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Though the ship sinks, one of the sailors, Ishmael, is thrown against the vortex of the ship. As the water fills in, the coffin-like buoy shoots up and Ishmael clings on to the buoy for almost twenty-four hours, before the ship ‘Rachel’ picks him up. Thus, he is the sole survivor of the Pequod and the one who lives to tell the great tale of the white whale.
So the drama is done, says Ishmael. He survives because he is the only one in the ship, who tries to understand each individual and event without focusing on one aspect in an individual or only one meaning in any event. He has the perspective to see the world from many sides not just one and therefore is able to survive in a world that is fraught with multiple meanings.
Moreover, the fact that Ishmael survives because of Queequeg’s coffin-like buoy is symbolic of the deep love and friendship that existed between the two. The buoy, which saves Ishmael, is ample proof of this bond. That which once harbored a dying Queequeg now saves the life of Ishmael, proving once again that objects are invested in meaning by the person who interprets them.