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Moby-Dick - Reread > Chapter 55 though 70

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message 1: by David (new)

David | 2742 comments Chapter 55. The Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Stubb made me laugh again:
"However recklessly the whale may sometimes serve us," said humorous Stubb one day, "he can never be truly said to handle us without mittens."
After describing various attempts to create an accurate image of the whale Ishmael concludes it can't be done and gives us a warning if our demand for one is too much:
And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing, you run no small risk of being eternally stove and sunk by him. Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan.
Do you agree or disagree with his conclusion?

Here is a link with some of the works Melville references in this chapter:
http://depictedscience.tumblr.com/pos...

Chapter 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes
http://www.powermobydick.com/images/S...
http://www.powermobydick.com/images/S...
http://www.powermobydick.com/images/W...
http://www.powermobydick.com/images/B...

CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.
Sometimes the more accurate depictions of whales are produced by simple folk art, especially by whalemen artists rather than the more celebrated artists. Whales are popular and can be seen or imagined just about anywhere including the stars in the heavens. It also seems that Ishmael has some doubts he would like to erase:
With a frigate's anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of harpoons for spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the topmost skies, to see whether the fabled heavens with all their countless tents really lie encamped beyond my mortal sight!
Chapter 58. Brit
His talk of brit, the Right Whale's food, leads Ishmael to remind us what an inhospitable place the sea is, for man and its inhabitants alike. Then:
. . .consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!
What is this analogy? The word appalling caught my attention and I recalled Father Mapple:
And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! . . .Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal!
Chapter 59. Squid
The ship and crew come across a rare giant squid. Starbuck wishes it was Moby-Dick instead of a squid, despite the fact that sperm whales like Moby-Dick eat squid like this for breakfast.

Chapter 60. The Line
Ishmael describes the whale line and how it is wound around the boat and attached to the harpoon. Then he turns philosophic and says:
All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.
Chapter 61. Stubb Kills A Whale
The blow-hole of the whale Stubb kills is referred to as a pipe. Stubb of course smokes a pipe. When the Whale finally dies, Stubb remarks:
"Yes; both pipes smoked out!" and withdrawing his own from his mouth, Stubb scattered the dead ashes over the water; and, for a moment, stood thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he had made.
I feel there is something more to say about that comparison but I don't know what it would be.

Chapter 62. The Dart
Ishmael explains how the harpooneer must set an example rowing the boat to get to the whale, and then, exhausted from rowing, try to throw the harpoon into the whale. Ishmael claims that this is a foolish and less than optimal procedure that results in too many misses. Then he makes what sounds like a social comment:
To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.
Who are the harpooneers of the world?

Chapter 63. The Crotch
We learn of the crotch and how it usually holds two harpoons, both attached to the line, in a ready position to pick up and throw at a whale. We are also told there is often no time to throw the second iron and it is often thrown in the water to dangle to rather dangerously be dragged around where it could cut the line, or other people or boats, but is usually less fatal than forgetting to toss it in. Is there a danger in being overprepared?

Chapter 64. Stubb's Supper
Stubb gives the cook a hard time for overcooking his whale steak. The cooks is thankful that Stubb is no more of a shark than the real sharks feasting on the dead whale tied to the side of the ship. Is it true, is an angel just a shark, well governed? Does that mean a shark is just an ungoverned angel? Is this the famous question, is humanity basically good or basically bad?

Back in Chapter 27 we are told of Stubb:

What he thought of death itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of it at all, might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor, he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir themselves there, about something which he would find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner.
But here, after a comfortable dinner, he harasses the cook about getting into heaven
"You said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see where your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don't get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It's a ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But none of us are in heaven yet.
Chapter 65. The Whale As A Dish
Anyway, like I was sayin', whale is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, whale-kabobs, whale creole, whale gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple whale, lemon whale, coconut whale, pepper whale, whale soup, whale stew, whale salad, whale and potatoes, whale burger, whale sandwich. That- that's about it.~Bubba "Ishmael" Gump
Ishmaels reminder to see what our knife handles are made of reminds me of this quote from Thoreau:
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated.
Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience (pp. 8-9). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
Chapter 66. The Shark Massacre
Queequeg and another crew member come out and kill the sharks feeding on the whale with whaling spades. When the sharks were wounded, they were eaten by other sharks and given the chance a shark would even eat pieces of himself. What is implied when Queequeg declares that whatever god created the shark must be one dam ingin.?

