This may please some of you. This should be my last post on Moby Dick.
Remember the “rainbowed air”? On the third day of the chase (I call it the quest), as in the Bible, there is resurrection. There is one more brief respite from the bleak world of Captain Ahab. That occurs on the very last page of the book in what is called the epilogue. In fact, as I learned from Lara Rae, this one-page chapter was an afterthought. Melville originally published the book without it, but people asked what happened to Ishmael? He was the narrator, but it seemed like everyone perished at sea after Moby Dick attacked the boats and the ship. How could he then tell the story?
So, in one final page Melville, through his narrator, explains that Ishmael was about to drown with all the others when the coffin Queequeg had made for him when he thought he was dying, “burst upward” from the bottom of the sea and rose with great force beside him. The coffin became a life-buoy and floated by his side, and Ishmael was saved. Resurrected by a coffin. He floated on the coffin while “the unharming sharks, they glide by as if with padlocks on their mouths, the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks.” With the death of Ahab, the war of man against nature was over. Nature won.
After floating on the sea for a day, Ishmael was rescued by the Rachel who was still looking for her lost children in a quest in which Ahab had refused to help. So, the Rachel “found another orphan.” Ishmael. Here was a genuine connection. Here was a genuine spiritual quest.
As a result, one of the crew of 30 men was not destroyed by Ahab’s monomaniac religious quest. And you can call him Ishmael.
And so ends this religious quest.