Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Moby Dick Ch. 18: His Mark

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 and Queequeg board the Pequod to make final arrangements with the ship’s owners.  Seeing the tattooed Queequeg, Bildad asks if he has papers demonstrating that he is a Christian.  Apparently, this is a requirement for employment in whaling.

Ishmael lies and says that Queequeg is a member of the First Congregational Church.  Doubtful, Bildad then asks Ishmael which church he beings to, and his reply is beautifully inclusive: “The same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother’s son and soul of us belong: the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world; we all belong to that.”  Here, “catholic” means “universal” as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.  Ishamael is speaking of a kind of universal brotherhood of humanity.

The ship’s owners' reservations vanish when Queequeg gives a demonstration of his astonishing harpoon abilities.  Queequeg and Ishmael sign up and prepare to sail with the Pequod.  Because Queequeg cannot write his name, he signs his whaling contract like this.  This is his mark:

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