Chapter 110: Queequeg in his Coffin

Poor Queequeg! when the ship was about half disembowelled, you should have stooped over the hatchway, and peered down upon him there; where, stripped to his woollen drawers, the tattooed savage was crawling about amid that dampness and slime, like a green spotted lizard at the bottom of a well. And a well, or an ice-house, it somehow proved to him, poor pagan; where, strange to say, for all the heat of his sweatings, he caught a terrible chill which lapsed into a fever; and at last, after some days’ suffering, laid him in his hammock, close to the very sill of the door of death. How he wasted and wasted away in those few long-lingering days, till there seemed but little left of him but his frame and tattooing. But as all else in him thinned, and his cheek-bones grew sharper, his eyes, nevertheless, seemed growing fuller and fuller; they became of a strange softness of lustre; and mildly but deeply looked out at you there from his sickness, a wondrous testimony to that immortal health in him which could not die, or be weakened. And like circles on the water, which, as they grow fainter, expand; so his eyes seemed rounding and rounding, like the rings of Eternity. An awe that cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who were bystanders when Zoroaster died.

—Queequeg in his Coffin

 

Much consideration was given to Queequeg and his influence over the game system as a whole. While Queequeg only tacitly takes part in Ahab’s bloody quest (he offers his blood to temper Ahab’s blade), the native islander looms large in Ishmael’s story, and therefore he must in some way affect the general narrative of the game itself. The temporary loss of Queequeg’s huge strength in this chapter (he becomes ill and cannot hunt), is certainly felt by the player who loses him, but this sickness also echoes in the spirit of the crew as a whole, and all boats lose 1 strength for the duration of Queequeg’s illness.

During this sickness, Queequeg’s coffin is begrudgingly constructed by the Carpenter, upon hearing that the most loved sailor aboard will most likely be needing it soon—luckily he recovers. Abhorring the idea of being wrapped in his bunk and tossed to the sharks, Queequeg commissions a boat-like coffin, after the fashion of his own people, and how they send off their dead kings. Later, when the Pequod’s life-buoy is smashed in the typhoon of Chapter 119: The Candles, the unused coffin is begrudgingly refashioned into a life-buoy, a very dreary one at that. SPOILER ALERT: It is this buoy that saves Ishmael when all else is lost. There is no sailor aboard the Pequod that Ishmael loves more than his bosom friend Queequeg. This life-from-death metaphor of the coffin served to greatly influence the waxing and waning of the Sailor deck as a whole.

Previous
Next
compendium