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Moby-Dick - Reread > Chapter 45 through 54

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message 1: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 45. The Affidavit
Here Ismael, or is it the author, Melville himself, who attests to the reasonableness of his story of Moby-Dick to keep it from being laughed at as a fable, or worse, an allegory. Why would he consider allegory worse?

He attests to the truth, or is possible truth, of his own story by giving vetted, at least to some degree, fantastic yet actual whaling events, including a harpooner who struck the same whale 3 years apart, celebrity whales, and people of some authority who have been in ships who have either struck whales, or been struck by them with minor damage to being sunk.

Having established these facts he paraphrases Ecclesiastes 1:9 and declares, Verily there is nothing new under the sun."

He finishes his affidavit off by appealing to ancient authority and reasoning that it was a malicious sperm whale that once wrecked the ships of a Roman emperor.

Chapter 46. Surmises
Ahab demonstrates his leadership skills in thinking he will have to go through with the regular motions of a whaling voyage in order to sustain the crew's interest in his obsession.

Chapter 47. The Mat-Maker
Ishmael gets philosophical over a mat he is weaving with Queequeg when whales are spotted. I like the detail of Ahab calling for the exact time. I witnessed the most successful fishing charter captains on the Great Lakes marking the time, air and water temperature, barometer, and depth and lure type when someone hooks a fish. It is a real statisticians game.

Who are these five dusky phantoms that are suddenly surrounding Ahab? Could these phantoms be the things, "like men", seen running to board the ship that Elijah asked Ismael about, hiding in the hold all this time?


message 2: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 48. The First Lowering
The boats are lowered to give chase to the whales. Ahab is seen standing in the back of "his" boat with the phantom-like men. There is an, "I thought so", and , "I told you so", swiftly concluded with a, "more the merrier", and a, "can't be helped". I particularly liked the demonstrations of Stubb's exhortations to his crew
He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing.
I urge everyone to give a listen to Tom Browne's exciting performance of this chapter for The Moby-Dick Big Read: Chapter 48: The First Lowering.

Of course we have the whole shocking observation ending with, The bearer looked nobler than the rider. That was quite the contemporary bomb drop. However just after that we have another more general observation that may no longer hold:
So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and her seasons for that.
Do we know better than this now?

Starbuck's boat is swamped when he steers it onto the back of a struck whale in sudden storm. We learn what Ismael was alluding to in Chapter 26 when we read
"Aye, aye," said Stubb, the second mate, "Starbuck, there, is as careful a man as you'll find anywhere in this fishery." But we shall ere long see what that word "careful" precisely means when used by a man like Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter.
The point here being that careful in the whaling business means careful on a relative and significantly different level. Then we get this picture as they await their fate along on the sea at night in a swamped boat.
Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.
They are picked up the next morning by the Pequod.


message 3: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 49. They Hyena
After being picked up, Ishmael realizes the shocking revelation that life is rather cheap.
. . .after he is almost killed when his whaleboat is smacked by a whale before being swamped in a squall, Ishmael decides it might be a good idea, after all, to write his will. And it is here. . .that he hits upon the approach to life that will act as the emotional and philosophical center of the novel. “There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life,” he tells us, “when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.” Ishmael describes this approach to life as a “free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy.” . . .[until now] we are in the presence of a soul so buoyant, so mischievous, so wise, and so much fun. . .
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Why Read Moby-Dick? Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Does this add importance to what Ishmael has to tell us?

Chapter 50. Ahab's Board and Crew. Fedallah.
Ishmael informs us of the ongoing debate of whether or not the captain of the ship should participate in the actual hunting of the whales or not due to his crucial importance to the overall venture. He then tells us that Fedallah remains a mystery but suggest he may belong to an ancient race born of human and fallen angles. We still don't have an explanation for Fedallah and his men from Ahab, but it is clear they were smuggled aboard in secret to avoid opposition from the owners.


