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Moby-Dick - Reread > Chapters 83 through 93

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message 1: by David (last edited Aug 28, 2018 06:17PM) (new)

David | 2778 comments Chapter 83. Jonah Historically Regarded
Ishmael treats us, rather humorously I thought, to the controversies surrounding the biblical story of Jonah. A man who went by the name of Sag Harbor, from the town of Sag Harbor, taking the story metaphorically, and real implications and problems of taking it literally are among the items discussed. Why does Ishmael dismiss Sag Harbor's objections?

Chapter 84. Pitchpoling
We are told some, as demonstrated by Quequeg, believe greasing the bottom of their boat makes it go faster. We witness Stubb hit a lethal spot on a whale by tossing a long light lance balanced on end in his hand from forty feet, a maneuver known as pitchpoling, which causes the whale to quickly bleed out.

Chapter 85. The Fountain
We learn that each whale by habit takes the same number of breaths when he surfaces, which leaves him vulnerable on the surface to man.

Ishmael reveals this fact while discusses the debate around whether or not the whale spouts air or water. In the end he hedges his bet and proposes mist, which is both and justifies it.
Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.
Is this an endorsement of agnosticism?

Chapter 86. The Tail
Ishmael concentrates all of the whale's power in his tail claiming that if it were possible to destroy matter, the whale's tail could do it. He describes the different major motions of the tail. Whales fight each other head on, but fight whalemen mostly with their tail. Finally we get the biblical reference to god telling Moses
Thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
Chapter 87. The Grand Armada
Starbuck's whaleboat, with Queequeg and Ishmael get pulled into a pond-like center of a group of whales and spend a few peaceful moments with the whales in what seems like an eye of a hurricane.

Chapter 88. Schools and Schoolmasters
Ishmael explains the social structure of whales; schools of rowdy males, schools of gentle females accompanied by a single bull male who fights of other potential suitors. The most touching part is the last paragraph where he describes the males will abandon another stuck male, while the females will hang around a struck female with every token of concern sometimes putting themselves in danger.

Chapter 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
Ishmael introduces us to the rules of whale ownership/possession.
I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it.
II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.
And then provides the following large and legal caveat:
But what plays the mischief with this masterly code is the admirable brevity of it, which necessitates a vast volume of commentaries to expound it.
He then teases us by expanding the analogy to other internationally and universally applicable scenarios that suggest everything is up for grabs at all times to be taken by the strongest, or the smartest. Are these loose fish or fast fish?
1. America in 1492
2. Poland to the Czar?
3. What Greece to the Turk?
4. What India to England?
5. Mexico be to the United States?
6. Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World
7. All men's minds and opinions
8. Principle of religious belief
9. The thoughts of thinkers
10. The great globe itself
11. Us, the readers

Chapter 90. Heads or Tails
We are informed of the designation of "Royal Fish". What is Ishmael implying when he states:
But is the Queen a mermaid, to be presented with a tail? An allegorical meaning may lurk here.
I sense there is another one of Melville/Ishmael's jokes in that somewhere.

Chapter 91. The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud
The Pequod smells a rotting whale and Stubb swindles a French whaler, ironically named The Rosebud, out of it for the ambergris he suspects the dead whale does indeed contain. For me, this chapter surpasses Ishmael meeting Queequeg for the first time back in Chapter 3 as the funniest chapter in the book.

Chapter 92. Ambergris
A short treatise on ambergris in which Ishmael asks:
Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing?
It does not sound like it is nothing, but what is it if its a something?

Chapter 93. The Castaway
Poor Pip. He goes out in Stubb's whaleboat Pip jumps out and gets tangled in the line forcing Tashtego to cut it and loose the whale. Stubb is quite angry about this and tells Pip the Whale is worth much more than Pip if he would be sold as a slave and proceeds to give interesting advice.
The substance was, Never jump from a boat, Pip, except—but all the rest was indefinite, as the soundest advice ever is. Now, in general, Stick to the boat, is your true motto in whaling; but cases will sometimes happen when Leap from the boat, is still better. Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he should give undiluted conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving him too wide a margin to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped all advice, and concluded with a peremptory command, "Stick to the boat, Pip, or by the Lord, I wont pick you up if you jump; mind that.
I particularly liked the parts in bold above. The best advise is often indefinite, and then Stubb decides to keep the advice simple. Pip doesn't take the advice, is almost lost alone at sea, and is never quite the same after that.
He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.
And finally, there is more foreshadowing from Ishmael:
The thing is common in that fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what like abandonment befell myself.
hmm. . .


