Chapter 10: Day 16: A Bosom Friend
“[Queequeg’s] countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart.”
Ishmael returns from the Chapel and finds Queequeg back at the Spouter Inn ‘reading’ a book – or pretending to anyway. There is a lot happening with Ishmael. He is learning not to judge a person by their cover. He is considering a person by the quality of their soul.
Queequeg is who he is – tattooed and a cannibal. But Ishmael looks beyond the physical and forges an emotional, loving bond with him. And I am all in. This was a time of strife in America with Melville’s father-in-law supporting the Fugitive Slave Act. The emphasis Melville places on loving people who do not look like Ishmael, is important.
Please note that what also seems important to me here, is that Queequeg is not a superhero. He is a good man, but like many good men, he is ordinary in his goodness. Ishmael accepts and loves Queequeg not because he can spin wheat into gold, but because he loves Queequeg’s ‘honest heart.’
This relationship seems all the more special because of its normalcy – because we should love our shipmates – our fellow inmates of this earth. I’ve always loved this thematic emphasis in Moby-Dick.