actuated by some mysterious impulse, day after day redoubled their attention to us. Their manner towards us was unaccountable. Surely, thought I, they would not act thus if they meant us any harm. But why this excess of deferential kindness, or what equivalent can they imagine us capable of rendering them for it?
 
Captivity

"'Why, they are cannibals!' said Toby." Chapter 12 begins with Toby's rationale for dread of the Typee: Despite how well the islanders treat Tom and Toby, Typees are cannibals who hold foreigners captive. Tom and Toby had heard enough credible reports to believe that the Typee reputation was accurate and that such a reputation affirmed the notion that sailors never return once in the hands of the Typee. Consequently, Tom and Toby felt the imperative for making the most of the good favor extended to them by the Typees in order to somehow get medicine from the French at Nukuheva and to somehow make an escape from the valley. The second need, escape, depended in large part upon the first need, medicine for Tom's leg affliction:
 
It was idle for me to think of moving from the place until I should have recovered from the severe lameness that afflicted me; indeed my malady began seriously to alarm me; for, despite the herbal remedies of the natives, it continued to grow worse and worse.
 
When Tom convinces Toby to go to Nukuheva for medicine (rather against Toby's better judgement), the Typees react with startling energy to news of their plan; Kory-Kory even weeps at the thought of his new friends going to the hateful Nukuheva:
 
The grief and consternation of Kory-Kory, in particular, was unbounded; he threw himself into a perfect paroxysm of gestures which were intended to convey to us not only his abhorrence of Nukuheva and its uncivilized inhabitants ...
 
It is only after Toby miserably fails at getting to Nukuheva over a mountain route, as he is violently attacked by members of the enemy Happar tribe--"'Awha! awha! Toby mukee moee!'—Alas! alas! Toby is killed!"--that the Typee elders allow Toby to go to meet the next ship that comes to their bay: "they appeared to make no objection to [Toby's] proposition [of going to the 'botee']." Upon the arrival of the boat, both Kory-Kory's behavior and Toby's cautionary remarks to Tom indicate the fact of and their awareness of their captivity. Kory-Kory refused to carry Tom to the beach to meet the boat. Toby explained that Tom's anxious eagerness was destroying their hope of going and that if the Typees continued to be suspicious of their having a design to flee, neither Tom nor Toby would be permitted to leave the village.
 
"'Do you not see,' said [Toby], 'I should hurry forward myself at once did I not think that if I showed too much eagerness I should destroy all our hopes .... If you will only endeavour to appear tranquil or unconcerned, you will quiet their suspicions, .... Should I succeed in getting down to the boats, I will make known the condition in which I have left you, and measures may then be taken to secure our escape.'"
 
Toby's reference to "escape" proceeds directly from his conviction that they are undeniably being held in captivity as prisoners. Sometime after Toby's departure by sea--telling the islanders he would return in three days--news of boats newly approaching the bay is spread throughout the Typee valley. Tom, reclining with Mehevi, Marheyo, Kory-Kory, other chiefs and warriors in the Ti of the Taboo Groves, reacts according to his "instinctive impulse," despite his injury, to directly pursue the route to the beach in case "Toby was about to return." He is astounded to be confronted by "fifty savage countenances" blocking the door, Kory-Kory's restraining hand upon his arm and Mehevi's surprising, uncharacteristic and stern orders to "'abo, abo'" and to "'moee'," to wait and to sit down. Abandoning himself to "despair," yet desperate to be reunited with and saved by Toby, Tom understood that--alone and without Toby--he was "indeed a captive in the valley" and that the "Typees intended to hold [him] a prisoner."

Before Toby's departure--the details of which are revealed in the Sequel--Toby asserts the clear inference that, despite the kind treatment they receive, they are prisoners held in captivity in the Typee valley and in need of rescue. When Tom finds himself abandoned and alone in the valley, alone with Typees, "the conviction rushed upon [him] with staggering force, and [he] was overwhelmed by this confirmation of [his] worst fears": he was a captive prisoner of the paradoxically kindly Typee cannibals. That Toby and Tom both knew of and dreaded the truth of their status as well-cared for captives was clearly a reason for continued wariness despite the generous kindness shown them by the Typees. Finally, the dual characteristics of their sojourn with the Typees was of such a nature as to give continual cause for wariness: Tom and Toby did not--could not--know whether the friendship of the Typee people was genuine or a ruse, a duplicity, a treachery with some catastrophic end as the secret objective:
 
    We were fairly puzzled. But despite the apprehensions I could not dispel, the horrible character imputed to these Typees appeared to be wholly undeserved.
    'Why, they are cannibals!' said Toby on one occasion when I eulogized the tribe. 'Granted,' I replied, 'but a more humane, gentlemanly and amiable set of epicures do not probably exist in the Pacific.'
    But, notwithstanding the kind treatment we received, I was too familiar with the fickle disposition of savages not to feel [eager] to withdraw from the valley, and put myself beyond the reach of that fearful death which, under all these smiling appearances, might yet menace us.

