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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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CHAPTER 17: THE RAMADAN

Ishmael avoids his room, not wanting to disturb Queequeg's Ramadan. Good Presbyterians, he says, dare not be smug about other people's religions, for they need Heaven's mercy as much as pagans. But when by evening Queequeg still doesn't answer the door, Ishmael assumes that his friend is seriously ill, and the landlady jumps to the conclusion that Queequeg has, like another of her roomers, killed himself with his harpoon. When they break down the door, however, they find Queequeg sitting silently and still as a rock, with Yojo on top of his head.

CHAPTER 18: HIS MARK

When Ishmael takes Queequeg to sign on with the Pequod, Peleg says at first that he won't permit cannibals aboard his ship. But his opinion of Queequeg-or Quohog, as he mispronounces the name (a quahog is a New England clam)- rapidly improves when Queequeg shows his skill by hurling his harpoon from the dock and hitting a small drop of tar. The harpooner is hired at much better wages than Ishmael was offered. Nothing can impress Bildad, though; he presses into Queequeg's hand a Quaker pamphlet, warning him to change his pagan ways. Peleg disagrees. "Pious harpooners never make good voyagers," he says. "It takes the shark out of them." You'll encounter that image-man as shark-again later in the book.



CHAPTER 19: THE PROPHET

The instant Ishmael and Queequeg leave the ship, they're accosted by a pockmarked man who asks if they've signed aboard the Pequod. When Ishmael says they have, the man issues a seemingly crazed warning. Captain Ahab-Old Thunder, as the man calls him-is not recovering from his illness; nor will Ahab ever recover. The leg lost to the whale is only the latest and most terrible occurrence in a lifetime of sinister occurrences.

Ishmael asks the man his name. "Elijah," is the answer. Again Melville uses a biblical reference to underline his meaning-in I Kings it was Elijah who quarreled with King Ahab and then prophesied that dogs would drink Ahab's blood.

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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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