Brought to you by the letter Q

12 Apr

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.

Melville Readers, did you have a footnote for this chapter?  I did.  It was regarding Quohog and his mark.

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.”


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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3 responses to “Brought to you by the letter Q

  1. Jeannette

    April 12, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I loved that chapter. It made me laugh. In fact, I really wanted to call Queequeg Hedgehog for the remainder of the book.

  2. Tonia

    April 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

    That was a great chapter! I thought Peleg and Bildad were great characters. I’m trying to figure out if their names are symbolic – both names are mentioned in the Bible. I wonder if Melville intented a deeper meaning behind those characters that I just haven’t quite figured out yet.

    • Christine

      April 13, 2012 at 7:03 am

      Interesting. I didn’t realize they had Biblical names. I should have guessed. Hmmm Bildad was a “friend” of Job’s and Peleg was an ancestor of the Israelites. I’ll have to ponder for deeper meaning as well.


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