Queequeg

fictional character from the novel Moby-Dick

Queequeg is a fictional character in the 1851 novel Moby-Dick by American author Herman Melville. The son of a South Sea chieftain who left home to explore the world, Queequeg is the first principal character encountered by the narrator, Ishmael. The quick friendship and relationship of equality between the tattooed cannibal and the white sailor show Melville's basic theme of shipboard democracy as well as his fondness for Polynesians (see Typee, Omoo and Mardi). Once aboard the whaling ship Pequod, Queequeg becomes the harpooner for the mate Starbuck. Near the end of the novel, he "casts the runes", which say he will die. He therefore builds a coffin and refuses to eat or drink, but he ultimately decides to stay alive and then recovers his health. The coffin is later converted to a lifebuoy after the ship's original one is lost. When Moby Dick sinks the Pequod, Queequeg goes down with the ship, clinging to one of the masts. Ishmael survives by clinging to the coffin until another ship, the Rachel, arrives to pick him up.
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