Ignorance is seen every day in our lives. Even people in the 1850s were aware of it. Ignorance is defined as being uneducated or resulting from a lack of knowledge. However, it can be taken to extremes.
There is complete ignorance where a person thinks that even though they do not understand everything, they still know everything. Others of us admit that we are knowledgeable about our own ignorance. In Moby Dick, Ishmael’s ignorance can relate 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 as a harpooner, his linen or woolen, as the case might be, would not be the tidiest or finest. I began to twitch all over. In this passage, we can see the ignorance 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 as a leading character, and without Ishmael’s real knowledge. Ishmael states that his body begins to twitch because he is so nervous and afraid of the untidiness or barbaric qualities that this unknown character may possess. Unfortunately, enough people still 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 will be based on 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 terms of connotations. It’s sad, but unfortunately, I am sometimes guilty of it. One passage in this book that I find particularly intriguing is when Queequeg tells us about a high commander of a merchant ship who was once invited to a wedding feast on Queequeg’s homeland, the island of Cokovoko. At these specific feasts, there could be found a sort of punch bowl containing fragrant water, which was a grand central ornament of the feast. This commander took it 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 marched 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. From culture to culture, you get a very different way of doing things, saying things, and just a general difference. I experienced this last 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 the differences in our systems.
Although I was not extremely ignorant to the point where I thought I was better, I was simply unaware of the differences between Germany and the United States. However, after spending some time there and experiencing these differences, I realized that maybe we don’t have everything exactly right at home. I became open to change and 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. Ignorance will always be present, but as time goes on, the ways to deal with it may improve. 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 education about a certain topic increase immensely.