Why do Tom and Toby continue to be wary among the Typee despite being treated well?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Wrong foot (wrong first impression)
- Typee reputation
- Well-formed opinion
- Multiple taboos
- Limits of their situation
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.
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)
Deeply Entrenched Opinions
Multiple Typee Taboos
[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.
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!”
[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.
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.
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?
"'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.
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 ...
"'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.'"
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.
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.
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.