Chapter 67. Cutting in
Ishmael describes how the whales are peeled of the blubber like peeling the skin from an orange in one long peel, cut into pieces called "blankets".

Chapter 68. The Blanket
Ishmael tells us of the ongoing argument of what and where the whale's skin is and of its amazing properties in regulated the temperature of the whale's blood in extremes.

Chapter 69. The Funeral
The funeral for a dead whale stripped of its resources is to float way while being pecked at by sharks and birds. He also takes a swipe at precedent and orthodoxy by demonstrating how one ship may mistake the dead whale for shoals, rocks, and breakers and relaying this misinformation to other ships via updated maps for many years. I think Hume would appreciate this mistaken custom of cause and effect.

Chapter 70. The Sphynx
Ishmael describes the removal of the whale's head. Ahab comes out alone to inspect it and as the deepest diver, wonders at the secrets it has seen but cannot tell about. What does Ahab mean in the last paragraph?
"Better and better, man. Would now St. Paul would come along that way, and to my breezelessness bring his breeze! O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind."



message 2: by Susan (last edited Aug 15, 2018 03:57PM) (new)

Susan | 528 comments David said, Chapter 58. Brit

“ . .consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!” What is this analogy?

********

These words made me think of Ahab and his soul. Perhaps his love of his young wife and child were his Tahiti, and when he headed off to search for Moby Dick, he traded his life with them for an expression of the darker side of his character, the passion within him for revenge and domination.


message 3: by Susan (last edited Aug 15, 2018 03:58PM) (new)

Susan | 528 comments David said: Chapter 63. The Crotch
We learn of the crotch and how it usually holds two harpoons, both attached to the line, in a ready position to pick up and throw at a whale. We are also told there is often no time to throw the second iron and it is often thrown in the water to dangle to rather dangerously be dragged around where it could cut the line, or other people or boats, but is usually less fatal than forgetting to toss it in. Is there a danger in being overprepared?

******
I’m enjoying these chapters about the craft of whaling. In addition to providing background, they are like little essays where Ishmael eventually twists around to a simile or analogy with life on board or in general.

I’m not a fan of hunting whales, but have to give props to the whalemen for their bravery and skill in a very dangerous occupation.

And by the way, what’s happened to Bulkington? All that build up to his fate, and then not a word for pages and pages.


message 4: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 55. The Monstrous Pictures of .Whales" "And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is by going a whaling yourself"

No and yes. Yes. We are blessed with PBS, Jaques Coustou (sp?), etc. documentaries. We CAN see what whales look like. And my favorite item in the Denver Museum of Natual History is the whale skeleton hung from the ceiling.

No. I would imagine one can't imagine the livingness, the awesomeness of the whaleness of a whale, without being right there next to the Right Whale, or any whale. The Orca in the flesh in the water surpassed each and every photo I had ever seen of one.


message 5: by Adelle (last edited Aug 15, 2018 06:55PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 56, Re The Less Erroneous... "For the most part, the English and American whale draughtsmen seem entirely content with presenting the mechanical outline of things."

Tocqueville wrote something rather similar concerning Americans. He noted their tendency towards practicality.

WHY THE AMERICANS ARE MORE ADDICTED
TO PRACTICAL THAN TO THEORETICAL SCIENCE

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/det...


message 6: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 57: Of Whales in Paint...in the Stars.

1) Re the constellation Cetus, or, The Whale. Reminded me of the whale skeleton. A good deal of imagination is required to extrapolate from the skeleton to the whale. Same here in the stars.

http://www.astromax.org/con-page/autu...

2) Cetus is in the Perseus section of the stars. Meaningful? I don't know. But Perseus has popped into the story a time or two.


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Cphe wrote: "Firmly on the side of the whales. Too much gore for my taste I'm afraid."

Have to confess I’m rooting for Moby Dick, not Ahab....


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Adelle wrote: "David wrote: "Chapter 55. The Monstrous Pictures of .Whales" "And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is by going a whaling yourself

No, I would imagine one can't imagine the livingness, the awesomeness of the whaleness of a whale, without being right there next to the Right Whale, or any whale. “

*****

I love this whole response and think this post really sums up so much of the book which is trying to describe “the whaleness of a whale”



message 9: by Adelle (last edited Aug 16, 2018 06:49AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 58: Brit

Only three pages, but what a wonder!

Brit. Initially I had supposed brit to be another word for krill. No. Similar, but not the same. Sustenance...because the chapter titles must convey some meaning. Put me in mind, too, of manna. For the Right Whales, food has been provided, and all they need to do is to gather. Whales eating brit:

ithttps://www.google.com/url?sa=t&s....