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David said: Chapter 91. The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud
The Pequod smells a rotting whale and Stubb swindles a French whaler, ironically named The Rosebud, out of it for the ambergris he suspects the dead whale does indeed contain. For me, this chapter surpasses Ishmael meeting Queequeg for the first time back in Chapter 3 as the funniest chapter in the book.

****

This chapter is very funny. And ironic when after all the conniving Stubb goes through to get the whale on the chance it might have ambergris, Ahab hurries Stubb off before he can extract all of it, saying the ship will leave them if he doesn’t come. (A foreshadowing of Stubbs’ later warning to Pip, perhaps, as well as Ahab giving way to his impatience to be after Moby Dick)


message 3: by David (new)

David | 2778 comments Susan wrote: "Ahab hurries Stubb off before he can extract all of it, saying the ship will leave them if he doesn’t come. (A foreshadowing of Stubbs’ later warning to Pip. . ."

Nice catch! Threats of being left behind. Pip's ordeal we know of now. I wonder if and how Stubb will be abandoned?


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David wrote: Pip’s ordeal we know of now. I wonder if and how Stubb will be abandoned?

***

Good question!



message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David wrote: Chapter 93. The Castaway

“He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad.”

******
Hmm. That makes at least two people on board the crew calls mad.

It’s interesting how Ishmael says not to judge Stubb too harshly for leaving Pip. “Because there were two boats in his wake, and he supposed, no doubt, that they would of course come up to Pip very quickly, and pick him up; though, indeed, such considerateness towards oarsmen jeopardized by their own timidity, is not always manifested by the hunters in all similar instances; and such instances not infrequently occur...”.

There seem to be a couple reactions among the crew — one is economic, since they all lose out when they fail to catch a whale. Another is being caught up in the heat of the hunt, as Tashtego is the first time Pip jumps out of the boat. And there seems to be contempt for cowardice.

My sense is Pip is little more than a boy and some allowance, but not much, is made for that.

And completely off tangent, I wonder what his lay was? Less than Ishmael’s, I would guess.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments He's probably getting the 777th lay that Peleg first tried to palm off on Ishmael.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments There were a few times in this section of chapters when I started to get a little tired of the whaling information myself. I started thinking over reasons why Melville would have included it all, and I wonder if it didn't have something to do with the idea that without knowing what it was like to be a whaler, the story could never resonate to the extent Melville hoped it would. I don't know about anyone else, but I've tried to tell someone else about things I thought were especially strange or noteworthy (usually about my job), but realized that it could never really have the same effect because the person I was telling it too just didn't have the background to appreciate what was so different about it--at least, not without me spending hours giving them the information they'd need.

Maybe Melville felt something similar--that there was no way the story could be fully internalized by someone who knew next to nothing about whaling, so he tried to put it all in there.


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Bryan wrote: "He's probably getting the 777th lay that Peleg first tried to palm off on Ishmael."

I suspect you’re right — poor Pip!


message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David said: Chapter 87. The Grand Armada
Starbuck's whaleboat, with Queequeg and Ishmael get pulled into a pond-like center of a group of whales and spend a few peaceful moments with the whales in what seems like an eye of a hurricane.

****

This amazing chapter has it all, I thought — action, suspense, serenity, wonders, and great writing. Chasing a wounded whale, Starbuck’s whaleboat and the reader enter a pod of whales and find a sort of whales’ paradise in the center where young whales swim up to the boat to look at them curiously and friendly — but except when they are restrained by fear, the men introduce only violence to this peaceful serenity — both by themselves and through the whale they’ve injured who injures other whales in his struggles. What an allegory of man interacting with nature, and what a contrast between the behavior of the whales new to man and Moby Dick who has been so assaulted at their hands.


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Bryan wrote: "There were a few times in this section of chapters when I started to get a little tired of the whaling information myself. I started thinking over reasons why Melville would have included it all, a..."