 

msmeow-7867 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question is really more applicable to Tom, or “Tommo” as the Typee call him, for several reasons: first, Tom is our narrator, and we see the world and its inhabitants, including Toby, as he does. Toby rarely speaks or shares his thoughts with us, and when we do ‘hear’ him, it is through the filter of Tom’s narration. Second, the limited nature of Toby’s character development does not really allow readers to know him, so it’s difficult to even guess what he may have been thinking about their situation. Last, Toby disappears rather soon after he and Tom are taken in by the Typee, so again, it’s difficult to try to guess how he felt about their predicament.

It should go without saying that the main reason Tom continues to feel apprehensive about his time with the Typee, regardless of the fact that he is treated well, is because he has heard they are fierce cannibals. But there are some other more subtle reasons that contribute to his wariness. When Tom and Toby arrive in the village, a Typee man KoryKory is appointed to be their servant, to provide for their needs. Because Tom is badly wounded at this point, KoryKory even has to carry him from place to place. After a short time, Toby leaves to try to get some European medicine for Tom from a French ship in the harbor. He returns wounded from a spear with a garbled story of being attacked by the Happars. After he heals sufficiently to try again, Toby leaves never to return. The Typee give Tom conflicting stories about what happened to Toby: he was dead, he was captured, he left on the ship. This lack of cohesion in their stories also creates lingering anxiety for Tom. He wonders if maybe he had fallen victim to cannibalism.

So now Tom is on a foreign island with a cannibalistic people, wounded and unable to speak the language, and the only other European man has disappeared. In a twist of fate, Tom has become “the other,” an uncomfortable role usually held by natives, especially in the colonial period. In addition, even as Tom heals, he begins to realize that he is not free to wander as he pleases; he is always accompanied, either by Fayaway or KoryKory, or both. So despite the fact that the Typee, and particularly their chief Mehevi, are kind to him, and even though he is developing a respect for their religious beliefs and their communal living, Tom’s realization that on some level he is a prisoner keeps him from being totally comfortable with his situation.

Two final incidents occur that really intensify Tom’s misgivings about remaining with the Typee. First, Tom arrives back home to discover several of the men examining the contents of a package that is usually tied to the roof. They try to hurriedly close the package, but Tom see three shrunken heads in it; one is European. He wonders if it might be Toby’s. Then, several Typee warriors return from a fight with several dead Happar warriors. Although Tom wants to stay and see what will happen, the chief commands KoryKory to take Tom back to his hut. Although Tom continues trying, KoryKory keeps a close eye on him, and he realizes again that he really is a prisoner. The next day, Tom manages to sneak a peek into a large pot in the village center; it contains a half-eaten body. Tom now has evidence of what he has previously only suspected, and this drives his determination to escape.

One last and more complex reason Tom may continue to be wary of the Typee despite their excellent and kind treatment of him is that he is afraid of losing his identity as a European and becoming one of them. There is constant tension between Tom’s admiration and simultaneous revulsion for the Typee way of life. We can see examples of this in his conflicted feelings about their religious beliefs, about the way relationships between men and women function, about the things that are taboo for certain members of the tribe, and  in his revulsion in being tattooed and carrying on his body outward proof of his absorption into the tribe.

The fact that he has heard the Typee are cannibals and he finds himself among them is enough reason for Tom to continue to be wary and guarded among them despite kind treatment. But the realization that he is a prisoner, the disappearance of his fellow European, the discovery of shrunken heads and half-eaten bodies, and a fear of losing his identity as a European all contribute to his discomfort and are the impetus behind his eventual escape.

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Toby and Tommo are apprehensive about their island hosts because they know the Typees have a reputation for cannibalism, and since they cannot communicate with the natives, they constantly fear the worst. One example of this can be found in Chapter eleven, when the natives treat the sailors to a dinner after dark. Toby is convinced they are being served human flesh, but in fact it turns out to be a roast pig. The pair are constantly trying to reconcile their treatment with the suspicions they harbor since they cannot understand what the natives say – a case where words might speak louder than actions. After Toby leaves in Chapter thirteen--"Something befalls Toby"--Tommo becomes increasingly more isolated and more apprehensive about “going native,” and subjecting himself to tattooing. Ultimately the source his apprehension has more to do with his cultural and psychological isolation than any fear of being eaten.

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Typee

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