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Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick

by Herman Melville

Sexuality and Sexual Identity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

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. (10.10)

As if describing them as "married" wasn’t obvious enough, Melville reminds us of that relationship by casting Ishmael and Queequeg as husband and wife.

Quote #5

Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life. (59.5)

OK, we know this doesn’t seem to fit with our first four quotations on "Sexuality and Sexual Identity," which are all about the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg. Still, we want to point out that the giant squid in Moby-Dick, according to mega-scholar Camille Paglia, becomes a symbol of "woman’s nonstop fertility." Paglia explains that "[t]he squid is what Melville will not let his whale become. It is the female grossness of matter, a sticky, viscous web." We think this is an argument that could really hold some water, but even if you don’t buy it, you should know about it, because it’s super-famous. (If you want to read more about it, grab Paglia’s book Sexual Personae or a copy of the Norton edition of Moby-Dick, which includes an excerpt.)

Quote #6

It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at both ends; fast to Queequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage and honor demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag me down to his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which the hempen bond entailed. (72.3)

Once again Ishmael and Queequeg are shown united, this time literally by a rope around both their waists! As in previous passages that tried symbolically to describe their relationship, there’s a conflation between characteristics of marriage – "for better or for worse" they are "wedded" – and characteristics of fraternity – "Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother."

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