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 51. The Spirit-Spout
There seems to be a whale spouting ahead of the ship luring them on. As they round the Cape of Good Hope, Ahab securely stands himself on deck and grimly observes. Later, Starbuck sees Ahab has fallen asleep in his cabin while staring at the cabin compass ensuring they are headed towards where the charts indicate Moby-Dick will be. Ahab seems to follow his own compass rather than the spirit spout, or does the spirit spout indicate Ahab's compass is correct?


message 5: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 52. The Albatross
They pass another ship, The Albatross, and its captain ominously drops his trumpet into the sea when Ahab inquires about the white whale. As the ships cross, the fish that had been following in the Pequod's wake switch to the wake of the Albatross and Ahab notices this with sense of helpless sadness. More "desperado philosophy" from Ishmael:

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us. Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.
Does this imply there is no longer the promise in the voyage of our round world? Is this the darker side of, "there is nothing new under the sun"?


message 6: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Chapter 53. The Gam
Despite Ahab not boarding the Albatross because there was no news of Moby-Dick, Ishmael explains the rules of the gam. For all of us who have tried in vain to stand with dignity in a small boat bouncing on the waves, we can show a half knowing smile concerning the extra challenges on the captain in these situations.

Chapter 54. The Town Ho's Story
The name of this chapter refers to a legacy whale spotting cry. I have seen similarly named "weekend party boats" and I am glad Ishmael explained the name. Ishmael tells a very long story in which the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal, and the men who worked on them get an honorable mention, and Moby-Dick makes an appearance as an miraculous agent of justice that circumvents the victim seeking his own revenge. Maybe the white whale is not all bad?


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At #1 David wrote: "Chapter 45. The Affidavit.."

Mmm...maybe it's presented to us as "The Affidavit" on the theory that if we buy into Ishmael's account here, then we're likely to believe the rest of his account. After all... this is an affidavit.

But wait! I googled. ".affidavit...
a written declaration upon oath made before an authorized official. "

There IS no authorized official here. Nor is there any hint of an oath. There's only Ishmael...and his word that this is true and his word that we should believe his sources.

Ishmael says that this chapter "Is as important a one as will be found in this volume." Any idea WHY? I haven't a clue.

Ishmael SAYS he doesn't wish to perform this task "methodically"...yet it rather looks to me as though he's performing this task methodically... Next to the Cetology chapter, this is the most seemingly organized chapter in the book, what with the appearance of ordinal sequencing.

Because note: Actual ordinal sequencing would be first, second, third... Ishmael gives us "First," then "Secondly." To flow properly [truthfully?], wouldn't he have to give us First, Second...or Firstly, Secondly? Then instead of progressing numerically... he's back again to First, Secondly... and AGAIN First, Secondly...

To cut to the chase ... I think Ishmael is using the First, Secondly, etc. to give a pseudo-scientific structure/imprimatur to his presentation... so that we'll believe him... Yet, I think subconsciously Ishmael betrays himself by using incorrect grammar... Therefore I can't quite fully believe him.


message 8: by Adelle (last edited Aug 08, 2018 05:06PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At #1 David wrote: "Chapter 45. The Affidavit

Having established these facts he paraphrases Ecclesiastes 1:9 and declares, Verily there is nothing new under the sun.".."


Maybe including the Biblical "quote" as an authority to lend credence to his "affidavit?" That "verily." So authentic sounding. Yet NOT actually there in Ecclesiastes. Might some of Ishmael's details in this chapter sound authentic... yet not quite be true?

{I've come around to mostly believing Ishmael's version of events.}


message 9: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments I LOVE the description of nautical men tinkering with their last will in testament (ch. 49).

...taking all things together, I say, I thought "I might well go below and make a rough draft of my will. "Queequeeg," said I, "come along, you shall be my lawyer, executor, and legatee."

It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering with their last wills in testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond of that diversion. This was the fourth time in my nautical life that I had done the same thing.


It is dark, and a little too real, but the ability to remain positive in the face of such a stark reality speaks to the immense capacity of humans (Ishmael) to adapt. And yes, Ishmael is remaining positive. He has already faced death at sea (apparently several times), any of his experiences now are like... bonus days.


message 10: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments In ch 53 Ishmael says that English whalers sometimes affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the American whalers; regarding the long, lean Nantucketer, with his nondescript provincialisms, as a sort of sea-peasant.

