Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal. ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick
‘Nightgown’ contains the single passage that keeps bringing me back to Moby Dick, and probably the passage that resonates as most real with me:
‘But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel the most delightfully and unmistakably warm.’
Isn’t that the best and most cosy image? Queequeg and Ishmael, two grown men, huddled under the covers with just their noses poking out like two little kids. And haven’t we all been there? Snuggled under a blanket on a cold, winter night – or morning – with just the top of your head poking out. One of the best things about winter. In true Melville fashion, he takes the whole chapter to describe the image of Ishmael and Queequeg chilling in bed.
Taking a turn from a charming vignette, to a more practical chapter, ‘Biographical’ focuses on character building, outlining Queequeg’s background and his motivation to become a whaler. My main takeaway from this chapter is Queequeg’s observation that Christians and ‘idolaters’ are all the same. His is a more negative sentiment, whereas I like to see it as a more positive way of looking at the world.
Vitiated – spoil, impair, or destroy the quality, efficiency, or legality of something.
Sag Harbour – A village in Suffolk County, New York.
Ignominy – shame or disgrace
‘For the nonce’ – for the present; ‘right now’; ‘for now’.