Wikipedia though---I think that was the source---said that the whales can't always find sufficient sustenance on the surface, and that they have to dive for it.

Isn't that the case with Ahab/ Melville/ Ishmael/ Queequeg? Each of them in search of something more than the relative safety/tranquility of their peaceful---or non-life threatening surface life afforded them.

"...Do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? (Ishmael, chapter 1: "If they but knew it, almost all men...") For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life ."

Ishmael writes, "God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!"

But we HAVE to push off, or we live not but the "half-known life. " We MUST eat of the tree of knowledge to experience any growth, any transformation. We HAVE to leave Eden... A Paradise...in which Adam and Eve were like the maintained surface people in The Time Machine...


message 10: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 58: Brit

I loved, too, the absolute descriptive beauty of those first three paragraphs.

And...the reminder that we're all mowed down eventually. "As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance their scythes ... " There's always the semi-unconscious knowledge that Death carries a scythe. There was a vast-handled sickle-shaped saw/mower in The Spouter-Inn. Ahab's leg was mowed off by the scythe-shaped mouth of Moby Dick. Other references as well.

Death is a given. Is one to live the horror of a half-known life in safety? Is one to make the voyage out?


message 11: by Adelle (last edited Aug 16, 2018 08:55AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 59:The Squid.

I can understand Starbuck's wishing that it had been Moby Dick rather than that squid, because if an enormous, man-killing, white whale gives one an unease, think of the emotions generated by being a few yards from an enormous, man-killing, multi-armed, white squid. "That's not right."

Adding here to something Susan said on the previous thread: that "Ahab in a metaphysical way sees himself in the white whale."

Let's look at the Ahab/white whale connection. Then in parallel with chapter 58 (Brit), the title here (Squid) also represents sustenance. The Right Whales can gather most of their sustenance on the surface. But the Sperm Whale/Ahab needs to dive deep.

"...the spermaceti whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones (Ahab/the unconscious/Jung?) .... and that the sperm whale,unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear... (Ahab...intent on attacking)"


message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 57: "On Whales in Paint...in Stars"

Some of the whales "seen" in this chapter..."in the bony, ribby regions of the earth...in masses of rocks ... strewn in fantastic groupings..." "in mountainous countries ... glimpses of whales defined along the undulating ridges..." "great whales in the starry heavens..."

It seems that what you WANT to see is likely what you WILL see.


message 13: by Adelle (last edited Aug 16, 2018 11:48AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 58: Brit/ whelmed

The first boat we read of... that with Portuguese vengeance had whelmed a whole world without leaving so much as a widow."

Today we use overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but not whelmed.

Oddly enough, last week, out driving, I heard a grammar expert speaking of words such as whelmed... words we no longer use the root of singularly. He had a term .... I don't remember the term.


message 14: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Chapter 55. The Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Stubb made me laugh again:
"However recklessly the whale may sometimes serve us," said humorous Stubb one day, "he can never be truly said to handle us without mittens."
After describing various attempts to create an accurate image of the whale Ishmael concludes it can't be done and gives us a warning if our demand for one is too much:
And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing, you run no small risk of being eternally stove and sunk by him. Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan.
Do you agree or disagree with his conclusion?

Here is a link with some of the works Melville references in this chapter:
http://depictedscience.tumblr.com/pos..."


It's interesting that Melville pointed the resemblance of the whale's fin with the human's hand but was not able to see the real explanation to that. He just used this feature to show that the bones of the whale have not resemblance to the the whale's fin.

Melville said that we could not see the true shape of a whale. How he would accept the idea that today we, not only, can see it, but see whales in their true habitat?


message 15: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Chapter 58. Brit
His talk of brit, the Right Whale's food, leads Ishmael to remind us what an inhospitable place the sea is, for man and its inhabitants alike. Then:
. . .consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!
What is this analogy? The word appalling caught my attention and I recalled Father Mapple:
And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! . . .Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal!


Why Melville said that the sharks are the dog's equivalent in the sea? I cannot sea the connection between them.


message 16: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Chapter 59. Squid
The ship and crew come across a rare giant squid. Starbuck wishes it was Moby-Dick instead of a squid, despite the fact that sperm whales like Moby-Dick eat squid like this for breakfast."


