Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Warning for Ahab

Chapter 71 – Jeroboam’s Story
Captain Mayhew of the Jeroboam, another whaling ship, approaches the Pequod in a smaller boat to speak with Captain Ahab and tells him about their experience with Moby-Dick: when they did encounter the White Whale, they pursued him against the warnings of one crewmember, who thinks himself to be the archangel Gabriel; as one crew member stood to throw his harpoon, the whale flipped him out of the boat; and the mate drowned.  Now all aboard the Jeroboam are Gabriel’s followers because he prophesized about the danger of targeting Moby-Dick.  And Gabriel, being one of the oarsmen of the smaller craft, interrupts the captains’ conversation with more warnings about Moby-Dick.  I don’t think Ahab is listening to this One.

Chapter 72 – The Monkey-Rope
Return to the captured Sperm Whale: Queequeg has the enormously treacherous job of climbing upon the whale’s back to insert the hook into the blubber, while Ishmael must secure himself to Queequeg with a rope around his own waist; and Tash and Daggoo keep the sharks away with spades.  Talk about living on the edge.

Chapter 73 – Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him
Stubb’s and Flask’s harpoon boats pursue and kill a Right Whale, but the men know the kill may not mean much to Ahab because Right Whales are not as valuable as Sperm Whales.  Flask tells Stubb that he overheard Fedallah say that a ship with a Right Whale head on the larboard side and a Sperm Whale head on the starboard side, protects the ship from capsize; but Ishmael later remarks that the ship would be lighter and float right if both heads were thrown overboard.

Chapter 74 – 75 – The Sperm Whale’s Head – Contrasted View; The Right Whale’s Head – Contrasted View
More cetology, which I skipped in the chapter aptly named; but this time I read through it: Sperm and Right Whales are the only two whales hunted by man; the largest difference is in their heads: the Sperm Whale head has character and symmetry – a Roman war-chariot.  The Right Whale resembles a “gigantic galliot-toed shoe.”  What is that?  The Right Whale is a Stoic; the Sperm Whale is Platonian.

Chapter 76 – The Battering Ram
One may believe that the front of the Sperm Whale’s head is “a dead, blind wall, without a single organ…” but it is contains “the most delicate oil.”

Chapter 77 – The Great Heidlburgh Tun
The Sperm Whale’s head has two parts: the junk – a honeycomb of oil; and the case, the “Great Heidleburge Tun (a German vintage wine ship) – contains the most precious of oil - the spermaceti. 

Chapter 78 – Cistern and Buckets
Tashtego cuts into the Tun to begin the system of retrieving the spermaceti guiding buckets into the whale head hanging from the side of the ship.  Suddenly, Tashtego falls into the head, and Daggoo attempts to pull him up, but one of the two hooks gives way causing the head to fall into the ocean; but Queequeg jumps in to “deliver” Tashtego just in time.  

Chapter 79 – The Prairie
Ishmael analyses the facial features, such as the brow of the Sperm Whale, to apply human characteristics to the whale, which Ishmael believes contains “god-like dignity.”  Then he says that “physiognomy, like every-other human science, is but a passing fable,” so how can we even consider such ideas?

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