Wasn’t chapter 18 of Moby-Dick fun to read? It is titled “His Mark.” This is where Queequeg signs on to be one of the Pequod’s harpooneers. The beginning of the chapter has Ishmael “testifying” that Queequeg is not a “Son of darkness” as Captain Bildad thinks, but is a “member of the First Congregational Church.” Well, Ishmael did see him at Father Mapple’s service. We’ll just pretend that Ramadan chapter never happened.
The paragraph that gave me the giggles was when Peleg, impressed with Queequeg’s harpoon demonstration, wants to have the cannibal sign ship papers immediately.
Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship’s papers. We must have Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog, we’ll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that’s more than ever was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket.”
Hedgehog? Quohog? Snort! I’m so glad someone else is having trouble with the native’s name. To be honest, anytime I’ve journaled about Queequeg, I just call him Q.
footnote: Instead of copying Queequeg’s “queer round figure” from Melville’s manuscript, the printer of the first American edition of Moby-Dick substituted a small cross, like the one used here. Melville’s original has been lost.
Lost? I find that so odd. I would have liked to see the mark. In the chapter Ishmael says it was “an exact counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon [Queequeg’s] arm”.
Finally, this chapter gives us more words of wisdom. Bildad advises Q to turn from idolatry but Peleg interrupts: “Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers–it takes the shark out of ’em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who ain’t pretty sharkish.”
Remember that the next time you are interviewing a harpooneer. Look for one that’s “sharkish.”