I, once, read that giant squids could not reach the surface or near the surface becausa the pression. They would not survive the lack of pression in these places. This is true? If it's not, why this story was/is so popular?


message 17: by Adelle (last edited Aug 16, 2018 12:16PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 59: Squid/Kracken

Ay, there's a sea monster worth fearing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraken


message 18: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 60: The Line

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side. .

What a Truth.

I love this from a psychological perspective. As the least tangle or kink in the coiling would, in running out, infallibly take somebody's arm, leg, or entire body off.... Oh, those deep-seated psychological kinks we acquire in childhood and in the course of living. The damage they can do.

for were the lower end of the line in any way attached... and were the whale then to run the line out to the end...the doomed boat would infallibly be dragged down after him into the profundity of the sea... How firmly is Ahab attached to Moby Dick?

I liked, too, "Yet habit--strange thing! what cannot habit accomplish?"


message 19: by David (new)

David | 2742 comments Rafael wrote: Why Melville said that the sharks are the dog's equivalent in the sea? I cannot sea the connection between them. "

I would suppose it is because, like a stray dog, sharks wander around picking up scraps of food where they can.


message 20: by David (last edited Aug 16, 2018 08:23PM) (new)

David | 2742 comments Adelle wrote: "Today we use overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but not whelmed."

Once again my purpose in life seems to be to serve as a warning to others. I noted the term, whelmed, as used in Moby-Dick, too. I started saying it at work; it just created awkwardness. One person thought I was trying to say I was underwhelmed. My advice is to stick with overwhelmed.


message 21: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments David wrote: "Chapter 55..."

------------------------------

Though Jeremy Bentham's skeleton, which hangs for candelabra in the library of one of his executors, correctly conveys the idea of a burly-browed utilitarian old gentleman, with all Jeremy's other leading personal characteristics; yet nothing of this kind could be inferred from any leviathan's articulated bones.

I love this line not just because its an odd yet wonderful comparison (especially hand to flipper) and image, but because Melville has now managed to fit a philosopher and social reformer into his story. Bentham, among other things, was an animal rights activist. I'm waiting for the kitchen sink to fall in our laps.


message 22: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments Chapter 56:

And now add art work. These are wonderful descriptions of paintings and engravings. Melville was a talented writer.


message 23: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments Adelle wrote: "Chapter 59: Squid/Kracken

Ay, there's a sea monster worth fearing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraken"


Yes, and I've seen that movie.


message 24: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments Rafael wrote: "Melville said that we could not see the true shape of a whale. How he would accept the idea that today we, not only, can see it, but see whales in their true habitat?..."

I think he would be thrilled and awed. I think he would love that we can capture in videos humpback whales fin slapping and their iconic tales rising high above the ocean's surface and then slowly descending and disappearing again.


message 25: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments David wrote: "With a frigate's anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of harpoons for spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the topmost skies, to see whether the fabled heavens with all their countless tents really lie encamped beyond my mortal sight!"

This is wonderful metaphoric writing. Poetry in prose.


message 26: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments David wrote: "Rafael wrote: Why Melville said that the sharks are the dog's equivalent in the sea? I cannot sea the connection between them. "

I would suppose it is because, like a stray dog, sharks wander arou..."


Oh, I can see now. You are probably right.


message 27: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Melville said that we could not see the true shape of a whale. How he would accept the idea that today we, not only, can see it, but see whales in their true habitat?..."

I think he..."


Indeed. Whales swimming smoothly in the ocean is one the most beautiful images ever seen.


message 28: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments At that time (19th century) humans could hear the whale chantings? Anyone heard any whale singing at that time?


message 29: by David (new)

David | 2742 comments Rafael wrote: "At that time (19th century) humans could hear the whale chantings? Anyone heard any whale singing at that time?"

I have also been wondering why Ishmael hasn't gotten around to enlightening us about the incredibly soothing whale vocalizations, or whale songs, for a couple of chapters, or at least a good long one. I found this on Wikipedia:
Whaling Captain Wm. H. Kelly was the first person known to recognize whale singing for what it was, while on the brig Eliza in the Sea of Japan in 1881.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_v...
If that is correct, whalesongs were not associated with whales until some 30 years after Moby-Dick published in 1851.


message 30: by David (new)

David | 2742 comments Adelle wrote: "Chapter 58: Brit
But we HAVE to push off, or we live not but the "half-known life. " We MUST eat of the tree of knowledge to experience any growth, any transformation. We HAVE to leave Eden... A Paradise...in which Adam and Eve were like the maintained surface people in The Time Machine..."


