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.|