Ignorance By Moby Dick Essay

Ignorance is seen every day of our lives. Even people in the 1850’s were aware
of ignorance. Ignorance is defined as being uneducated or resulting from or
showing lack of knowledge. Ignorance can be taken to extremes though. There is
complete ignorance where the person thinks that even though they do not
understand it all they still know everything. Then others of us say that even
though I am not sure about it I am knowledgeable to my ignorance. In Moby Dick,
Ishmael’s ignorance can be related to my own in some ways. “The more I
pondered over this harpooner, the more I abominated the thought of sleeping with
him. It was fair to presume that being a harpooner, his linen or woolen, as the
case might be, would not be of the tidiest, certainly not the finest. I began to
twitch all over.” In this passage we can see the ignorance that is present in
Ishmael’s character. Though he knows nothing of this harpooner, by the name of
Queequeg, he fears him. In an ideal scene this wouldn’t happen. Judgement of
Queequeg happens before he even enters the book at a leading character and
without Ishmael’s real knowledge. Ishmael states that his body begins to
twitch, because he is so nervous and so afraid of the untidiness or barbaric
qualities that this unknown character may possess. Unfortunately enough people
actually think like that, even now over 100 years later. It’s amazing that we
haven’t picked up on this and tried to change. In my own life I know I am
ignorant, but I try to be knowledgeable instead. However cases like this are
much too common. When meeting someone for the first time I often characterize
how I think they are going to be by just things I have heard prior to the
meeting, how other’s like this would act, or even a little assumption on what
the name might bring in means of connotations. It’s sad, but unfortunately I
am sometimes guilty of it. One passage in this book that I specifically find
intriguing is that in which Queequeg tells us that a high commander of a
merchant ship that once was invited to a wedding feast in Queequeg’s homeland,
the island of Cokovoko. At these specific feasts there could be found a sort of
punch bowl in which fragrant water is contained and is a grand central ornament
of the feast. This commander took upon himself to wash his hands in the bowl. He
did this because he was ignorant of the purpose it actually proved, but before
we can laugh at this we would have to turn the tables. The first time that
Queequeg encountered a wheelbarrow was at Sag Harbor in which the owners of the
ship lent a wheelbarrow to Queequeg to help carry his chest. Not ever seeing one
of these, he put the chest on it and then marches up the wharf shouldering the
wheelbarrow. Both of these are examples of ignorance but we see both sides now.

One from how someone such as Queequeg would do then something that we would
typically laugh at, because of course we know the proper way to use a
wheelbarrow. The other account may not be as humorous, because as you sit there
reading this passage you could think to yourself, “Hey, I might have done the
same thing if I hadn’t been told what the punchbowl-like container was.”
This is yet another example that I can reflect upon myself. From culture to
culture you get a very different way of doing things, saying things, and just a
general difference. The way I experienced this was this past summer when I
stayed in Germany for a month. There I attended 10th grade classes for the four
weeks of my stay. I was completely ignorant of differences in our systems.

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Though my ignorance was not to the extreme that I thought I was better, I was
just unaware of how things varied between Germany and the way we do things in
the United States. After a while of being there though and experiencing some of
these differences I learned that maybe we don’t have everything exactly right
at home. Instead I was open to change, and I was more able to understand a
person’s differences instead of just looking at them funny when they mention a
way that conflicts with my way of doing something. Though ignorance will always
be around, as time goes on maybe the ways to deal with it will get better. As
Ishmael understands by stating that ignorance is the “parent of fear” people
can still be ignorant but knowledgeable at the same time. If you admit to
yourself that you are in fact ignorant of something then your chances of opening
your mind to further educated yourself about a certain difference increase


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