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What It Means to Be Civilized?

Essay by   •  February 17, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,014 Words (5 Pages)  •  3,271 Views

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We often hear the popular saying "When in Rome do as the Romans do" ("Trivia on). As different cultures have their individual interpretation of what it means to be civilized, it is often difficult to come up with a single definition that can be applied to all circumstances. This is because different cultures uphold different values and morals from another. After reading the excerpts from Typee and Polynesian Researches, I have gained a broader understanding of what it truly means to be civilized, as I realized that it is not always the case where civilized people behave as to what they are supposed to. According to Melville's interpretation of the lifestyle of the Typees, I have learned that the true meaning of being civilized consists of treating others with respect, showing good manners, having open-mindedness, and staying united.

One of the most important values of being civilized is treating others with respect. Although a civilized society may consist of educated people who were taught about respecting other cultures, we can still see that in reality they may not necessarily apply it in their interaction with others. As we are all human beings, we should treat each other equally with dignity and respect, disregarding superiority of classes or nationalities. A great example from Melville's book that shows this quality is the Typees who live in harmony amongst their tribe. Even Mehevi (chief of the Typees) gains respect from his own people due to his true example of nobility. He would never belittle others due to his own status. As Melville talked about the Europeans who may come from a country with a much more technologically developed society, compared to the native people, he shows how these advanced societies may not even show respect towards other cultures and have negative perceptions about them. We see Toby and his disrespect towards savages in the text: "Toby, who started at this undeniable evidence of the vicinity of the savages" (Melville 71). He refers to the Typees as savages or barbarous people Thus, respect is an important attributes that defines a civilized person.

Another aspect of being civilized is to show good manners and being kind towards others. Sometimes it even requires one to go the extra mile for the sake of applying this principle. Kory-Kory who was called to be Tommo's servant in Polynesian Researches is a perfect example of a definition of what being kind truly is. He never ceases to offer his service to Tommo by feeding him during meals, carrying him to places he desires, and bathes him each morning. Besides that, the character Mehevi was also kind to Tommo by approving Tommo's request of taking Fayaway together with him on a canoe ride, and not pushing Tommo any further in getting a tattoo. In this story, the young boy and girl also show kindness to strangers by leading Toby and Tommo to some place of shelter when it was raining violently. This is shown in the excerpt "At this juncture it began to rain violently, and we motioned them to lead us to some place of shelter. With this request they appeared



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