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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 22: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Updated: Feb 14

Chapter 17: Day 23: The Mark

“Young man,” said Bildad sternly, “thou art skylarking with me—explain thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer me.”

Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. “I mean, sir, the same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother’s son and soul of us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in that we all join hands.”




Okay. So, Ishmael is kind of cool again. When Ish and Queequeq (Q) head to the Pequod, Captain Bildad sees Q and freaks out. He can tell immediately this man is not a Christian. Ish intercedes and claims Q is a member of the first Congregational Church. Then we get the rousing speech in the quote above.

The interesting things in this chapter are to note how Ish was not asked if he was a Christian by ether Captain Peleg or Bildad. They just assumed he was and made the converse assumption that Q was not. But as skeptical as the two captains are, when Q throws his harpoon as a test and hits a small lump of tar, suddenly the captains are converted. Bildad does try to give Q some pamphlets, but Peleg is happy that Q will not be focused on religion, only on striking a whale.

The idea of morality vs commerce is a running theme throughout Moby-Dick. How much do we say about religion and goodness and how much are we willing to shut up about it to make money? The two captains are a perfect example of ‘moral’ men who compromise when they see how strong a mark Q makes with his harpoon.

Ish, at least, stands up for Q. But at what cost? We shall see . . .

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