In Moby-Dick death clearly plays an important role from beginning to end. In the chapter Queequeg in his coffin, Queequeg had a coffin made for himself because he became terribly ill and felt that it was his time to die. In his home land, a warrior would be placed in their canoe after death and sent away to sea, letting the stars guide them. Wanting something similar to this tradition, the coffin was made and in the chapter Ishmael was mourning the idea of Queequeg dying as Queequeg was setting up the inside of the coffin. He then enters the coffin and wanted the lid on so only his head was visible. Then enters Pip, as Ishmael described him as “slily hovering near by for all this while…” Pip goes on a rant for two paragraphs that I feel has an important significance to the book. The importance of his speech was to save Queequeg and the end of the story.
Pip, which is seen by some as a crazed man, made a pretty clear message towards Queequeg. As Pip spoke Queequeg lay in his coffin with his eyes closed probably listening intently and thinking, for what Pip had to say was strong and powerful to Queequeg. I am not totally sure if this was the intentions of Pip, but I think Queequeg took Pip’s example of himself being something he did not want to happen. Pip says that Pip is lost in Antilles and tells Queequeg to comfort him if he so finds him. I believe this is Pip giving an example of what it would feel like to die knowing you still have an important task to complete. He goes on to tell Queequeg that he is basically a hero and what I consider a warning about dying too soon.
“Let’s make a General of him! Hark ye; if ye find Pip, tell all the Antilles he’s a runaway; a coward, a coward, a coward! Tell them he jumped from a whale-boat! I’d never beat my tambourine over base Pip, and hail General, if he were once more dying here. No, no! shame upon all cowards – shame upon them! Let’em go drown like Pip, that jumped from a whale-boat. Shame! shame!” (Melville 523).
Again I am not sure if Pip intended this but I feel that his speech stuck Queequeg significantly. When Pip talks about Pip he calls him a runaway, a coward. This is something no man or human would want to be said about them after death. I feel that Queequeg laying in his coffin in silence, heard this as a warning. He left his native land as a prince looking for ways to better his people by coming to America. The plan was to gather information and bring it back to his people to make them stronger. In Queequeg’s mind I think he didn’t want to be considered a runaway or a coward because he left his people and did not return. Pip says to make Queequeg a General, which I am interpreting as an honor. If this is the case, Queequeg feels that he is not disserving. I agree with him because he has not completed his mission and he knows that. It is evident that Queequeg realizes that he is not finished with his life and he even says that he recalled a little duty ashore which he is leaving undone. This is clearly what I stated before about the coming back to his people. The interesting thing is that if not for Pip’s speech would Queequeg have not realized that he was not ready for death? I am daring enough to yes. This is why the speech is so important to the greater scheme of things in the novel. Queequeg deciding that he was not going to die because as Ishmael narrated it, “a man made up his mind to live, mere sickness could not kill him…” In doing so, Queequeg makes a chain of events occur that if he would have died, seem to be impossible. Making the coffin now his storage place, Queequeg spends hours carving his own tattoos on the coffin itself. This becomes important when the Pequod sinks and everyone including Queequeg dies. Ishmael who was thrown overboard is saved by the floating coffin (Queequeg). Then, Ishmael ends up taking the second hand carvings that were on the coffin and places them on his own body via tattoo. He goes on to stay on an island in the south Pacific so, even though Queequeg could not make it back to his people, it is as if he sent Ishmael in his place. This is all compelling and makes for a great novel but the truth is the plot of these major events during the end of the book could not have been possible if not for poor, little Pip. He saved Queequeg who then went on to save Ishmael. And the saving of Ishmael creates a happy, peaceful death for Queequeg because he did not run away from his mission or his people. I early said that I was not sure if Pip knew what he was saying, but I’m changing that outlook. I believe he knew and although he may come off as crazy I call him a savior. That is what his goal was, to save Queequeg. If he did not it, would be too coincidental and I believe would be a flaw in Melville’s writing. Pip may not be the main character in the novel, but without his well timed interjection the outcome of this adventure could have ended up a lot different.