Doesn't Ishmael romanticize this as his role? Remember when he was speaking up in defense of the whaling profession? Even when Ishmael first set out to be a whaler, he seemed eager about the grin-and-bear-it attitude. He enjoyed choosing a life of hardship.


message 11: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments When they meet the other ship, Ishmael describes a special sort of camaraderie among whaling ships. While other ships (merchants, pirates, etc.) are "villainous on both sides," whalers share intel. Knowledge creates a sense of unity?


message 12: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments David wrote: "Chapter 46. Surmises
Ahab demonstrates his leadership skills in thinking he will have to go through with the regular motions of a whaling voyage in order to sustain the crew's interest in his obsession."


Let's talk about leadership skills for a second. A strong leader is one who would never ask his men (sorry for the gender-biased language), to do anything the leader himself is unwilling to do.

In the story of Steelkilt (ch. 54), Steelkilt urges the Canallers to join in his plan, but he will proceed whether they join him or not. They even argue about who will be the first on deck. The leader takes this role.

As for Ahab... true, he has some physical deficiencies, but during the gam he refuses to leave the boat. How united are they in this endeavor, really?


message 13: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments It seems to me that the focus of this section is fate/predesitination. Moby-Dick and Ahab are destined to keep meeting (ch 45), just as Radney was destined to die (ch 54).

Ishmael might not be creating his own destiny, as I keep trying to force interpretation. He may really be coming to terms with his predestined role in the universe.

Looking at the weaving episode with Queequeg, I see Ishmael striving to balance choice and chance in acceptance of his Fate.

Beautiful, Melville. Just beautiful.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Ishmael is showing us his whaling history knowledge. So either he is being prophetic, or has studied whaling before his voyage (doubtful), or he's stepped out of the novel and is speaking to us from many years in the future.

This brings me to something I've been feeling since Ishmael boarded the Pequod: he's shed his body. He's incorporeal and is now nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Is he a member of the crew or does a bit of him reside in every crew member? Perhaps his soul has seeped into the ship and he is now omnipresent and omniscient, capable of hearing all conversations and knowing all thoughts emanating from anywhere onboard.


message 15: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Ashley wrote: "Looking at the weaving episode with Queequeg, I see Ishmael striving to balance choice and chance in acceptance of his Fate"

Melville explores this theme so cleverly. We first get the image of "chance, free will, and necessity–nowise incompatible–all interweavingly working together" in ch47 (The Mat-Maker). That's followed in ch48 by the wonderful account of The First Lowering, which shows these three forces at play and underlines how our own agency (especially in a tightknit situation like being at sea with our shipmates) is limited by nature and the actions of others. We then find Ishmael in reflective mood in ch49 ("what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke"), as though his brush with death has given him a new-found stoicism.

As you say, just beautiful.


message 16: by Adelle (last edited Aug 09, 2018 01:55PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At #9 Ashley wrote: "I LOVE the description of nautical men tinkering with their last will in testament (ch. 49).

...taking all things together, I say, I thought "I might well go below and make a rough draft of my wlli..."


That scene rather surprised me as Ishmael had virtually nothing in material wealth... that near-empty carpetbag. What, I wondered, is he leaving in his will? Or...even with little, it's easier to face possible death with one's affairs in order? "I felt a stone was rolled away from my heart."

I loved that sentence near the close of the chapter: "Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection"


message 17: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At #11 Ashley wrote: "When they meet the other ship, Ishmael describes a special sort of camaraderie among whaling ships. While other ships (merchants, pirates, etc.) are "villainous on both sides," whalers share intel...."

Could be.

Couple of other possible factors: the whalers are on much longer voyages, and any news forwarded from home or the world would be that much more welcomed. And then, too, it seems to me --- even here in this chapter -- that Ishmael thinks whalers don't get the respect they deserve, so he highlights what positives he can.


message 18: by Adelle (last edited Aug 09, 2018 02:18PM) (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At #14 Kevin wrote: "Chapter 45. The Affidavit.."

it's not a fable, or worse, an allegory!.."


Still wrestling around with that one. Maybe Melville making an inside joke. I see article after article describing Moby Dick as an extended allegory, etc.

But from ISHMAEL's perspective {not Melville's}, Ishmael says most landsmen are so very ignorant of whaling facts... a fable is to impart a moral, and an allegory is to help one understand or see the truth through comparison... but Ishmael thinks landers are too ignorant of Whale Fishery to do comparisons.... Just give them whale facts truthful like, thinks Ishmael.


message 19: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 327 comments Adelle wrote: "That scene rather surprised me as Ishmael had virtually nothing in material wealth... that near-empty carpetbag. What, I wondered, is he leaving in his will?"

