This brief chapter gives Ishmael’s reaction to his brush with death in the previous chapter, when (in pursuit of a whale during a stormy squall), he was thrown overboard. Ishmael asks more experienced whalers like Queequeg, Stubb, and Flask whether these kinds of brushes with death are common on a whaling voyage. All three men respond in the affirmative—these things are common.
Given such a precarious state of affairs, Ishmael decides to write a draft of his will. This resignation to the real possibility of his own imminent demise is actually kind of freeing for Ishmael. He writes: “I felt all the easier; a stone was rolled away from my heart. Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be. I survived myself; my death and burial were locked up in my chest. I looked around me tranquilly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.”
|The Resurrection of Lazarus by Leon Bonnat (1857)|