Monday, January 05, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 71-75

Chapter 71: The Jeroboam's Story
The story of Jeroboam: I Kings 11-14

...the stranger in question waved his hand from his boat's stern in token of that proceeding being entirely unnecessary. It turned out that the Jeroboam had a malignant epidemic on board, and that Mayhew, her captain, was fearful of infecting the Pequod's company.
I'm not sure I believe they have an epidemic. More like a case of the crazy man.
A deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes.

So soon as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had exclaimed--"That's he! that's he! the long-togged scaramouch the Town-Ho's company told us of!"
it seemed that the scaramouch in question had gained a wonderful ascendency over almost everybody in the Jeroboam.
The man Gabriel got on board "with that cunning peculiar to craziness." Or maybe, I don't know, we're all a little crazy and crazy can be normal? Gabriel sounds a bit like a charlatan or swindler, shying away from the whale's head, lucky with the timing of waves and a whale's tail, and spouting general doom predictions.

Chapter 72: The Monkey-rope

Why is it the harpooneer's job to ride the spinning whale? Why does he get all the dangerous spots? At least he gets paid decently for it.
Queequeg figured in the Highland costume--a shirt and socks--in which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance to observe him...
Oh wait I almost missed that. Sneaky, Herman. Highland meant kilt, so my mind put Q in a kilt. But Melville makes no mention of a kilt....which means he was half-naked, and Ishmael was referring to his endowment, I would assume. (I haven't had the time yet to read the teh gheeeeyyy blog.) Ishmael's fate is now tied to Queequeg's:
Just so, from the ship's steep side, did I hold Queequeg down there in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas belted round his waist.
There are plenty of sharks in the sea, so while Queequeg rides the whale like a birler, the other harpooneers kill the sharks, putting his legs and other bits in further peril. Ishmael muses "poor Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed to his Yojo, and gave up his life into the hands of his gods."

Mr. Dough-Boy gives Queequeg a ginger tea to recover, and Stubb lights into him. The cook defends himself:
"It was not me," cried Dough-Boy, "it was Aunt Charity that brought the ginger on board; and bade me never give the harpooneer any spirits, but only this ginger-jub--so she called it."
Queequeg gets his alcohol, so at least he gets other rewards for his dangerous work.

Chapter 73: Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have Over Him

Stubb and Flask are dispatched to kill a right whale. During the battle it heads right toward and under the ship, but the two manage to get their lines under or around it.
...they hauled more and more upon their lines, till close flanking him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for lance; and thus round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the multitudes of sharks that had before swum round the Sperm Whale's body, rushed to the fresh blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking at every new gash...
Stubb thinks Fedallah is the devil, and Ahab made a deal. And the Shaker charlatan is crazy? Or is Stubb joking?
"I wonder what the old man wants with this lump of foul lard," said Stubb, not without some disgust at the thought of having to do with so ignoble a Leviathan.

"Wants with it?" said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat's bow, "did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm Whale's head hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a Right Whale's on the larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that ship can never afterwards capsize?"

"Why not?"

"I don't know, but I heard that gamboge ghost of a Fedallah saying so, and he seems to know all about ships' charms. But I sometimes think he'll charm the ship to no good at last. I don't half like that chap, Stubb.
Well clearly having two heads helps out with the balance of the ship.
So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat.
I wonder if there has been any competition of philosophies so neatly and graphically summed up.
Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale's head, and ever and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while, if the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and lengthen Ahab's.
And the crew muttered among themselves about magic and daemons and stuff.

Chapter 74: The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View and
Chapter 75: The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View

Of the grand order of folio Leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale are by far the most noteworthy...the external difference between them is mainly observable in their heads

mathematical symmetry X (like Roman war chariot)
(like galliot-toed shoe)
character X
hanging lower lip, sulky and pouty
pervading dignity X platonic
eye both can apparently see from two
perspectives at once
ear (very minute) has external opening
covered with membrane
mouth lined with glistening white membrane, teeth
no teeth; 'venetian blinds' used for the ladies' "stiffening contrivances"
spiracles 1

Ishmael muses:
It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when beset by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer frights, so common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly proceeds from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve them.

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare's?

Retrieving the teeth of the sperm:
With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag stumps of old oaks out of wild wood-lands.

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