Saturday, August 15, 2015

Moby Dick Ch. 10: A Bosom Friend

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read. 

Ishmael returns to his room at the Spouter-Inn and finds his bedfellow Queequeg sitting alone, whittling the nose of his little idol and scanning a large book.  Despite the strange, tattooed outer appearance of the “savage,” Ishmael sees something beautiful: “You cannot hide the soul.  Through all his unearthly tattooings, I saw the traces of a simple and honest heart.”  Ishmael decides to befriend the strange foreigner.  “I’ll try a pagan friend,” he reasons, “since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.”  So the two share a smoke and become fast friends.

After dinner, Queequeg invites Ishmael to pray with him, before his little wooden idol.  This creates an internal dilemma for Ishmael because he is a Christian, and has been often told to shun such “idolatry.”  But, he reasons, true worship is a far deeper thing than little idols.  He gives a profound meditation on a kind of spiritual solidarity that transcends particular religions:

“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 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 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.  So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and with the world.”

"Queequeg and Ishmael" by Monica Namyar.

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