Moby Dick Chapter 10 A Bosom Friend
Chapter Link: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/270 ... m#2HCH0010
This chapter opens the bosom buddy relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg, with Queequeg declaring he would gladly die for Ishmael, if need should be. It is chock-full of memorable quotes, and well worth reading by itself.
So-called savages are often more humane than the so-called civilized. Ishmael says "You cannot hide the soul," indicating that true character shines through surface impressions, and that real beauty comes from within. In a heartfelt ode, Melville writes "Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor."
An element of of absurdity intrudes with the observation that "his head was phrenologically an excellent one. ... George Washington cannibalistically developed." You get the sense Melville is satirising the racist 'science' of his day that claimed measurement of cranial dimension could reveal facts of character, because he presents the 'primitive' as a Washingtonian hero.
Queequeg's cool demeanour is shown as "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;"
In Chapter One, Melville had heaped scorn upon the metaphysical professors, and he continues the sarcasm here, saying "soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have "broken his digester."
The sense of moral superiority of the primitive emerges with Melville's description of modern life as "civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits." The dishonesty of the modern world leads Ishmael to say "I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy."
The sense of easy belonging and companionate friendship is struck up with an immediacy rarely seen among the lonely advanced: "we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his... this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left us cronies."
It is far from clear what Queequeg sees in Ishmael, but there is something: "He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them towards me, and said it was mine."
And now we get the theological dig with its Pauline logic: "I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. 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."
Here the theme 'do unto others' is turned into the heretical blasphemy, from the pious view, that we should have respect for heathens. Loathsome as it might seem to the racist self-elect, Melville's logic is impeccable, that Biblical faith requires love for diversity.
"there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair." And so the homoerotic teasing continues, with a love whose puritan platonic framework makes it purely spiritual.