Chapter 3 Notes from Moby Dick

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Moby Dick Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The Spouter-Inn

The entryway and public room of the inn is full of whaling art and weaponry; the public room is dominated by a bar set into the jaw of a whale, run by a man named Jonah. Ishmael finds the landlord, Peter Coffin, and asks for a room. The house is full, but the landlord tells him he can have a room if he is willing to share it with a harpooneer.

Ishmael eats supper with various other sailors, and grows more and more worried about the man with whom he is to bunk. After supper, the crew of the Grampus, a just returned whaling ship, comes into the public room. The men sit around and talk and buy drinks, but Ishmael notices one of them keeping apart from the rest. The man, Bulkington, is to become one of his shipmates later in the story.

Topic Tracking: Fate 2

Ishmael decides he is unwilling to sleep with another man, and tries to lay down on a bench in the common room. He soon finds it impossible to sleep, and decides to wait for the harpooneer; it is getting very late, and the man does not show. Ishmael asks the landlord what kind of man would be out so late, and the landlord says the harpooneer is out selling his head. A brief confused exchange occurs, until Ishmael finally demands to be let in on the joke. The harpooneer is out selling shrunken human heads from New Zealand. Ishmael remains irresolute, until the landlord tells him the harpooneer must have settled down someplace else for the night.

Ishmael is led to his room, where he finds a sturdy bed and the harpooneer's belongings. He gets into the bed, but is unable to sleep. He manages to fall into a light doze when he hears footsteps outside the door. He resolves to keep silent, and the man enters the room with a candle. The harpooneer starts going through his things, and Ishmael is horrified by the sight of his face, which he thinks is covered in bruises; a closer look reveals them to be tattoos. The man continues to undress, and Ishmael, frozen with fear, does not speak to introduce himself; he realizes the man must be a cannibal. Once he is completely undressed for bed, the harpooneer performs an odd ceremony with a small wooden idol.

He then gets into bed with Ishmael, who lets out a cry. A struggle ensues, and the landlord is called into the room. He introduces the two, giving the harpooneer's name as Queequeg. Queequeg makes peace, Ishmael reasons he seems a decent sort for a cannibal, and the two get back into bed.

"I turned in, and never slept better in my life." Chapter 3, pg. 21

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