Anne Fleming

Moby Dick, Day 5

Chapter III: The Spouter-Inn

The main point of this chapter is to introduce us to Queequeg, but naturally first we must follow Ishmael as he enters the inn, examines the sooty painting in the front hall (it’s a whaler), tries to engage a room and secure a bed — they’re all taken, he must share with a harpooner currently out about town — eats supper, observes the hoary crew of an incoming ship, and tries to wait out his roommate. The innkeeper tells him the harpooner is off trying to sell his head. Ishmael thinks he must be mad. The innkeeper clarifies — it’s a shrunken head from New Zealand. The harpooner had four and has sold three. He’s just trying to unload his last head. At last Ishmael and innkeeper guess that the harpooner has found somewhere else to stay for the night. Ishmael goes up to bed, examines the harpooners things, gets into bed and almost dozes off. That’s when his unknown roommate comes in. Ishmael can see him dimly. Bit by bit he begins to understand that the man is not just a tattooed white guy with a tan, he’s an indigenous man, complete with pipe and tomahawk that he appears to be bringing to bed. Ishmael is terrified. He calls out for the landlord. And thus, Ishmael is introduced to Queequeg.

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