Good point! I do feel the chapters on whaling have given me an appreciation for some of the details of the story that I wouldn’t have otherwise and definitely an appreciation for the sailors and their difficult and dangerous work, but there are definitely times my interest in the minutiae of whales, whaling, and whale ships has flagged.


message 11: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 339 comments Bryan wrote: "There were a few times in this section of chapters when I started to get a little tired of the whaling information myself. I started thinking over reasons why Melville would have included it all, a..."

I think you are right about this. Until I start to read this book I never thought how was to hunt a whale, how to get them, how to grab what you want of them etc.


message 12: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 602 comments Bryan wrote: "There were a few times in this section of chapters when I started to get a little tired of the whaling information myself. I started thinking over reasons why Melville would have included it all, a..."

LOL! I've been feeling the same way, not another chapter on whaling!
Yet, we all have experiences that are hard to convey to others when they haven't experienced them themselves.


message 13: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 602 comments Susan wrote: "This amazing chapter has it all, I thought — action, suspense, serenity, wonders, and great writing. Chasing a wounded whale, Starbuck’s whaleboat and the reader enter a pod of whales and find a sort of whales’ paradise in the center where young whales swim up to the boat to look at them curiously and friendly — but except when they are restrained by fear, the men introduce only violence to this peaceful serenity — both by themselves and through the whale they’ve injured who injures other whales in his struggles. What an allegory of man interacting with nature, and what a contrast between the behavior of the whales new to man and Moby Dick who has been so assaulted at their hands."

I agree, chapter 87 was a nice reprieve. Here they witness a whale nursery and how all the animals work in unison. There is awe and wonder in the sheer beauty of it. I wondered if there is film footage of such a thing.

Throughout the book I've been thinking that really and truly whaling isn't a necessary endeavor, unless you're Eskimo. And this chapter brought out the contrast to me. The whaling industry exists because you can make money. All of the products the whale provides are wants, not necessities. There is other oil to light lamps with, or scents for perfume, or stays for corsetts - a needless fashion accessory in itself!


message 14: by David (new)

David | 2778 comments I think there is some takeaway from each essay-like chapter, despite the appearance of a digression. So far the one prompting the most discussion in my home is the one on fast fish loose fish. I decided I lock my car doors because my car is a loose fish. I shake my head at an editorial exasperated over the loose fish they discovered missing on their second trip to the goodwill after-hours drop box. Some claim that sovereign countries are fast fish, but then why does a word like imperialism exist? Most maddening is the debate going on my head to determine if I am a loose fish or a fast fish.


message 15: by Kerstin (last edited Sep 01, 2018 09:34AM) (new)

Kerstin | 602 comments David wrote: "I think there is some takeaway from each essay-like chapter, despite the appearance of a digression. So far the one prompting the most discussion in my home is the one on fast fish loose fish. I de..."

Oh, I like your definition of "essay-like" chapter. They are, aren't they? This gives a whole other dimension on what is written. There have been moments when I was wondering as to why this novel has such high acclaim, what deeper aspects am I missing? Are the literati over-interpreting or is all of it coming together at the end?


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David wrote: "I think there is some takeaway from each essay-like chapter, despite the appearance of a digression. So far the one prompting the most discussion in my home is the one on fast fish loose fish. I de..."

I love this idea of applying the concepts of whaling to everyday life. You’ve got me pondering what are the fast fish and loose fish in my own life. If the dog is on the leash, he’s a fast fish. If he runs off...


message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments For most people, Moby Dick is a loose fish; but could we say for Ahab, he’s a fast fish marked with his waif in the form of a harpoon?


message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Cphe wrote: "When I read about Pip’s watery abandonment I had to wonder where the sharks were.”

****

I did, too. Maybe Pip was so far from any wounded whales that he was temporarily safe.

******



message 19: by Sue (new)

Sue Pit (cybee) | 329 comments While we all ponder whether David is a loose fish or a fast fish, it does make for a bit of interesting early legal concept history! And poor gent who lost his suddenly declared "loose fish" to Lord Warden! Grrr! Now that is just wrong. (Chapter 90. Heads or Tails)

Anyway....yes, I think we are like the crew on the ship...days and days (or in our case, chapters and chapters) of tedium between sharp jolts of action/whale sightings!...yet we learn during those times/chapters...about whaling..and it is good to know despite not being quite...er..riveting But does seem to flesh it out to me...make whaling more real in a sense/ understandable.

