Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Moby Dick: Chapters 42-47

Have I mentioned how much I like my pop-up book? It makes me want to get more of Sam Ita's Pop-ups, or other pop-ups adults might like, such as Lighthouses: A POP-UP Gallery of America's Most Beloved Beacons.

If you missed it in the comments, Meg pointed out another reader-blogger that had a good hypothesis regarding Amsterdam butter. hoo, yeah. Their blog is Reading Moby-Dick Is Not Teh Ghey. So then I had to look up Teh. It's not just a typo anymore. (I can just hear Margaret Cho saying that. Moby Dick is not tehhhh gheeeeeeeyyyyyy.) The sailor is Dutch, copper pump, kiss, throat not too sore? How did I miss that? (Duh, I don't have a brain for riddles.) I'm going to have to read that blog, but first:

Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale

Ishmael is fascinated with and scared of white, long expatiation ensues. Imperial garments*, the bear, the shark, the albatross, the Albino. And oh, yes. Death.

And from that pallor of the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud in which we wrap them. ...

Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or gracious thing he will by whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest idealized significance it calls up a peculiar apparition to the soul.
Still more elaboration on the white found in the myths, then...
But thou sayest, methinks this white-lead chapter about whiteness is but a white flag hung out from a craven soul; thou surrenderest to a hypo, Ishmael.
...Though neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the mystic sign gives forth such hints; yet with me, as with the colt, somewhere those things must exist. Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright.
I wonder who he is trying to convince. I suppose the reader who wonders where the drama is in following a white whale.
And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues...are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances,...and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself...pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper.... And of all these things the Albino Whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?
So, is he saying the world is really without substance, which is symbolized by white? And that is scary. Ahab wants to create his world they way he would have it, not the way the white would have it.

*He missed asking why regarding the imperial garments...it's because it shows wealth. No matter how dirty your country, if your white is spotless, it shows you don't have to do menial labor and someone keeps your clothes clean. I learned that from Three Cups of Tea.

Chapter 43: Hark!
Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck; and I suspect our old Mogul knows something of it too.
Oh yeah. Hint of this mystery has turned up before.

Chapter 44: The Chart

Ahab chases the movement of the whale's prey, and the whales with his chart.
While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over his head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for ever threw shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.
...the Sperm Whales, guided by some infallible instinct--say, rather, secret intelligence from the Deity--mostly swim in veins, as they are called; continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such undeviating exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart, with one tithe of such marvellous precision.
Do the whales have more control of their destiny than man?
...when, as was sometimes the case, these spiritual throes in him heaved his being up from its base, and a chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down among them; when this hell in himself yawned beneath him, a wild cry would be heard through the ship; and with glaring eyes Ahab would burst from his state room, as though escaping from a bed that was on fire.
Is he in hell, or is he a messiah?:
He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.

God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.
Chapter 45: The Affidavit

You don't believe me? Well, here are some affidavits, trustworthy accounts from me and from others unconnected to me.
...most landsmen...might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.
In the course of this affidavit, we learn many die.
For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it.
Chapter 46: Surmises

Ahab is shrewd in his madness...if he doesn't pursue the commercial interest of his ship, he could have justifiable mutiny.
The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew...they must also have food for their more common, daily appetites.
Wait, this is still in Ishmael's voice, right? How did he gain omniscience? Is this on purpose, or just sloppy? Could a writer ever be allowed to do that today?
Having impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps somewhat prematurely revealed the prime but private purpose of the Pequod's voyage, Ahab was now entirely conscious that, in so doing, he had indirectly laid himself open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation...
Yep, justifiable mutiny...

Chapter 47: The Mat-Maker

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg...
So does anybody else view the hierarchy this way, or just Ishmael?

I love his revery on his working on the Loom of Time.
...it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance--aye, chance, free will, and necessity--no wise incompatible--all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course--its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.
A whale is sighted! They all rush to do their thing. then...
But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.

The mystery of the after-hold?

No comments: