Thursday, January 15, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 116-125

Chapter 116: The Dying Whale
Ahab to the whale he killed:

In vain, oh whale, dost thou seek intercedings with yon all-quickening sun, that only calls forth life, but gives it not again. Yet dost thou, darker half, rock me with a prouder, if a darker faith. All thy unnamable imminglings, float beneath me here; I am buoyed by breaths of once living things, exhaled as air, but water now.

"Then hail, for ever hail, O sea, in whose eternal tossings the wild fowl finds his only rest. Born of earth, yet suckled by the sea; though hill and valley mothered me, ye billows are my foster-brothers!"
The more we see of Ahab, the wilder he gets. Not sure what he means a lot of the time.

Chapter 117: The Whale Watch

Started from his slumbers, Ahab, face to face, saw the Parsee; and hooped round by the gloom of the night they seemed the last men in a flooded world. "I have dreamed it again," said he.

"Of the hearses? Have I not said, old man, that neither hearse nor coffin can be thine?"

The more we see of him, the more I think Fedallah the Parsee takes that role Stubb says he does...that of the devil.
I have here two pledges that I shall yet slay Moby Dick and survive it."

"Take another pledge, old man, said the Parsee, as his eyes lighted up like fire-flies in the gloom,--Hemp only can kill thee."

"The gallows, ye mean.--I am immortal then, on land and on sea," cried Ahab, with a laugh of derision;--"Immortal on land and on sea!"

Chapter 118: The Quadrant
Then falling into a moment's revery, he again looked up towards the sun and murmured to himself: "Thou sea-mark! thou high and mighty Pilot! thou tellest me truly where I am--but canst thou cast the least hint where I shall be? Or canst thou tell where some other thing besides me is this moment living? Where is Moby Dick?
Because neither the sun nor the quadrant could tell him the future or where Moby Dick was, Ahab threw down and destroyed the quadrant. Meanwhile, his devil-man (and I hate that the Parsee/Asian man is depicted as the devil)...
...a sneering triumph that seemed meant for Ahab, and a fatalistic despair that seemed meant for himself--these passed over the mute, motionless Parsee's face. Unobserved he rose and glided away...
Hmmm. What is Fedallah really there for, I wonder? While the devilishness of Ahab's purpose disturbs Stubb, the game of it fits right in with his world view:
Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, 'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.' And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!
Chapter 119: The Candles

Typhoon coming. Stubb sings, Starbuck says, "Avast..." Stubb replies:
"But I am not a brave man; never said I was a brave man; I am a coward; and I sing to keep up my spirits. And I tell you what it is, Mr. Starbuck, there's no way to stop my singing in this world but to cut my throat. And when that's done, ten to one I sing ye the doxology for a wind-up."
Starbuck speaks not only of the weather:
"The gale that now hammers at us to stave us, we can turn it into a fair wind that will drive us towards home. Yonder, to windward, all is blackness of doom; but to leeward, homeward--I see it lightens up there; but not with the lightning."
That seems to echo the departure of the happy ship Bachelor.
"Aye, aye, men!" cried Ahab. "Look up at it; mark it well; the white flame but lights the way to the White Whale! Hand me those main-mast links there; I would fain feel this pulse, and let mine beat against it; blood against fire! So."
Could Ahab's soliloquy be the antithesis to the preacher's sermon on Jonah?
Ahab's harpoon, the one forged at Perth's fire, remained firmly lashed in its conspicuous crotch...and from the keen steel barb there now came a levelled flame of pale, forked fire. As the silent harpoon burned there like a serpent's tongue, Starbuck grasped Ahab by the arm--"God, God is against thee, old man; forbear! t'is an ill voyage! ill begun, ill continued...
Chapter 120: The Deck Toward the End of the First Watch

Scratch Chapter 30 being the shortest chapter.
Ahab to Starbuck:
"Strike nothing, and stir nothing, but lash everything....Loftiest trucks were made for wildest winds, and this brain-truck of mine now sails amid the cloud-scud. Shall I strike that? Oh, none but cowards send down their brain-trucks in tempest time.
Chapter 121: Midnight-The Forecastle Bulwarks
Stubb to Flask:
I wonder, Flask, whether the world is anchored anywhere; if she is, she swings with an uncommon long cable, though. ...Halloa! whew! there goes my tarpaulin overboard; Lord, Lord, that the winds that come from heaven should be so unmannerly! This is a nasty night, lad.
Chapter 122: Midnight Aloft--Thunder and Lightning

OK, this is the shortest chapter ever. My commentary will be longer than the chapter, no doubt. Tashtego is up in the Main-top-sail yard, doesn't want thunder, wants rum. What is um, um, um? Are those grunts of effort?

Chapter 123: The Musket

Starbuck contemplates mutiny...points the musket outside Ahab's door.
But shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship's company down to doom with him?--Yes, it would make him the wilful murderer of thirty men and more, if this ship come to any deadly harm; and come to deadly harm, my soul swears this ship will, if Ahab have his way.
The yet levelled musket shook like a drunkard's arm against the panel; Starbuck seemed wrestling with an angel; but turning from the door, he placed the death-tube in its rack, and left the place.
Chapter 124: The Needle

The lightning switched the needle of the compass. The steersman steered blithely unaware until Ahab fashioned a new compass with a sail needle and turned them around. No quadrant, turned around and about by the storm, sailing the wrong way. Where are they now?
"Look ye, for yourselves, if Ahab be not the lord of the level loadstone! The sun is East, and that compass swears it!"

One after another they peered in, for nothing but their own eyes could persuade such ignorance as theirs, and one after another they slunk away.

In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride.

Chapter 125: The Log and Line

Now the log and line are ruined too. Ahab is undeterred.
"I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad sea parts the log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian; reel up, Manxman. And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and mend thou the line. See to it."
For some reason Ahab and Pip bond, and refer to themselves in the third person.
Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings. Come, let's down."

"What's this? here's velvet shark-skin," intently gazing at Ahab's hand, and feeling it. "Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been lost! ...Oh, Sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the white, for I will not let this go."
Manxman explains: "One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness."

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