Interesting to know that a sperm whale fights another sperm whale with his head and jaw, while he fights a human with his tail...like we are but a fly to be swatted ! ha! (Chapter 86. The Tail). We learn a bit more later as to how they fence with their lower jaws in these fights, sometimes locking them together ( at times resulting in dislocated jaws among other scars). (Chapter 88. Schools and Schoolmasters)

I had to laugh at Stubb saying to the interpreter for the French whaler: " you may as well begin by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish to me, though I don't pretend to be a judge."...LOL! What fun Stubbs had doing that..and then hoodwinking both the French whaler and the intermediary. Also I learned something about aubergis, of which I knew not! (Chapter 91. The Pequod meets the Rosebud and Chapter 92. Ambergris)


message 20: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 339 comments Chapter 85

To me it was interesting that Melville open the chapter making a reference to an older Earth than was believed at that time.


message 21: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 339 comments Chapter 89

To me this chapter was the most problematic one. It reads as a defense of colonialism and imperialism.


message 22: by Ignacio (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Susan wrote: "For most people, Moby Dick is a loose fish; but could we say for Ahab, he’s a fast fish marked with his waif in the form of a harpoon?"

That's a really good point. The others can't understand why Ahab is obsessed with that whale (it's just a dumb brute to them), but Ahab feels that there is a "fast" bond between them ... I can almost imagine Ahab approaching close to the whale and shouting at him "You and I have unfinished business!


message 23: by Ignacio (new)

Ignacio | 139 comments Rafael wrote: "Chapter 89

To me this chapter was the most problematic one. It reads as a defense of colonialism and imperialism."


Interesting; I really saw it the other way, as a critical, though mostly sad and melancholy look at the state of the world, and suggesting that all of us are neither as "loose" nor as "fast" as we might think we are.... (or not as "free" or as "secure" as we might wish)

I found these passages especially poignant: "What are the sinews and souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is the whole of the law?

and: What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a Fast-Fish?

Especially as he is writing at a time when slavery was legal in the United Sates, and before the Civil War. He also mentions Mexico (the Mexican-American War had just happened, 1846-48).


message 24: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 339 comments I could be understanding it wrongly, but he states that is acceptable to take things when they have no owner at that moment. As India when it was colonized by the Europeans. I read it wrongly?


message 25: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Sep 03, 2018 02:37PM) (new)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments I went back and read chapter 89 after reading your comment--I have to agree with Ignacio above; that Melville was critical of a world that saw everything in terms of whether or not they could take it away from someone else.


message 26: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Cphe wrote: "When I read about Pip's watery abandonment I had to wonder where the sharks were."

Well said, Cphe. Good to see you.


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Cphe wrote: "Wonder why Stubb doesn't have his own captaincy. He reads as an "older" character."

I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’m a little surprised how much more “air time” Stubb gets than the other two mates. Reading this before, Starbuck made a much bigger impression on me than Stubb, and he still comes across as the more decent of the two toward the crew. In addition to abandoning Pip, Stubb hits Dough Boy over the ginger drink until Starbuck tells him to stop and he’s rather bullying to Fleece as well.


message 28: by David (new)

David | 2778 comments I'm no psychologist, but it seems to me someone who chooses to laugh at things in lieu of taking them seriously has a problem coping with issues. Those issues he doesn't or can't laugh off, he is going to want to hit. Classic passive/aggressive.


message 29: by David (last edited Sep 05, 2018 05:35AM) (new)

David | 2778 comments I am still dwelling on the generalized concept of loose fish. Something about it puts me in mind of Dostoevsky's ". . .everything is permissible."


message 30: by Tamara (last edited Sep 05, 2018 05:05PM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1776 comments David wrote: "The most touching part is the last paragraph where he describes the males will abandon another stuck male, while the females will hang around a struck female with every token of concern sometimes putting themselves in danger...."

I agree. I love this paragraph at the end of Chapter 88:

Another point of difference between the male and female schools is still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull— poor devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike a member of the harem school, and her companions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey.

