Monday, January 19, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 133 - Epilogue

Chapter 133: The Chase--First Day


[Ahab] suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing up the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will, in drawing nigh to some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near.

...A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"
It's not just a white hump. It's a "sparkling hump."
To the credulous mariners it seemed the same silent spout they had so long ago beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
I knew it. We all knew it, didn't we?
...not Jove, not that great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified White Whale as he so divinely swam.
The bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the White Whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse.
...then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its gripe.
The birds flew round, the boat wheeled round...
But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly round and round the wrecked crew; sideways churning the water in his vengeful wake, as if lashing himself up to still another and more deadly assault.
Then advancing towards the doubloon in the main-mast-- "Men, this gold is mine, for I earned it; but I shall let it abide here till the White Whale is dead; and then, whosoever of ye first raises him, upon the day he shall be killed, this gold is that man's; and if on that day I shall again raise him, then, ten times its sum shall be divided among all of ye! Away now!--the deck is thine, Sir."
The terms have changed. Is it now like a blessing, one that Ahab received and can now bestow on others? Can he bestow fortunes?

Chapter 134: The Chase--Second Day
The hand of Fate had snatched all their souls; and by the stirring perils of the previous day; the rack of the past night's suspense; the fixed, unfearing, blind, reckless way in which their wild craft went plunging towards its flying mark; by all these things, their hearts were bowled along. The wind that made great bellies of their sails, and rushed the vessel on by arms invisible as irresistible; this seemed the symbol of that unseen agency which so enslaved them to the race.

They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all contrasting things--oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp.... even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man's valor, that man's fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and keel did point to.
It all comes down to this one thing. The book, the voyage, the all focuses in on this one purpose. Like the sea being one organism, now the ship is one organism.
Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more.
The chase is on again. Ahab takes to his boat. His boat? His was destroyed. Are these like Star Trek runabouts? Where do all these spares come from?
But at last in his untraceable evolutions, the White Whale so crossed and recrossed, and in a thousand ways entangled the slack of the three lines now fast to him, that they foreshortened, and, of themselves, warped the devoted boats towards the planted irons in him...
Like dogs that have run around their chains' stakes til they have no length left.
...the White Whale made a sudden rush among the remaining tangles of the other lines; by so doing, irresistibly dragged the more involved boats of Stubb and Flask towards his flukes; dashed them together...
What a world wide wrestling move.

But quickly they returned to him with the tidings that the Parsee was nowhere to be found.

"Aye, Sir," said Stubb--"caught among the tangles of your line--I thought I saw him dragging under.

...Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders.

Chapter 135: The Chase--Third Day
Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that's tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity. God only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that.
So Ahab says. It seems he did an awful lot of thinking to support that emotion, to get that emotion to that level of rigidness, and to fulfill that emotion.
Were I the wind, I'd blow no more on such a wicked, miserable world. I'd crawl somewhere to a cave, and slink there. And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it. ...these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or something like them--something so unchangeable, and full as strong, blow my keeled soul along!
Tilting at it? Like Don Quixote?

Ahab talks to the mast-head. Goodbye, mast-head. Pip warns of the sharks from his cave in the ship. Starbuck talks to the mast-head. Witness, mast-head. Sharks whittle down the oars of Ahab's boat.
Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it--it may be--a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws amid fiery showers of foam.
Doom for all. Why, as the ship goes down, does Tashtego continue to hammer the flag in place on the mainmast?
...and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it. Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.
Hmmm. The End.

but wait...


I was thinking about death. We all die. How will we live til our death? This is what it is all about. Always a little thought of Job slips in there for me. How did he live through all that death, to marry again? So too Ishmael thinks of Job, not Jonah...
"And I only am escaped alone to tell thee. " Job

1 comment:

MegDC said...

Congrats! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book. Best wishes.