MELVILLE: Moby Dick [Chapters 10-15]

Welcome to Part 4 of this series on Moby Dick. In this lecture we will discuss Chapters 10-15.

In Chapter 10, Ishmael chats with Queequeg, and they become close friends. They share a smoke together from Queequeg’s tomahawk pipe, Queequeg gives Ishmael half of his money, and Ishmael partakes in worshipping Queequeg’s idol. At first Ishmael was hesitant about engaging in the pagan ritual, but he convinces himself that doing so is morally justified. “Do you suppose that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.”

In Chapter 11, Queequeg and Ishmael talk long into the night and share a smoke in bed. Their conversation eventually turns to Queequeg’s history.

Ishmael relates Queequeg’s biography in Chapter 12. Queequeg was born on a south Pacific island called Rokovoko. He was the son of the king, but he left the island to learn more about Christianity because he believed that the religion could make his people happier and more virtuous. However, he quickly discovered that Christians were miserable and evil too, and that “It’s a wicked world in all meridians.” Ishmael asks him if he plans to return to the island to be crowned King. “He answered no, not yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,—as soon as he felt himself baptized again.” In the meantime, Queequeg decides to go on a whaling voyage with Ishmael.

In Chapter 13, Queequeg and Ishmael depart for Nantucket in a small schooner. During the trip, the wind tears the main sail, and the boom begins to swing wildly about. One man is knocked overboard by it. Queequeg secures the boom, and then jumps into the frigid water and saves the drowning man, winning the respect of all on board. Commenting upon Queequeg’s daring feat, Ishmael foreshadows Queequeg’s death, “From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took his last dive.” The knowledge that Queequeg will die at sea heightens the level of suspense. Though his death is certain, the time and circumstances of his death are still obscure; and thus the reader is continuously anxious about the unknown fate of such an endearing character.

In Chapter 14, Ishmael discusses the island of Nantucket. He asserts that the island’s inhabitants are the most powerful emperors in the world. “Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right of way through it.”

In Chapter 15, Ishmael and Queequeg arrive on Nantucket, and search for the Try Pots, which is an Inn that was recommended to them by Peter Coffin of the Spouter-Inn while they were lodging in New Bedford. The two friends find the Inn, and enjoy the Inn’s renowned clam and cod chowder. Despite the cheerful atmosphere within the Try Pots, Ishmael is disturbed by the ominous sign standing at the entrance of the Inn. “Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses’ ears, swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other side, so that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows. Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I could not help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, two of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It’s ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the whalemen’s chapel, and here a gallows!” Melville once again foreshadows a tragic end to the novel.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join us for Part 5 of this series on Moby Dick.

Chapter 10
“Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is—which was the only way he could get there—thrown among people as strange to him as though he were in the planet Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving the utmost serenity; content with his own companionship; always equal to himself. Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he had never heard there was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or so striving.”

“Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.”

Chapter 11
“When between sheets, whether by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness of being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.”

Chapter 12
“He told me—he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father’s heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it’s a wicked world in all meridians.”

“By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having a coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he being very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,—as soon as he felt himself baptized again.”

Chapter 13
“One most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.”

Chapter 14
“Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right of way through it.”

Chapter 15
“Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses’ ears, swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an old doorway. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other side, so that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows. Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I could not help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, two of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It’s ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the whalemen’s chapel, and here a gallows!”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s