Moby Dick begins and ends with a coffin. At the beginning of the book, Ishmael talks to Peter Coffin, the proprietor of The Sprouter-Inn, for a place to stay. He does not have any open rooms so Ishmael is forced to room with Queequeg whom he does not meet until after he goes to sleep. When Queequeg walks in, Ishmael says, "Landlord, for God's sake, Peter Coffin! Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels! save me!" (Melville, 23) This quotation foreshadows the event later in the story when Ishmael will again need a coffin's help. In the epilogue, it is described, "the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft dirge-like main." (Melville, 552) In both situations, a coffin rescues Ishmael.
Ishmael studies an oil portrait in The Sprouter-Inn that foreshadows and symbolizes many things that are seen later in the story. Melville describes the picture,
The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship
weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated
whale, purposing to spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling
itself upon the three mast-heads. (Melville, 11)...