The Eloi! I like this comment. If you are going to experience life, you have to take risks. It seems Ahab's vengeful driven risks are excessive, Starbuck seems to know "reasonable" risk, relative to his profession as we have seen. Stubb and Flask to not seem to take reasonable risks, but they seem deficient somehow in their careless and selfish approaches to it.


message 31: by Lily (last edited Aug 17, 2018 09:23PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments David wrote: "Chapter 55. The Monstrous Pictures of Whales
....Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan.

Do you agree or disagree with his conclusion?..."


Perhaps, at the time Melville wrote. But we humans still largely hold that value exists in assuaging our curiosity. I don't know how well whales are understood today, but I did remember this:
whale

https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/perm...

https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/perm...

"During the 1960s, people began studying the animals intensively, often in dedicated research institutes." Wiki (I haven't yet spotted a center dedicated to the sperm whale nor a particular expert or group thereof.)


message 32: by Lily (last edited Aug 17, 2018 09:27PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments ..https://www.whaleresearch.com/ Look at the link! Note the location!! (view spoiler)


message 33: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments So does the Pequod only hunt Sperm whale? If they hunt others, why did they leave a group of feeding Right Whales unmolested?


message 34: by David (new)

David | 2742 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "So does the Pequod only hunt Sperm whale? If they hunt others, why did they leave a group of feeding Right Whales unmolested?"

For some reason, Ahab seems to have a strong preference for one species over the others:
On the second day, numbers of Right Whales were seen, who, secure from the attack of a Sperm Whaler like the Pequod, with open jaws sluggishly swam through the brit. . .
(view spoiler)


message 35: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "So does the Pequod only hunt Sperm whale? If they hunt others, why did they leave a group of feeding Right Whales unmolested?"

Not sure why they left them unmolested. I thought, in part, Ahab was concentrating on finding sperm whales. Also, the product of the sperm whale was superior to that of the right whale---perhaps they concentrated on that for a higher profit margin. And... apparently the oversized head of the sperm whale contained more product.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/scienc...


message 36: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments That's probably it, Adelle. It just struck me as odd, all these whales around, and they sail on by.


message 37: by Adelle (last edited Aug 18, 2018 08:47AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 61: Stubb Kills a Whale

I thought this was an apt chapter title. All the proceeding chapter titles were meant, I think, to convey a further, possibly more nuanced meaning. But chapter 61? It is what is is: The stark, brutal reality that Stubb kills a whale.

There's a bit of sad foreshadowing on about the 2nd page of the chapter: Yes...from the title we already know the whale is killed... but Ishmael describes "a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to his jeopardy..." And we're reminded that he is ALIVE.

Ishmael/Melville is fully aware of the brutality of whaling...AND he wants his readers to know... to be not wasteful with their oil... We're ALL using energy---we are now; we were then. Melville doesn't want us to be able to turn our eyes from the reality of what it costs... He doesn't want us to be able to go about our lives shielded from what is involved in our having lights at night, etc. He's shown us earlier what whaling can cost the men who engage in whaling. Now he shows us--- honestly--- graphically---what is costs the whale... in addition to the obvious loss of the whale's life:

"The red tide now poured from all sides of *the monster like brooks down a hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine but in blood..." {"They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all" Yes, I quoted it before...but it bears repeating.}

And the blood of that whale significantly reflected "into every face." And perhaps not just there in the boat... but symbolically into the faces of the landsmen and women driving the need for energy. We WANT it.

"And all the while, jet after jet of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the spircle of the whale..... *the monster horribly wallowed in his blood... His heart had burst" His very heart had burst.

"Stubb...stood thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he had made."

1) Simply amazing writing.

2) * Ishmael/Melville has written early in this book with such admiration and awe of these giant creatures that it's jarring to see him here refer to them as monsters. I wonder if --- particularly in this chapter... hunting the whale--- Ishmael is trying to emotionally distance himself from what will happen. Similar to war... the enemy is often referred to in de-humanizing terms... so it won't be such an emotional hit to have to kill another man???

3) Stubb withdraws his own pipe. There's no more pleasure to be had at this moment. This a solemn moment. A moment of reverence. "Ashes to ashes" comes to mind. A moment to honor the whale. Important, too, I think, is the wording here. It's not Stubb eyeing the vast corpse... It's Stubb eyeing the vast corpse he had made.


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Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 61: Stubb Kills a Whale

On a lighter note:

I appreciated the opening sentence. To Starbuck the squid meant one thing; to Queegueg it meant something quite different. LOL... like Melville's book itself. To one it means this... To another it means something quite different.

