Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Ishmael goes out for a “stroll” in the streets of New Bedford, and remarks that there, as in New York, Philadelphia, and other port towns, one might find a good number of “exotic” individuals not unlike Queequeg—men from islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, who have joined the whaling trade and therefore walk around the port towns between voyages. Ishmael also notes that young boys arrive in New Bedford from inland places, like the Green Mountains in Vermont, looking “green” (or inexperienced) themselves, and hoping for great adventures aboard whaling ships. Ishmael ends the chapter by stating that New Bedford’s primary industry is whaling, and that the many fine houses there—and well-dressed young women—are attributable to the riches of the whaling trade.
“Exotic,” for Ishmael, can mean either domestic or international, depending on the context. Although Americans from Vermont are not going to a foreign country when they come to New Bedford, they are nevertheless about to embark on a lifestyle completely different from that in which they were raised. Whereas someone like Queequeg, who comes from the far-away Pacific isles, has spent his entire life around water, and seems to be less afraid of living for long periods on a ship, and plying his trade on the sea. Ishmael's depiction of the interactions of these cultures around shipping and whaling cities again emphasizes the sense that there is a fundamental connectedness between people beneath their differences.
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