Queequeg

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Queequeg
Moby Dick character
Queequeg.JPG
Created byHerman Melville
Information
GenderMale
OccupationSailor
NationalityAmerican
 
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Queequeg
Moby Dick character
Queequeg.JPG
Created byHerman Melville
Information
GenderMale
OccupationSailor
NationalityAmerican

Queequeg is a fictional character presented in the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by U.S. author Herman Melville. He is the first principal character encountered by the narrator, serves as the chief harpooner aboard the Pequod, and plays an important role in many of the events of the book, both in port and during the whaling voyage. Although a "savage" cannibal, he is described with great sympathy and much admiration by Ishmael, by whom he is befriended early in the book.

Description[edit]

Queequeg is a native of a fictional island in the South Pacific Ocean named Kokovoko or Rokovoko. The island is the home to his primitive tribe, who practice cannibalism, in particular devouring the flesh of enemies slain in battle. Queequeg claims that the only case of indigestion he has suffered was after a feast in which fifty slain enemies were eaten. He displays no shame regarding the practice, describing his people in a matter-of-fact fashion. In port he prefers a diet of rare red meat, but will settle for whatever is on the menu, such as clam chowder -- which is described as "his favorite fishing food".

Although the son of a chief, he chose to leave his island out of curiosity to see more of the world and to experience and evaluate the civilization of the Christian world. At first rejected by the whaler that landed on his island, he skillfully jumped from a canoe and clamped to the side of the boat as it was leaving for the open sea, at which point the captain relented. At the opening of the novel, he is in the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, having returned from a whaling voyage. The two first meet when Queequeg returns late to the inn where he is staying, not knowing that Ishmael has been booked into the same room with him. Although Queequeg initially threatens to kill Ishmael on the spot, the landlord persuades him to relent and the two soon become good friends. Ishmael convinces him, based on this friendship, to ship on another whaling expedition with him. At the time of the novel, he has been away from his home island for many years, so long that it is possible that his father is dead and that he would become the chief if he returned.

He is a young man, in the prime of life, tall and powerfully athletic, heavily tattooed, and an excellent swimmer who does not hesitate an instant to dive into cold water to save the life of a troublesome passenger aboard the ferry from New Bedford to Nantucket.

He practices a form of animism using a small idol named Yojo, for whom he builds small ceremonial fires. As part of his religion, he practices a prolonged period of fasting and silence (which Ishmael calls his "Ramadan"), at one time locking himself in his room in Nantucket. Even after Ishmael enters the room, he keeps his fast and silence without acknowledging the presence of others. Nevertheless he spontaneously attends a Christian sermon of Father Mapple in New Bedford, although he slips out before the end.

He is unflappable and extremely easy-going among white society, never grudging an insult. He immediately takes to Ishmael and decides (based on advice from his idol) that Ishmael should decide on the ship for both of them together.

He is an extraordinary harpooner, impressing the money-tight owners of the Pequod so much that they immediately offer him a 90th lay (1/90 of the ship's profit) in exchange for his signing on with the crew. By contrast, Ishmael (who has experience in the merchant marine but none as a whaler) is initially offered a 777th lay but eventually secures a 300th. In port, Queequeg carries his sharpened harpoon with him at all times, unless prevented from doing so. He shaves with his harpoon as well and smokes regularly from a tomahawk that he carries with him.

Although he fades in importance toward the end of the novel, he is ultimately responsible for saving Ishmael's life. After the Pequod is destroyed, Ishmael survives by clinging to a life buoy that had originally been built as a coffin for Queequeg when he believed he was dying of fever.

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