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Chapter Ten: A Bosom Friend

Ishmael returns to the Spouter Inn and to Queequeg, who left the sermon early and is busy re-carving his idol and counting pages in a book. Ishmael decides to stare at Queequeg and muse to himself for a bit.

pg. 52:With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face–at least to my taste

Ishmael, we've gone over this. You have no taste.

pg. 52:You cannot hide the soul.

Or as my friend Kacie says, "You can't paper bag a personality."

pg. 52-53: Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils. Ad besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor. Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide; but certain it was his head was phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington's head, as seen in the popular busts of him. It had the same long regularly graded retreating slop from above the brows, which were likewise very projecting, like two long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.

We are diving headlong into Noble Savage territory, aren't we? Damn it, Melville.

Queequeg politely ignores Ishmael as the latter continues in this vein for another page or so. Then Ishmael makes a startling discovery within himself.

pg. 54: As I sat there in that now lonely room... I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the world. This soothing savage had redeemed it... Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself mysteriously drawn towards him.

Congrats, Ishmael, you've hit puberty.

Ishmael finally stops staring at Queequeg and interacts with him.

pg. 54: At first he little noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last night's hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be bedfellows. I told him yes; wereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps a little complimented.

ISHMAEL: Thanks for letting me sleep with you.
QUEEQUEG: Wanna try it again tonight?

Seriously, though, I'm glad Melville doesn't write out their conversation. The way he transcribes Queequeg's accent would ruin it.

Queequeg and Ishmael continue to chat and toke up with Queequeg's tomahawk pipe.

pg. 54-55: He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married...


pg. 55: ...meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be.

You are such a buzzkill, Ishmael.

After their marriage, Ishmael and Queequeg dine and chat some more, at which point Queequeg gives Ishmael half his cash and invites him to join in worshipping his little idol. Ishmael has a crisis of faith ("But I'm straight a Christian!") but gets over it within a page. He worships the idol with Queequeg and then they both hop into bed.

pg. 56: How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg–a cosy, loving pair.

Ishmael x Queequeg = 4eva

Chapter Eleven: Nightgown

pg. 56: We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over mine, and then drawing them back...

If this gets any cuter I may have to throw up.

But really, how did anyone reading this in the past century and a half not even suspect that this book was in the slightest bit homosexual?

Which brings me to an off-topic rant that I've been holding back on: people who believe that reading Queequeg and Ishmael as a homosexual couple is "reaching" or "wishful thinking." For example, when I linked to this article, an acquaintance of mine had this to say:

"I dunno, that article sounds like how 'Shakespeare had to be gay because his books are too romantic for a straight male to write' and every other ridiculous accusation about sexuality in history."

Apparently, homosexuality is something you are accused of being. I object to that language. People are accused of stealing, lying, cheating. You are accused of something when it is bad, when you need to be ashamed of it.
Homosexuality (asexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, etc.) is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is on those grounds that I resent the implication that acknowledging the possibility of homosexuality is an accusation, to say nothing of it being a ridiculous one.
Also, two dudes sharing a bed and spending the whole night snuggling and chatting sounds like incredibly concrete evidence for a homosexual relationship, to me at least. Certainly more concrete than "Shakespeare had to be gay because his books are too romantic for a straight male to write," which I'm pretty sure is an argument that no one has ever made, ever.*

I have a terrible, nagging feeling that I am contributing to homophobia by immediately labeling an intense bond between two males as homosexual, but gosh darn it, look at them. Look at the legplay, the deliberate sharing of beds and other resources, the constant comparison to husband-and-wife, Ishmael's incessant reassurances that Queequeg is one fine-looking harpooneer.

And you know what? Even if all of the evidence is purely circumstantial, and Queequeg and Ishmael really are just good friends? That's awesome, too. Because friendship is fantastic.

Now, back to the cuddling!

pg. 56-57: We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bedclothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warms spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

That's how you know Herman Melville was a genuine New Englander. I can assure you that he is right; there are few situations more cozy than being wrapped up in warm blankets with the knowledge that the outside world is freezing.

Next time on Moby Dick, or The Rant: Melville gives us Queequeg's biography. I am praying for as little racism as possible. I do not believe my prayers will be answered.

* Which is not to say that people do not argue that Shakespeare was homosexual. They do. They just usually have better reasoning for it. I suspect that this acquaintance of mine is not very good at listening when people are presenting evidence.


Other adventures in Moby Dick include:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five (You Are Here)
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen
Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen
Part Sixteen
Part Seventeen
Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen
Part Twenty
Part Twenty-One
Part Twenty-Two
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ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)

February 2012

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