Haha! I had the same thought! Poor Ishmael with his carpetbag and 3 shirts. To whom would he leave his things?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "Ahab demonstrates his leadership skills in thinking he will have to go through with the regular motions of a whaling voyage in order to sustain the crew's interest in his obsession...."

While Ishmael is doing a little weaving, I thought I'd talk a wee bit about weaving myself. I can see why I and others have difficulty staying with MD. It's long, and there is a lot going on -- the story, the symbolism, religion, Ishmael as a reliable narrator, Ahab as madness personified, whaling history -- and not all of it is well woven into the fabric of the story. It's very disjointed, disrupting of train of thought. I yearn for the mystery and humor of those first chapters. What happened to that?

Anybody besides me thinking Melville could use a little discipline and restraint?

But at least Ishmael has donned his body again, just in time for a little weaving of his own. Hope he has better luck than Melville.


message 21: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1458 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Anybody besides me thinking Melville could use a little discipline and restraint?..."

I agree with you.

I think there are parts that are beautiful, but there are also parts that are disjointed and choppy. At times it feels a bit like being thrashed about hither and thither on the mighty ocean with the spritely Pequod.


message 22: by Lily (last edited Aug 10, 2018 08:36AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments LOL! enjoying the posts of Xan and Tamara!

I sorta understand why I've never been able to get this thing read.

But I will say I am impressed. I rather expected the religious and spiritual references to be more New England Puritan and Quaker oriented. Instead, I am finding allusions as well to ancient heresies, church leaders, garb, sites and rituals of not Christian sects, without committing the fallacies of some modern writers of misrepresenting their meaning, but more just providing a cosmopolitan view of reality.

The learner keeps appearing. That feels very American -- "the value of education" -- to me.

But the time line has me buffaloed. It is like we are on this first voyage with Ishmael, but "The Affidavit" seems full of first-hand accounts acquired over a number of years?


message 23: by Cphe (last edited Aug 10, 2018 07:56PM) (new)

Cphe | 586 comments Tamara wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Anybody besides me thinking Melville could use a little discipline and restraint?..."

I agree with you.

I think there are parts that are beautiful, but there are also p..."



Agree about it being disjointed at times.

Educational certainly.

Anyone wanting to know about whales and whaling........go straight to Moby Dick.


message 24: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Aug 11, 2018 05:54AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "Chapter 48. The First Lowering
The boats are lowered to give chase to the whales. Ahab is seen standing in the back of "his" boat with the phantom-like men. There is an, "I thought so", and , "I to..."


Ah, a return to some humor as Ishmael learns that Mr. Starbuck's careful restraint is a relative term, indeed. Just another day on the sea, boys.

The figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips.

What an image. No wonder they stay in the hull. Although, I have to say, after spending this many days in the hull these guys are ripe enough to make Moby Dick do a deep dive.

On his broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a snow-flake. The bearer looked nobler than the rider.

Maybe I'm seeing more amidst all the action than there is here, but is this a comment on race -- a common goal, a common way of life overcoming racial prejudices? " 'Nobler' than the rider." A carefully chosen word, I think.


message 25: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Aug 12, 2018 05:34AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "He then tells us that Fedallah remains a mystery but suggest he may belong to an ancient race born of human and fallen angles. We still don't have an explanation for Fedallah and his men from Ahab, but it is clear they were smuggled aboard in secret to avoid opposition from the owners...."

This is a reference to the giants that once roamed the earth (and the sons of God mated with the daughters of men). Chapter 6 of Genesis; I think I have that right. God flooded the earth to rid it of the perversion. Here we have, I think, a clear reference to Ahab and his phantoms being perversions of God's will.

If so, this is not going to end well.

So is MD the God whale who arrives to save mankind from wickedness.

Edit: Originally responded to chapter 49. Corrected this to chapter 50.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "Chapter 51. The Spirit-Spout
There seems to be a whale spouting ahead of the ship luring them on. As they round the Cape of Good Hope, Ahab securely stands himself on deck and grimly observes. Late..."


