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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 5: Breakfast Summary

  • Ishmael goes down to breakfast, exchanging a few words with the landlord.
  • Ishmael knows the landlord was teasing him with sinister stories about Queequeg before, but he doesn’t hold a grudge—Ishmael likes a good laugh.
  • The inn is full of different sailors. Ishmael can tell how long they’ve been ashore from their complexions: those who are more tanned and healthy-looking have only come back recently, while those who’ve been on land for a while are pale and sicklier-looking. Queequeg looks healthiest of all: after all, he has the darkest skin.
  • Ishmael expects breakfast to be fun and jolly and for everyone to tell whaling stories, but instead the meal is silent and everyone seems awkward and embarrassed.
  • Even though they’re all bold sailors, they’re not the most socially adventurous guys around.
  • Queequeg isn’t embarrassed—he’s just cool and collected. His table manners are pretty bad, though: he brings his harpoon to breakfast so that he can use it to reach across the table and pick things up, and he only eats rare steak.
  • After the meal, Queequeg smokes his tomahawk-pipe, and Ishmael goes for a stroll.

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