Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 10: A Bosom Friend

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 10: A Bosom Friend

  • Ishmael goes back to the Spouter-Inn and finds Queequeg already there, sitting by the fire, carving the lines on the face of his sacred wooden statue a little deeper.
  • When Ishmael comes in, Queequeg puts the statue away and picks up a book. He can’t read the book, but he counts the pages in groups of fifty and seems amazed at how long it is.
  • Ishmael watches Queequeg with interest and decides the Queequeg may be a "savage" but is also "a simple honest heart" (10.3).
  • According to Ishmael, Queequeg looks a little bit like the popular image of George Washington, at least in the shape of his head.
  • Ishmael is a little bit confused that Queequeg doesn’t acknowledge him at all, especially considering that they shared a bed last night.
  • However, he decides that Queequeg’s indifference is a little bit noble; even though he’s a long way from home, he seems content just to be himself and doesn’t need to make friends everywhere he goes.
  • As Ishmael sits watching Queequeg he feels "a melting" in his heart and decides that he will "try a pagan friend [...] since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy" (10.5).
  • Somehow, knowing Queequeg makes Ishmael feel better about the whole world.
  • Ishmael tries to explain the book to Queequeg, and then they chat about the town and share a pipe of tobacco.
  • After they finish smoking, Queequeg hugs Ishmael to him and says that they are "married" (10.7).
  • Ishmael tells the reader that this means they are "bosom friends" who would die for each other, but there may be more to it than that (10.7).
  • After supper, Ishmael and Queequeg go back to their room. Queequeg gives Ishmael the embalmed head and then takes out all his money and gives half of it to Ishmael. (Apparently, they’re going to share everything equally!).
  • Next, Queequeg tries to get Ishmael to worship the statue with him.
  • Ishmael thinks about this for a little while, since he doesn’t want to go against the will of God by worshipping an idol.
  • In the end, Ishmael agrees to kneel before the statue with Queequeg after all, because he decides that God can’t really be jealous of a little piece of wood.
  • Furthermore, Ishmael decides, if he wants Queequeg to participate in Ishmael’s own Presbyterian worship, he should observe Queequeg’s form of worship, too.
  • Ishmael and Queequeg go to bed and have a cozy little chat before they fall asleep.

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