I can just see them offering her a hanky, patting her on the back, and consoling her with the words, "There, there, dear. Don't fret. All will be well."


message 31: by Susan (last edited Sep 06, 2018 05:15AM) (new)

Susan | 528 comments David wrote: "I'm no psychologist, but it seems to me someone who chooses to laugh at things in lieu of taking them seriously has a problem coping with issues. Those issues he doesn't or can't laugh off, he is g..."

I’m not a psychologist either. Stubb has so many outlets for his aggressive impulses —between the men and the whales, that I don’t see him passive, except in his interactions with Captain Ahab. Perhaps it’s because passive aggressive behavior is often manipulative, and Stubb seems more straightforward to me.


message 32: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 89--Fast Fish, Loose Fish

(Slowly catching up.)

Interesting that Ishmael/Melville wrote that there was a common saying thatpossession was half of the law...I grew up hearing that possession was 9/10ths of the law.

"But what plays the mischief with this masterly code is the admirable brevity of it, which necessitates a vast volume of commentaries to expound it."

This was the same situation as Stubb/Pip. "Just stay in the boat...except... Well, let's just say stay in the boat."...

because the Devil is in the details... There in Stubb's boat.... There in determining who has the "right" to the whales... Person-to-person.... country-to-country...

And how much is "fair"... Can fair even be determined? How much is simply law/rules because the factors involved would entangle us forever?

Solomon: "Cut the baby in half." Akexander the Great: Just cut the knot.


message 33: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 89--
Rafael da Silva wrote, "I could be understanding it wrongly, but he states that is acceptable to take things when they have no owner at that moment. As India when it was colonized by the Europeans.

I read it like Bryan and Ignacio, that Melville is meaning almost the opposite of what the words literally say---at the very least, Melville is wanting us to question all that.


message 34: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Occured to me that Ahab might be viewed as a Fast Fish. Moby Dick has hooked him


message 35: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 92---Ambergris

I wondered whether the Captain Coffin of Nantucket mentioned near the beginning of the chapter had any connection with the Peter Coffin of the Spouter Inn?
...and does his appearance in THIS chapter have significance?

Was the ability to own an inn the ambergris of the hard whaling life?


message 36: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 92. Ambergris
Chapter 92---Ambergis

David had written,
A short treatise on ambergris in which Ishmael asks:
Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing?

It does not sound like it is nothing, but what is it if its a something?


Religiously speaking, wouldn't that be our souls? We live physically in this physical world where all corrupts and dies, but our souls are worth saving.


message 37: by David (new)

David | 2778 comments Adelle wrote: "Religiously speaking, wouldn't that be our souls? We live physically in this physical world where all corrupts and dies, but our souls are worth saving."

Most likely. But for one who may consider souls nothings instead of somethings, maybe it could be interpreted as good still exists among all the bad, or that man is inherently good or redeemable despite the bad appearances.


message 38: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Adelle wrote: "Occured to me that Ahab might be viewed as a Fast Fish. Moby Dick has hooked him"

Truth. And Pip is a Loose Fish once he jumps out of the boat.


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments Adelle wrote: "Chapter 89--Fast Fish, Loose Fish

(Slowly catching up.)

Interesting that Ishmael/Melville wrote that there was a common saying thatpossession was half of the law...I grew up hearing that possessi..."


Fascinating post. The question of how to determine the details is complicated when you can’t even agree on what it is you are seeing.


message 40: by Adelle (last edited Sep 07, 2018 11:34AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #13 Kerstin wrote: "Throughout the book I've been thinking that really and truly whaling isn't a necessary endeavor, unless you're Eskimo. And this chapter brought out the contrast to me. The whaling industry exists because you can make money. All of the products the whale provides are wants, not necessities. There is other oil to light lamps with, or scents for perfume, or stays for corsetts - a needless fashion accessory in itself!"

Ah, but it only makes money because there is a demand for the product. People WANT it. Great line from some song, "We want our rights, and we don't care how... We... want our revolution...NOW." That's people.

I find it such a morally difficult read. Melville describes the extreme brutality of the hunt and the agony of the whales so well that I can't help but feel for them.

But then I think, well, whales exhibit no sympathy for the squid they eat. Were a squid to write Moby Dick, we know who the "bad guy" would be. Some giant mammal without tentacles.

