Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
Do you know, I don’t think I agree with this. And is Melville talking about a sexual sort of sleeping with, or not? If he is, then the cannibal might think twice about eating you, for sentimental reasons. If not, then while you are asleep the cannibal might wake up fancying a snack, and his hungry gaze might light on you.
But a Christian, drunk or sober, will not eat you at all.
Cannibals were better understood in Melville’s day. They ate their enemies in order to consume their evilness or powers. And they were generally regarded as animals by Westerners (Monkey, Tiger, Cannibal). Melville was saying self-righteousness is more dangerous than a wild animal.
I suspect that this is a quote from Moby Dick — Ishmael has a buddy on the whaling ship who is a tattooed probable cannibal. It may have other subtext, but then again, it may not. Dunno. Never finished Moby Dick. The chapter about the different kinds of fish and whales made me fall over.
So I would say that the literal truth of the quote depends on the cannibal and the Christian in question.
It is indeed from Moby Dick, in an early chapter when Ishmael is compelled to share a bed with a harpooneer, Queequeg, whom at first he finds terrifying but turns out to be a very sympathetic character.
A shame you didn’t finish that book, one of the finest ever written.
I may yet pick it up someday and skip the stupid fish chapter. But oddly, neither I nor my english teacher of the time thought of that, so we went and read something else instead. Perhaps Cooper so that I could cackle appropriately at Twain’s scathing commentary on Cooper’s Literary Sins.
It was the chapter about the whale’s insides–the tun?–that finished the book off for me. We read it in high school English class because, I suspect, the teacher wanted to torture us. I may have actually died that semester, I don’t know.
There is this: A drunken Christian may keep you awake all night. A sober cannibal won’t wake you up at all — especially if he’s hungry.
And then there is this: A sober cannibal will give you oral whereas you’re only likely to get missionary from the drunken Christian.
Sometimes it is the good that do the most evil. Too much evil and one does it selectively. Too little and one yearns for the thrill of the bad. There are worse things that happen than being eaten in the bedroom. Perhaps the drunken Christian personifies that in this case.
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