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So close, yet so far. We’re in the home stretch and still no Moby D. There’s foreshadowing a-plenty, though I didn’t get to experience it properly due to spoilers (yes, 150 year old spoilers!! Darn internet.) This section had a chaotic feel. Storms, near mutiny, cheating death – things aren’t happening they way they should. Or maybe they are. We’ll find out soon enough.
Save the Whales: This chapter almost reads like satire. The title is absurd, “Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish? – Will He Perish?” and the argument Ishmael puts forth reminds me of climate change deniers. Extinction denier? Basically, he says whales are too big to fail. We all know how that works out.
Incidentally, I did a little research on the “Save the Whales” slogan, and it doesn’t have an easily traced origin. It appears to have gone viral sometime in the 1970s, before going viral was a thing, remained pretty relevant into the 1980s and 1990s, if my childhood memories are to be trusted. Whales are so ahead of the trends.
Classic Ahab: There are many Classic Ahab moments in this section, as Ahab follows his predestined path. Here are my favs.
First, we’ve got some lovely symbolism (?) as we hear how Ahab somehow wounded his groin with his ivory leg. Let’s just not think too hard about what he was up to.
that he had been found one night lying prone upon the ground, and insensible; by some unknown, and seemingly inexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his ivory limb having been so violently displaced, that it had stake-wise smitten, and all but pierced his groin; nor was it without extreme difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured.
Then, he jokingly (?) orders his carpenter to make him some sort of robotic ultra-mega-Ahab, you know, after he’s done fixing his peg leg. Nice Frankenstein reference.
Hold; while Prometheus is about it, I’ll order a complete man after a desirable pattern. Imprimis, fifty feet high in his socks; then, chest modelled after the Thames Tunnel then, legs with roots to ‘em, to stay in one place; then, arms three feet through the wrist; no heart at all, brass forehead, and about a quarter of an acre of fine brains; and let me see—shall I order eyes to see outwards? No, but put a sky-light on top of his head to illuminate inwards. There, take the order, and away.
Ahab starts to realize he’s probably a little crazy:
“He waxes brave, but nevertheless obeys; most careful bravery that!” murmured Ahab, as Starbuck disappeared. “What’s that he said—Ahab beware of Ahab—there’s something there!”
And perhaps the most classic moment of them all: Ahab forges his own harpoon, and tempers it with human blood. As you do.
“Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!” deliriously howled Ahab, as the malignant iron scorchingly devoured the baptismal blood.
Storm’s A-Brewin’: Lots of contrast between calm, golden seas and sudden, wild storms. It feels like Ahab’s and the crew’s world is becoming chaotic. I love me some storm imagery, and Melville knows how to bring it.
Warmest climes but nurse the cruellest fangs: the tiger of Bengal crouches in spaced groves of ceaseless verdure. Skies the most effulgent but basket the deadliest thunders: gorgeous Cuba knows tornadoes that never swept tame northern lands. So, too, it is, that in these resplendent Japanese seas the mariner encounters the direst of all storms, the Typhoon. It will sometimes burst from out that cloudless sky, like an exploding bomb upon a dazed and sleepy town.
Queequeg! I really thought he was going to be killed off and I was panicking! We never really got to see more of Ishmael and Queequeg’s friendship, but the glimpse we got was so powerful, that literally a hundred chapters later, I was mourning the end. Queequeg pulls through, though, and it feels like another disruption to the natural order – he was supposed to die, and the coffin should have gone to sea. But it didn’t. You probably don’t need me to tell you that this will be important later.
Tune in Next Week: This is the end.
- Moby Dick might be the most interesting whale in the world, but 52-Hertz is the loneliest. He also inspires people to chase him. Whales will do that, I guess.
- Readalongers, need to catch up? Here’s the book in eight minutes. The Rockwell Kent illustrations set to Bach. Beautiful.
Pretty quiet, I presume because you are all racing to finish? 🙂
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