Chapter 10 A Bosom Friend

        Melville makes sure, in the first paragraph, that we know that Queequeg, was not about to stay for the whole of Father Mapple's unsettling sermon. He has Ishmael find the South Sea Islander back at the Spouter-Inn, "peering hard into the face of that little negro idol of his", and whittling away with a jack-knife at the idol's nose! -- "humming to himself in his heathenish way." Surely this is in stark contrast to the way a "Christian" is impacted by his religion. While the Christian is threatened with eternal damnation for disobedience of vague but onerous "commandments of God", the so-called heathen is affectionately amused and comforted in the worship of his pocket-sized idol.

        Interrupted by Ishmael, Queequeg puts the idol away, and -- perhaps to put on a show for Ishmael --starts turning the pages in a picture book, probably faking astonishment at the many, many pages in the book for Ishmael's benefit. Ishmael, quite taken in, says of the performance, "Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face, through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple, honest heart. In his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils. You cannot hide the soul."

        So taken is Ishmael (perhaps all the more because of the emotional impact of Father Mapple's performance) that he is moved to comment that Queequeg's shaved head reminded him somehow of George Washington: "Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed!" Ishmael is thoroughly impressed with the savage's independence and self-possession, "content with his own companionship". Ishmael waxes philosophical, musing that "to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be so striving."

        He then goes in absolute and positive ecstasy, declaring. "I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against this wolfish world. This soothing savage had REDEEMED it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrises and bland deceits." There we have the author's invidious comparison of the civilized preacher with the uncivilized heathen. "I'll try a pagan friend." says Ishmael, "since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy." Thus early in the voyage of his soul, Ishmael finds his redeemer in Queequeg.

        After sharing Queequeg's tomahawk pipe, the savage informed the Christian that "henceforth we were married" meaning that they were bosom friends and that he would gladly die for Ishmael, who opines, "In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply." Violating the First Commandment, Ishmael joins Queequeg in worshiping his little wooden idol. The savage has proselytized the Christian!

        Scandalizing the Victorians yet again, Melville has the pair go to bed: "Thus, then, in our heart's honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg -- a cosy, loving pair." (!)