A hunter hunting, the hunted luring the hunter.


message 27: by David (new)

David | 2592 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "So is MD the God whale who arrives to save mankind from wickedness."

We have the example from The Town Ho's Story of Moby-Dick acting as a "surgical-strike" agent for justice.

If the whale is a great and terrible agent for good/justice, I wonder what Ahab did that caused Moby-Dick to take his leg? Besides, hunting and trying to kill him for his oil, of course.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "If the whale is a great and terrible agent for good/justice, I wonder what Ahab did that caused Moby-Dick to take his leg? Besides, hunting and trying to kill him for his oil, of course. ..."

This the first Save-the-Whales movement. I say that only half tongue-in-cheek. I've been wondering if Melville didn't have a change of heart hunting whales, but I can't find any evidence one way or the other. (disclosure: I haven't looked that hard either.)

Greenpeace has or had a ship named Moby dick.


message 29: by Cphe (new)

Cphe | 586 comments Is Moby a Beluga whale? I can’t remember if it was mentioned the family/breed he was


message 30: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 328 comments In the chapter 54 who is telling the story about Town-Ho? I reread it but I was not capable to identify the teller. It is Ishmael? It seemed also that who told the story condemned the attitude of Stellkilt (this is the spelling in my brazilian edition), but, for me, he was not deserving be judged in this way. I misunderstood it? To you he deserved be judged like he was?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Cphe wrote: "Is Moby a Beluga whale? I can’t remember if it was mentioned the family/breed he was"

There's this:

The name of the whale was also inspired by real-life events. In 1839, Melville read a story in a magazine about an albino sperm whale famed for its deadly attacks on whaling ships trying to hunt it down. This whale, killed off the coast of Chile near Mocha Island, was called Mocha Dick.

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/m...

I think a Beluga is too small, although they can be white.


message 32: by Sue (last edited Aug 17, 2018 05:37PM) (new)

Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments It was interesting to read of the different personalities of the three mates during the lowering, with Stubb and his pipe, Flask with his exhortations, and Starbucks with his silence and intense whispers. (Chapter 48)

As to Starbucks and his relative "cautious" ways, it was humorous to read of Ishmael's concern thereof: ""I suppose then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set in a foggy squall is the height of a while man's discretion?"...lol! No wonder Ishmael set to drafting his will thereafter, making Queegueg his lawyer, executor and legatee! (Chapter 49)

Fedallah remains an interesting mystery. (Chapter 50)

I had to chuckle at Ishmael's remark of pirates possibly looking down on whale men when indeed, pirates are "elevated in that odd fashion" (the gallows) (Chapter 53)

I did enjoy the inclusion of a mention regarding the men from the Great Lakes (of which I hope to visit Lake Superior soon) and though while Moby Dick made Steelkit's plan unnecessary, I am still not clear what Steelkit was weaving so to exact a revenge or how the woven item would be a part of that revenge. (Chapter 54).

Interesting above about Xan's remark regarding Melville reading about a destructive albino whale...and while sperm whales generally become more pale as they age, likely Moby Dick is an albino as 'peculiarly white'.


message 33: by David (last edited Aug 13, 2018 03:28PM) (new)

David | 2592 comments Rafael wrote: "In the chapter 54 who is telling the story about Town-Ho? I reread it but I was not capable to identify the teller. It is Ishmael?"

I believe you are right in supposing it is Ishmael telling the story as he remembers the way he told it to some friends in Lima over drinks.
For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn.



message 34: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 328 comments David wrote: "For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn."

This is in what chapter? 54? If it is I should read with more attention.


message 35: by Susan (last edited Aug 16, 2018 05:42AM) (new)

Susan | 387 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Ishmael is showing us his whaling history knowledge. So either he is being prophetic, or has studied whaling before his voyage (doubtful), or he's stepped out of the novel and is speaking to us ...
This brings me to something I've been feeling since Ishmael boarded the Pequod: he's shed his body. He's incorporeal and is now nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Is he a member of the crew or does a bit of him reside in every crew member? Perhaps his soul has seeped into the ship and he is now omnipresent and omniscient“

*****

Great description of what’s happened to the first person narration with its shifts in POV and presentation. “does a bit of him reside in every crew member?” Maybe thisperspective particularly resonates with me because I keep asking myself whether Ahab in a metaphysical way sees himself in the white whale (physically, too, I guess)



Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Finally finished 54. I'm comfortably ensconced in the White Whale's corner too. Moby Dick, God's Angel of Justice.

