Summary and Analysis
On Monday morning, the two friends check out of the Spouter-Inn and tote their belongings in a wheelbarrow to the Moss, a small schooner that will take them to Nantucket where they hope to sign on with a whaler. Queequeg recalls two anecdotes revealing cultural differences. Aboard the schooner, some louts mock Queequeg; one of them is taught a lesson but then saved from drowning by the huge harpooner. Arriving in Nantucket after dark, the friends quarter at Mr. Coffin's cousin's inn, the Try Pots, Mr. & Mrs. Hosea Hussey proprietors, and are treated to excellent clam chowder as well as cod chowder.
Ishmael continues to learn about the amazing Queequeg. Certain cultural distinctions broaden the two men's insights. The wheelbarrow reminds the harpooner of his introduction to a similar device shortly after he left the islands. Loaned a wheelbarrow to help him move his belongings from a ship to a boarding house, Queequeg loaded it and then lifted and carried the barrow and his gear up the wharf, to the amusement of onlookers. He recalls another humorous event, on his island home, when a visiting white captain of a merchant ship mistook a sacred punch for a finger bowl and washed his hands in the liquid. Cultural blunders depend so much on one's point of view.
Queequeg's depth of character is demonstrated in an incident aboard the Moss when some ignorant country bumpkins mimic him behind his back, one especially rude fellow making the mistake of getting caught. Queequeg tosses the lout into the air but guides his landing, causing the fellow more anxiety than injury. Just as the captain is reprimanding the harpooner for this, the same bumpkin is knocked overboard by a free-swinging boom. Only Queequeg dives into the icy waters to save him. In this dramatic fashion, Melville further contrasts the products of so-called "civilized" and "barbaric" cultures, the advantage clearly going to the pagan. Queequeg is a great man in any setting.
packet a boat that travels a regular route, carrying passengers, freight and mail.
boom a spar (pole) extending from a mast to hold the bottom of a sail outstretched.
quohog an edible clam having a large, thick, hard shell.
chowder a thick soup consisting of milk, various vegetables, salt pork, and clams or fish.
try pots vats used to melt or render whale blubber to get the oil.