Moby Dick Symbolism Queequeg is getting very sick and is near death so he orders the ships carpenter to make him a coffin with a lid, in the shape of a canoe. Once the coffin/ canoe is finished Queequeg decides to live and turn the canoe/ coffin (because it is both) into a sea chest. During the next few weeks Queequeg carves little figures and symbols in the coffin/ canoe/ sea chest thus turning it in to a coffin/ canoe/ sea chest/ work of art. In the epilogue Ishmael floats in this coffin/ canoe/ sea chest/ work of art turning it in to a coffin/ canoe/ sea chest/ work of art/ life buoy. This object has so many titles and objectives it also symbolizes so many different things.
As a coffin it can symbolize death, as a canoe/ coffin it can symbolize the journey to a final resting-place. The “..grotesque figures and drawings.” (290) could symbolize events in Queequegs life. When this object that was originally intended to be Queequegs final resting-place “shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated..”(577) it transformed into a life buoy that could now represent life for Ishmael. Many things in Moby Dick have many meanings or could possibly symbolize many things that there is no way of knowing what any one thing or any chain of events for that matter could symbolize. For all we know there could be absolutely no symbolism in this book, Herman Melville could have just written this book with out even thinking about or trying to make anything symbolize hope, death, Satan or anything for that matter.
Symbolism (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.