Ignorance is seen every day of our lives. Even people in the 1850s 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, Ishmaels 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 Ishmaels character. Though he knows nothing of this harpooner, by the name of Queequeg, he fears him. In an ideal scene this wouldnt happen. Judgement of Queequeg happens before he even enters the book at a leading character and without Ishmaels 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. Its amazing that we havent 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 others like this would act, or even a little assumption on what the name might bring in means of connotations. Its 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 Queequegs 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 hadnt 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.
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 dont have everything exactly right at home. Instead I was open to change, and I was more able to understand a persons 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 immensely.