Ishmael and Queequeg are initially thrown together by serendipity due to a shortage of rooms and beds at a dockside inn, which necessitates them sharing. Ishmael seems more nervous than the other man, but he soon accepts his peaceable nature. Their connection is slightly strengthened by the realization that they are both embarking in service on the Pequod. As they converse and make their way to the ship, both men begin to see that they have some qualities in common. This understanding is more obvious from Ishmael’s perspective, because he is the narrator.
Ishmael is an introspective person, so he constantly reconsiders his assumptions and questions his—and other white men’s—prejudices against Queequeg because he is a “heathen” or “pagan” and has dark skin. Ishmael realizes that Queequeg has an inquisitive nature and seeks self-improvement but remains skeptical about religious claims.
Their connection grows stronger after Ishmael observes how Queequeg handles an insulting “bumpkin,” both punishing him for his rudeness and rescuing him. As Ishmael learns Queequeg’s personal history and his spiritual beliefs, he reflects, “You cannot hide the soul.” His respect and admiration deepen into genuine friendship.
For his part, Queequeg does not push his views onto Ishmael, who concludes that the other man is civil and considerate, even when he is rude to him. The young white man admits how much his own lack of knowledge had influenced his earlier apprehension: “ignorance is the parent of fear.”