Saturday, January 17, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 128-132

Chapter 128: The Pequod Meets the Rachel

The usual question...not the usual answer.
"Where was he?--not killed!--not killed!" cried Ahab, closely advancing.
"How was it?"

Ahab does not want to be deprived of his revenge. This now is his sole reason for being. The Rachel has lost a boat to the White Whale. Included on that boat, the Captain's son. That captain hopes the Pequod will help them search.
"Avast," cried Ahab--"touch not a rope-yarn"; then in a voice that prolongingly moulded every word--"Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time. Good bye, good bye. God bless ye, man, and may I forgive myself, but I must go.
He has become inhuman.

Chapter 129: The Cabin
"They tell me, Sir, that Stubb did once desert poor little Pip, whose drowned bones now show white, for all the blackness of his living skin. But I will never desert ye, Sir, as Stubb did him. Sir, I must go with ye."
But Ahab will not have his Pip near, sends him to his cabin.

Chapter 130: The Hat
...all humor, forced or natural, vanished. Stubb no more strove to raise a smile; Starbuck no more strove to check one. Alike, joy and sorrow, hope and fear, seemed ground to finest dust, and powdered, for the time, in the clamped mortar of Ahab's iron soul. Like machines, they dumbly moved about the deck, ever conscious that the old man's despot eye was on them.
::shiver:: I can just feel the thickness of the air, the heaviness of their purpose.
...even as Ahab's eyes so awed the crew's, the inscrutable Parsee's glance awed his...
Ahab no longer enters his cabin. ...and Pip always stays in? Are they two halves of a coin? The masculine and the feminine?
"I will have the first sight of the whale myself,"--he said. "Aye! Ahab must have the doubloon!"
Ahab has merged with the destiny of the coin? He rigs a basket so he can see far among the masts. Starbuck holds the rope that keeps him safe.
So Ahab's proceedings in this matter were not unusual; the only strange thing about them seemed to be, that Starbuck, almost the one only man who had ever ventured to oppose him with anything in the slightest degree approaching to decision...was the very man he should select for his watchman; freely giving his whole life into such an otherwise distrusted person's hands.
Not strange to me at all, Ishmael. Starbuck he could trust to do the moral thing. Ahab knows in spite of his obsession that Starbuck has the most upright moral character of any on his ship. of those red-billed savage sea-hawks which so often fly incommodiously close round the manned mast-heads of whalemen in these latitudes...came wheeling and screaming round his head in a maze of untrackably swift circlings. Then it darted a thousand feet straight up into the air; then spiralized downwards, and went eddying again round his head.

"Your hat, your hat, Sir!" suddenly cried the Sicilian seamanBut already the sable wing was before the old man's eyes; the long hooked bill at his head: with a scream, the black hawk darted away with his prize.
Removal of hat = good omen for Tarquin, 5th King of Rome.
Removal of hat = bad omen for Ahab.
Why? Tarquin's hat was replaced by the same bird. Ahab's hat...gone for good.

Chapter 131: The Pequod Meets the Delight

White whale seen? Yes. Killed? Whale, no. Five men, yes. The Pequod flees the sea burial.
As Ahab now glided from the dejected Delight, the strange life-buoy hanging at the Pequod's stern came into conspicuous relief.

"Ha! yonder! look yonder, men!" cried a foreboding voice in her wake. "In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us your taffrail to show us your coffin!"

Chapter 132: The Symphony
The firmaments of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the robust and man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson's chest in his sleep.

Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small, unspeckled birds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air...
Wouldn't the sun ordinally represent the masculine, and the sea the feminine? Heat, father sky, mother earth, water feminine? This is all upside down.
...but to and fro in the deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong, troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea.
I really really like that idea of the animals in the sea being the thoughts of the sea.
That glad, happy air, that winsome sky, did at last stroke and caress him; the step-mother world, so long cruel--forbidding--now threw affectionate arms round his stubborn neck... From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.
This could be the baptismal drop that cleanses his soul, if he allowed it. Ahab to Starbuck:
When I think of this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the masoned, walled-town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance to any sympathy from the green country without--oh, weariness! heaviness! ...what a forty years' fool--fool--old fool, has old Ahab been! ...Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God.
Starbuck attempts to persuade him to turn back. "Oh my Captain! my Captain!" It almost seems Ahab will be persuaded, but...
But Ahab's glance was averted; like a blighted fruit tree he shook, and cast his last, cindered apple to the soil.

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