Maybe... maybe Melville is portraying us as predatory creatures not un-similar to whales... the power aspect is everywhere in nature... Whales kill squid because they can... and whales want to live. We leverage power, too, because we can... except we are capable of being aware of what we're doing. And maybe we sometimes ask ourselves, "is this right?"

I'm even torn about the use of whale oil. Yes, there was tallow and lard... but they burned poorly. And we used coal for centuries... and with the numbers of humans there are now, coal burning isn't particularly good for the air. And we demand more and more energy to meet our wants... Lights, computers, cars, etc. We WANT those things. I guess we want more than the whales do. And mostly... I don't think about what it costs coal miners or oil workers or the environment when I turn on my lights. It's so wonderfully removed from me. I use the product on the clean end.

I wouldn't think that many people in the 1850s would give much thought to what using whale oil cost whalemen and whales. They simply wanted good oil, bought it, used it. And perhaps one goal of Melville's in writing his book was to open the eyes of the public as to it's cost. More than once he admonishes his readers, I paraphrase here, "Remember this when you're lighting your lamps." Doubtless Melville used a nice high-grade whale oil when sitting at his desk into the evening hours writing his book.

It feels like a moral dilemma. I certainly don't want to live in a cave and only eat plants. Melville makes me look at and give more thought to what enables me to live as I do. I love my electric lights! My cellphone! My gas-fueled car. I do think Melville has made me appreciate them more. But sad about it, too.


message 41: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #36 David wrote: "I am still dwelling on the generalized concept of loose fish. Something about it puts me in mind of Dostoevsky's ". . .everything is permissible.""

"If God does not exist, everything is permissible."

So...so as not to live in a world in which might makes right, where possession goes a long ways, how do humans find a way to agree on a moral code. I do think there's a innate aspect of most people to see/feel "That's not fair.".... but that can be rationalized away when the outcome is in our favor and we have power. Doesn't it seem that even when laws of equality are instituted, they're only enforceable because the numbers of the have-nots form a group power capable of pushing back against the fewer individual powers?

I don't know, David. That Loose Fish/Fast Fish chapter is a doozy.


message 42: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Susan wrote: "Adelle wrote: "Occured to me that Ahab might be viewed as a Fast Fish. Moby Dick has hooked him"

Truth. And Pip is a Loose Fish once he jumps out of the boat."


Poor Pip. So alone in all that immensity and all that time not knowing whether some boat will come to save him.


message 43: by David (last edited Sep 07, 2018 03:11PM) (new)

David | 2778 comments Adelle wrote: "Were a squid to write Moby Dick, we know who the "bad guy" would be."

This raises a question that I have been sitting on since Moby-Dick seemed to be a force for justice by surgically striking and killing the sailor who maliciously instigated the riot in the town-ho story.

Who is the "bad guy"in Moby-Dick? Who or what is the antagonist, and who or what is the protagonist; who wears the black hat and who wears the white hat? Are the whiteness of the whale and Ahab's black hat indicators or reverse indicators? Can we fairly assign these roles to anyone or anything in this story?


message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments David wrote: "Adelle wrote: "Were a squid to write Moby Dick, we know who the "bad guy" would be."

This raises a question that I have been sitting on since Moby-Dick seemed to be a force for justice by surgical..."


Here’s a quibble. Moby Dick’s destruction also includes the mate from the Jeroboam, the arm of the captain of the Samuel Enderby, and Ahab’s leg (as well as a few whaleboats along the way), and those folks don’t seem to have done anything to warrant it except hunting whales. (Unless Gabriel from the Jeroboam is right that MD shouldn’t be hunted because he is the Shaker God.)


message 45: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1776 comments Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Moby Dick acting in self-defense?


message 46: by David (last edited Sep 08, 2018 08:26PM) (new)

David | 2778 comments I second the self-defense apology for Moby-Dick. The whale does not seem to be knowingly malicious, as Ahab claims, in simply fighting for his life. As Starbuck tried to argue:
"Vengeance on a dumb brute!" cried Starbuck, "that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
Of course Ahab counters this with:
I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate. . .
Moby-Dick, by his reputation that we have heard thus far is a force of nature to be reckoned with. However he does not seem to be a fish, like Jaws for example, that seems to have developed an unprovoked serial-killer-like penchant for attacking humans.