PS: How many harpoons are lodged in MD's body by now?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Chapter 54, Again:

A Swordfish? A swordfish caused this leak? What, he was sharpening his teeth on wood? The Town-Ho was in its way?

We have whales sinking ships and swordfish cutting the feet out from under you. What kind of profession is this?

And bye the way, Ishmael certainly knows how to drawl out a yarn when the drinks are free.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments I’ll have to look it up, but a few chapters earlier, I thought I read where Ishmael was giving us some information on whaling that was the benefit of many whaling expeditions—as if MD is a story he is telling us that happened quite some time ago in his past. Something gave me the idea the the Ishmael the narrator is decades older than the Ismael of the story


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan | 387 comments Anyone have a theory why Chapter 49 about Ishmael making his will is called The Hyena?


message 40: by David (last edited Aug 16, 2018 08:02PM) (new)

David | 2592 comments Susan wrote: "Anyone have a theory why Chapter 49 about Ishmael making his will is called The Hyena?"

Life made a joke and hyena's are known to make sounds that sound like laughter.
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
description


message 41: by David (last edited Aug 16, 2018 08:07PM) (new)

David | 2592 comments Bryan wrote: Something gave me the idea the the Ishmael the narrator is decades older than the Ismael of the story"

Some years ago—never mind how long precisely
It sounds to me like enough time as passed that he is modestly embarrassed of his current age.


message 42: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Aug 16, 2018 09:10PM) (new)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments David wrote: "Bryan wrote: Something gave me the idea the the Ishmael the narrator is decades older than the Ismael of the story"


Some years ago—never mind how long precisely
It sounds to me like enough time..."


True enough--that beginning makes it pretty obvious. I looked back over some of the recent chapters--I think the section that really brought it to my attention that the story Ishmael is telling us happened to him quite a bit earlier is Chapter 45: The Affadavit. He describes three different instances (which I'm inferring happen after the experience on the Pequod) where he'd seen whales struck with a harpoon that escaped, only to be caught by the very same whalemen, three years later.

That section really brought it home to me that the narrator Ishmael is separate from this young man on his first whaling trip. It's easy for me to loose sight of that sometimes.


message 43: by Lily (last edited Aug 17, 2018 06:52AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments @35Rafael wrote: "This is in what chapter? 54? If it is I should read with more attention...."

{g} Rafael -- try the third paragraph in Chapter 54 (at least in the Kindle edition I have, just after a short and then a long paragraph). This stuff gets dense and it is easy to lose the stream! The shifting narrative voice doesn't make it any easier. I can well imagine there are MFA instructors who would not have give an unidentified Melville impersonator passing marks in a course on control of the narrative voice.


message 44: by Lily (last edited Aug 17, 2018 07:07AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments (See @39, 42, 43) Bryan wrote: "That section really brought it home to me that the narrator Ishmael is separate from this young man on his first whaling trip. It's easy for me to loose sight of that sometimes...."

Thanks for bringing this point forward, Bryan. Like the discussion here, I am still trying to get a handle on just what that time relationship is (Ishmael on his first journey versus Ishmael, our narrator) -- and is it fixed, or like the narrative perspective itself, does it wander?


message 45: by Lily (last edited Aug 17, 2018 08:40AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments "Meantime, at the first tap of the boat's bottom, the Lakeman had slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirlpool; calmly looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But a sudden, terrific, downward jerking of the boat, quickly brought his knife to the line. He cut it; and the whale was free."

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick [with Biographical Introduction] (p. 172). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

I believe that passage refers to Steelkilt? Now I am looking for the passage that says Steelkilt was a Lakeman, rather than just the other two fellows with him (and against him).

"...the bitterly provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo."

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick [with Biographical Introduction] (p. 161). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

The other two fellows are called "Canallers."

"Ere the cry could go aft Steelkilt was shaking one of the backstays leading far aloft to where two of his comrades were standing their mastheads. They were both Canallers...."

