Chapter 5: Day 8: Breakfast
“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.”
Musings: Not much is said about Ishmael as the first slacker. He kind of is though. He goes to sea because he is bummed, and as you will soon see, he’s not a great crewmate aboard ship. But Ishmael is a student of the world. I like this guy.
Today’s passage finds Ishmael waking up after a night with Queequeg. Ishmael (henceforth known as Ish) sees Peter Coffin at breakfast and realizes the innkeeper thought putting Ish and Queequeg together would be funny. Ish decides it was funny.
After some insight into Melville’s thinking that modern man is commerce, Ish says that if our souls are spent being the source of humor for anyone, it’s cool with him. Ish also says that people who can laugh and be laughed at have more in them than we think. This is a definite look-at-me being the bigger man that makes him all the more human to me.
There is a lot more to Ishmael than I remembered from previous readings. We learn that he had a stepmother who was cruel to him and he suffered night terrors, but as an adult, he is thoughtful about others and willing to serve as the butt of a joke.
Keep walking me through this world, Ishmael. I’m liking your character more and more this time around.