Cucumbers. How neat! Cool as a cucumber was a thing even back then. Stubb: "but keep cool, keep cool---cucumbers is the word..."


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Adelle | 3130 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "That's probably it, Adelle. It just struck me as odd, all these whales around, and they sail on by."

I had to google about because it was a good question. We're all going to know a lot more about whales by the time we finish the book.


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Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 62. The Dart

David wrote: Ishmael [...] he makes what sounds like a social comment:

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.

Who are the harpooneers of the world?


I wondered at that, too, David. This may be off the mark, but it crossed my mind that he was referring to writers. So many work at "regular employment" and are still rather expected to produce solid writing.


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Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 63: The Crotch

I was thinking that this was a support chapter for Ishmael's closing point in chapter 62... that the harpooners shouldn't be rowing, but rather resting, prior to throwing the dart.

There's a gamble... the two harpoons "doubling the chances" and "in most instances, prudently practicable." But sometimes... there are "the saddest and most fatal casualties." If the lead harpooner wasn't so exhausted, he'd have a better chance of throwing effectively TWICE and the danger would be lessened.


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Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 65: Stubb's Supper

1) "Darkness came on..." I tried to imagine what it might be like to be pulling that whale so slowing over the open ocean in the dark. Only the small lights from the ship to guide them.

2) Noticed the difference between Stubb and Ahab.
Ahab: "Vacantly eyeing the heaving whale for a moment....
Stubb: "for a moment...thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse." (earlier, in chapter 61, )

I got the sense that Ahab is somehow less a thinking man at this point than even Stubb---who's not himself the most philosophical man on board the Pequod.


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Ashley Adams | 328 comments What is Ishmael doing?!?! This journey is craziness. Absolute craziness. Take the chapter on the squid, that alien-looking monster is so huge, and so dangerous! Whales are completely awesome next to those little whaling boats. Did Ishmael know what he was getting himself into? What kind of a person chooses this life?


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Ashley Adams | 328 comments Melville starts ch. 55 by adding a new genre to his anthology on whales. How fun!

I also do not think we should have been so quick to dismiss the significance of the color yellow from our discussion earlier. In ch. 58 the substance on which a right whale typically feeds (Brit), is described as yellow. I’ve been noticing as I read how yellow is often mentioned just before a whale sighting. Like… a signal of impending danger.


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Ashley Adams | 328 comments In ch. 68 whale blubber is described as a blanket or counter-pane. The only other time I’ve heard the term counterpane is when Ishmael beds down with Queequeg. Queequeg is the thing (person), shielding Ishmael and making life at sea somewhat comfortable?


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Ashley Adams | 328 comments Can we talk for a second about Fleece’s conversion speech to the sharks at Stubb’s request (Ch 64)? I can’t say if I’m more offended by the portrayal/treatment of Fleece, or by the insinuation that the un-religious man is basically a ravenous beast.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments David wrote: "Chapter 55. Is it true, is an angel just a shark, well governed? Does that mean a shark is just an ungoverned angel? Is this the famous question, is humanity basically good or basically bad?..."

Well, going back to the passage where giants roamed the world, some interpretations have fallen (ungoverned?) angels as the sons of God who mate with the daughters of man to produce the giants.

The difficulty getting the whale back to ship and latching it to its side reminded me of the earlier passage where they tried but failed to catch a whale in the middle of a squall (storm). If it's difficult to accomplish in good weather, how hard is it in the middle of a squall? And would you want a whale tied to the side of you ship in the middle of a storm?

Boy, oh boy! Give Stubbs a little taste of victory and he turns into a drill sergeant.

Paraphrasing: "Hold a hot coal near the steak and that will be sufficient," reminds me of when I tended bar and this woman, regular customer, would order a martini and quickly add "just hold the vermouth close to the gin."

Cook,” said Stubb, squaring himself once more; “do you belong to the church?”

“Passed one once in Cape-Down,” said the old man sullenly.


Great line. That's my new answer when asked a similar question.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments PS: Letting those sharks feast all night on the whale sounds like a good way to teach sharks lessons you don't want them to learn. You know, like training them to follow whale ships night and day.


message 49: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "PS: Letting those sharks feast all night on the whale sounds like a good way to teach sharks lessons you don't want them to learn. You know, like training them to follow whale ships night and day."

Did you think of the shark scene from The Old Man and the Sea?


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 400 comments Adelle wrote: "Did you think of the shark scene from The Old Man and the Sea?..."

No, but I should have.


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