He returns home never to set foot in the distant land of the civilized. In this novel Ishmael did not feel sympathy or compassion for Queequeg. Instead he began to respect him and it is this respect that brought them closer to each other. Although society would not accept Queequeg into its midst, the barbarian still found a place in civilized society. It is this special tie that binds the two central characters of the story that makes it noteworthy to analyze.
Ishmael, a school teacher, was fearful of Queequeg, the whale harpooner. The fear of sharing a room with a savage and man-eating barbarian scared him. But his fears turned into respect when he saw that Queequeg, really savage looking, would pray and perform rituals to a wooden statue. His respect for Queequeg grew upon learning that this outcast of society was really a prince in his native land. He could have easily gone back home and ascended the throne instead of living in the strange land who treated him unfairly. But Queequeg merely dismisses all these and just goes about his way. He didn't feel the need to become like those in the city. He was living his life just as he wanted it. He felt no need to show or explain to the people who he was, nor what his circumstances in life were. Ishmaels respect for Queequeg grew all the more. He also started to practice Queequegs ways of praying to Yojo. Their friendship grew despite the occurrences in society that discriminated against the savage. Aside from respect and belief in a higher being, Ishmael saw that Queequeg held himself high. He had dignity. Never did he ask for assistance when being discriminated upon. He would demonstrate his skill and he would instantly be treated well. Perhaps this is the reason why Queequeg stayed in cities near ports and in the seas. This was his niche. Ishmael understood and together they became brothers conquering the seas. They have grown to depend on each other and held each others life as signified by the "monkey rope." With the end of the rope tied at each others' waist they would do their job together. They became a team - what one lacked the other supplied. Ishmael was weak while Queequeg was strong. Ishmael was lacking in faith while Queequeg was filled with it. Ishmael understood that he lacked this because of the refinement that living in the city brought. One gets self absorbed with appearances that one rarely feeds the soul. Through Queequeg, Ishmael was able to get in touch with his inner self and with his beginnings. It is in this sense that he was humanized by Queequeg.
As to the issue of being civilized and not being civilized, in the middle part of the novel Ishmael begins a greater discourse within himself about who was civilized and who was not: the harpooner who with brutality strikes the final blow to kill the whale or the people with the so called refinement of being civilized, who eats the whale. The harpooner although savage looking does religiously serve his God and shows great dignity in work is actually more civilized. He knows his responsibility to his God and to his work. Still society considers him as uncivilized because of the way he clothes himself. The irony is that the harpooner is a prince in his land and he merely stays with "the civilized" people to watch and learn of them. Who then is more civilized
"civilized." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.