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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 18: His Mark Summary

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  • When Ishmael and Queequeg get to the Pequod, Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad say that they don’t take cannibals or non-Christians on their ship.
  • Captain Bildad asks if Queequeg is a Christian, and Ishmael says that he’s a member of the First Congregational Church.
  • When Captain Bildad starts asking about a particular local church with that name, and how long Queequeg has known the man who runs it, Deacon Deuteronomy, Ishmael explains: Queequeg is a member of the First Congregational Church in the sense that he’s a member of "the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world" (18.12). In other words, he’s human.
  • Captain Peleg is impressed by Ishmael’s mind-twisting rhetoric and agrees to take Queequeg on board without more proof of his religious conversion.
  • For some reason—we speculate on possible reasons in Queequeg’s "Character Analysis"—Captain Peleg calls Queequeg "Quohog," which is the name of a type of clam. (And, if you watch Family Guy, Quohog is the name of the town where the Griffin family lives on the coast of New England. The town is named after the clam, which is local to that area.)
  • Captain Peleg asks Queequeg if he’s ever harpooned a whale. Queequeg takes his harpoon, points at a small spot of tar in the water, and throws the harpoon so that he hits the spot exactly.
  • After Peleg and Bildad see this demonstration of Queequeg’s skill, they’re falling all over themselves trying to sign Queequeg up for the voyage of the Pequod. They give him the 90th lay.
  • When it’s time for Queequeg to sign his name, he takes the pen and copies a symbol onto the paper that matches one of the symbols tattooed on his arm.
  • Captain Bildad gives Queequeg a copy of a religious tract encouraging him to convert before the Apocalypse.
  • Captain Peleg objects, saying that harpooneers have to be wild and devilish men.
  • Bildad reminds Peleg of the time when Peleg was Ahab’s first mate and the ship was caught in a typhoon—he must have thought about the afterlife then.
  • Peleg denies it; he says he was just thinking about how to stay alive.
  • Bildad turns his back on Peleg and goes to watch some sailors fixing a sail and to pick up little bits of material that might go to waste.

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