Some years ago, never mind how many, I came as close to Ahab's side of the argument I ever have from my experiences with a "Moby-Dog" on my first job delivering newspapers to homes. I love dogs, but there was one on my route that did not love me back. I just did my job, never provoking it and I tried to avoid even being seen by him as much as possible. The inevitable day when he broke loose, he ripped my bag of newspapers to shreds and was about to do the same to me when the owners came home and pulled him off. I got along with all the other dogs on my route, but this one had directed his canine strength against me and his meanness made him seem all the more ferocious. I feared that dog and hated him because I did not understand, why he would want to bite me. Fear is a very close thing to hate but being more Starbuck than Ahab I had some sense that it was ultimately not the dog's fault but it was my responsibility to protect myself against the nature of this particular beast. I was given permission to carry pepper-spray, which thankfully I never had to use. Of course I never "sought vengeance" on the dog, but if another encounter had ever forced me to use the spray, I have to admit that whatever I would have been feeling at the time would be mixed with a little anger, not only towards the dog but his owners as well.


message 47: by Susan (new)

Susan | 528 comments What seems to make Moby Dick unusual is that he does actively defend himself (and sometimes defends other whales). Apparently most sperm whales didn’t — instead, they dove or tried to just swim away.

Ishmael presents some actions by Moby Dick that can be interpreted as supernatural — the death of the cruel mate of the Town Ho, the death of the mate of the Jeroboam after Gabriel ordered them to leave Moby Dick alone, and the episode with the letter addressed to the Jeroboam’s mate come to mind.

As the Quakers say, Starbuck speaks my mind. But it’s obviously become all too personal for Ahab.


message 48: by David (new)

David | 2778 comments Susan wrote: "Apparently most sperm whales didn’t — instead, they dove or tried to just swim away.

Ishmael presents some actions by Moby Dick that can be interpreted as supernatural "


Maybe that is why Ishmael supplies us with so much extra information in anticipation of us doubting his story and why we have chapters like 45. The Affidavit. He seems to think his tale is so extraordinary that he needs to provide precedent to convince us of the truth of what has and will happen on this voyage of The Pequod


message 49: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Adelle wrote: "Were a squid to write Moby Dick, we know who the "bad guy" would be."

This raises a question that I have been sitting on since Moby-Dick seemed to be a force for justice by surgical..."


It's all swirly grays, David. All "On the one hand.... on the other hand."

I feel for the whales---most especially as Melville has shown them as creatures that suffer and as creatures that try to safeguard their families....and as noble creatures. (I know that the prairie dogs down the road are exterminated and driven out every time the neighborhood is expanded... and they're mammals… but they have to go, right?)

I don't hold any special animus towards the whalers---they're out there in the 1800s trying to eke out a living during a time when doing so was a challenge. Whaling hardly seems an easy or glamorous life, so I figure they well and truly need the money and there must not be many other opportunities... I mean, to work for 3 years for basically nothing but the food you'll eat! And... they're doing it, too, for the widows and orphans and families they leave behind.


Ahab, I would suppose, is one of those tragic figures. Probably a great man. Certainly an able captain in years past. But … something happened to him. Something linked in his mind with Moby Dick. I fault him...because of his Fault... It's not his pursuit of whales that damns him in my eyes... it's that he has put aside his responsibilities---procuring oil that all depend on and which all contracted for--- for an irrational personal vendetta against a dumb animal (as Starbuck pointed out) and is risking the lives and fortunes of all onboard.


Maybe in psychological terms??? Ahab has a broken Ego?? Ahab has put his own needs and wants above that of every man aboard
the Pequod and above his contract with the company and above the shareholders. He didn't inform any of them before the voyage that his plan was to pursue Moby Dick. Sigh...and maybe...maybe the owners had some sense that something wasn't quite right with him.... but they sent him out anyway. From greed on behalf of the company? Or from sympathy with Ahab after all he went through and from the knowledge that Ahab probably didn't have another way of supporting his family?

Ahab is giving orders because he stands in the captain's position; but he's NOT acting as a captain. He's not even acting in his own rational self-interest. There's something seriously wrong with him.


message 50: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 339 comments I reread the chapter 89. Now I could see that Melville was not condoning the imperialism, but he was not criticising it too. He was merely exposing the facts. In a certain way.


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