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick [with Biographical Introduction] (p. 165). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.


message 46: by Susan (last edited Aug 17, 2018 05:22PM) (new)

Susan | 387 comments Lily wrote: ""Meantime, at the first tap of the boat's bottom, the Lakeman had slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirlpool; calmly looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But a sudden, terrific..."

As I read this, the Lakeman who cuts the line is indeed Steelkilt.

The passage you quoted is the 4th paragraph of Chapter 54 where we first learn Steelkilt is a Lakeman. — “...Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the bitterly provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo.” The construction is a little confusing, but I think Radney = mate + Vineyarder and Steelkilt = Lakeman + desperado + from Buffalo.

There is also a paragraph about a page later that starts “Thus gentleman, though an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and wild-ocean nurtured [referring to the description Melville gives of the Great Lakes]” and he is again referred to as a Lakeman later in the same paragraph.


message 47: by Rafael (last edited Aug 17, 2018 12:08PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 328 comments Lily wrote: "@35Rafael wrote: "This is in what chapter? 54? If it is I should read with more attention...."

{g} Rafael -- try the third paragraph in Chapter 54 (at least in the Kindle edition I have, just afte..."


I will look for it. Thanks, Lily! And, yes. Is a bit hard to keep track of who is narrating what. I guess that my difficulty in keep attention doesn't make it easier.


message 48: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 561 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "This is a reference to the giants that once roamed the earth (and the sons of God mated with the daughters of men). Chapter 6 of Genesis; I think I have that right. God flooded the earth to rid it of the perversion. Here we have, I think, a clear reference to Ahab and his phantoms being perversions of God's will.

If so, this is not going to end well.

So is MD the God whale who arrives to save mankind from wickedness."


The footnote in my edition gives this explanation:
"according to Genesis...in mundane amours: In Genesis 6:4, mysterious "sons of heaven" - spiritual beings - have intercourse with "daughters of man". In the apocryphal writings of rabbins (rabbis or Jewish teachers), such as the book of Enoch and the book of Jubilees, devils also had intercourse with humans."

The footnote in my Bible (NABRE) to Genesis 6:4 corroborates what you are saying:
"These enigmatic verses are a transition between the expansion of the human race illustrated in the genealogy of chap. 5 and the flood depicted in chaps. 6-9. The text, apparently alluding to an old legend, shares a common ancient view that the heavenly world was populated by a multitude of beings, some of whom were wicked and rebellious. It is incorporated here , not only in order to account for the prehistoric giants, whom the Israelites called the Nephilim, but also to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation - the constantly increasing wickedness of humanity. This increasing wickedness leads God to reduce the human life span imposed on the first couple. As the ages in the preceding genealogies show life spans had been exceptionally long in the early period, but God further reduces them to something near the ordinary life span. "
"The belief was common that human beings of gigantic stature once lived on earth. In some cultures, such heroes could make positive contributions, but the Bible generally regards them in a negative light. the point here is that even these heroes, filled with vitality from their semi-divine origin, come under God's decree. "



message 49: by Kerstin (last edited Aug 18, 2018 10:57AM) (new)

Kerstin | 561 comments Tamara wrote: "I think there are parts that are beautiful, but there are also parts that are disjointed and choppy. At times it feels a bit like being thrashed about hither and thither on the mighty ocean with the spritely Pequod."

It has that feel, doesn't it?

When I look at long books of the past like this one (and some are much longer), I tend to think of the time in which it was published. With fewer distractions to occupy their time, folks probably enjoyed a long story, maybe even expected it. I think they savored books to a much greater extend, knew the contents better. We have such short attention spans these days.

I also think the length of the book mimics the long sea journey. We are immersed into this world now, and when we open the book to read another chapter we can almost taste the saltiness of the air and hear the flapping of the sails. With nothing but time on your hands, you might as well philosophize.


message 50: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments At 50 "Tamara wrote: "I think there are parts that are beautiful, but there are also parts that are disjointed and choppy. At times it feels a bit like being thrashed about hither and thither on the mighty ocean..."

Kerstin wrote: "I also think the length of the book mimics the long sea journey. We are immersed into this world now, and when we open the book to read another chapter we can almost taste the saltiness of the air and hear the flapping of the sails".


Two great comparisons/ comments.


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