Look how it happened again. I started daily blogging about whatever Moby-Dick chapter I’d read the night before and only got eighteen days in, to chapter sixteen. Now I’m going to move the whole thing over to this page if I can and start ‘er up again.
Do I have to go back to the beginning, do you think?
Are you quailing at the very thought?
Okay, I’m going to see what happens.
What happens is I can’t figure out how to put a blog on this page, so I’m going to cut and paste as a clumsy reparative.
Moby-Dick, Day 138
Ishmael was the third man tossed from the whaleboat & the only one left behind by it, the only one not sucked down in the whirlpool created by the sinking Pequod, up from which bobbed the coffin-turned-life-buoy. He floats on it for two days & is rescued by the Rachel.
Moby-Dick, Day 137
Chapter CXXXV The Chase—Third Day
Ahab seems to know today’s his last. Starbuck begs him to reconsider going after Moby Dick. Nope. He goes. Sharks nip at their oars. Moby Dick surfaces, bound all around with dangling ropes. Tied against him in these is Fedallah. The prophecy thus comes true. Moby-Dick damages two boats again. They limp back to the ship. Starbuck says it’s not too late to desist, but Ahab keeps on. He hurls the harpoon & curses the whale. Moby-Dick tips the boat enough to toss out three sailors. Two regain the boat, one swims behind. The line snaps. Moby-Dick turns upon the Pequod itself. Ahab chases in the whaleboat, but the weakened bow planks split & water swamps the boat. Tashtego’s nailed a red flag to the mainmast. Moby-Dick smites the starboard bow, staving in its timbers. The ship begins to go down. Ahab throws another harpoon, but the rope gets caught. Ahab’s trying to clear it when it encircles his neck and yanks him out of the boat, and that’s that. Ahab’s done. Tashtego’s still hammering in the flag as the ship goes right under. A sea hawk, attracted to the flag, gets hammered on to the mast, too. Hawk goes down with ship.
Moby-Dick, Day 136
Chapter CXXXIV The Chase—Second Day
Next morning Moby Dick spouts & breaches. They lower the boats, included a newly rigged spare, and make for the whale but he turns on them. They keep going, spear him. He spins in circles, tangles the ropes, smashes two of the boats together so they split, dives down, comes up under Ahab’s boat, tips it, dives down & away from them. Not until they’re back on board the Pequod do they realize they have lost Fedallah.
Moby-Dick, Day 135
Chapter CXXXIII The Chase—First Day
Finally, on page 781, Ahab spots Moby Dick. Starbuck stays aboard while they lower the boats and go after him. It’s all looking good for a while. Moby Dick’s steaming along. They’re keeping pace. Then he dives & they expect him to be under for an hour, but he comes back up and bites Ahab’s boat in two. The Pequod drives him off and retrieves the two halves of the bitten whaleboat, another boat picks up the crew. He dives again. They regain the Pequod and continue the chase through the night.
Moby-Dick, Day 134
Chapter CXXXII The Symphony
A beautiful day. Ahab has a moment of asking himself why he’s spent 40 years whaling, eating dried fish & stale bread, his wife a widow at home. Exactly, cries Starbuck! Let’s go home! But Ahab reverts. He knows not who or what drives him on, only that he is driven.
Moby-Dick, Day 133
Chapter CXXXI The Pequod Meets the Delight
Pequod meets ragged ship called Delight with whaleboat in tatters and dead sailor being sewn up in his hammock to go overboard. Did you meet Moby-Dick? asks Ahab. Did you kill him? Other captain there isn’t a harpoon forged that can kill him. Ahab says wrong-o, buddy. This one was forged in blood and lightning. It’ll do the trick. Ahab gives the command to sail on.
Moby-Dick, Day 132
Chapter CXXX The Hat
Now that they’re close to Moby-Dick, Ahab’s gaze is so intense, it’s hard to look at him. As Ahab’s eye is on the crew, so is Fedallah’s on Ahab. Fedallah does not sleep, has not slept. Ahab stays on deck, day and night. They’re both on deck, day and night, though they do not speak to one another. Ahab has a basket of rope made & is lifted to the mast-head to keep his own watch for Moby-Dick. Starbuck has charge of the rope that belays Ahab. As Ahab looks out over the sea, a “red-billed savage sea hawk” flies around Ahab’s head, then high into the air, then back down and steals Ahab’s hat.
Moby-Dick, Day 131
Chapter CXXIX The Cabin
Pip goes to follow Ahab from the cabin, but Ahab says no, stay here. Having your madness near me makes me turn away from my monomania and I don’t want to.
Moby-Dick, Day 130
Chapter CXXVIII The Pequod Meets the Rachel
A ship sails in view with men lining the yard arms. They’re searching for a lost whale boat. They’d been chasing a pod of whales when Moby-Dick breached. They sent a boat after him. He towed it out of sight. After recovering all their other boats and crew, they’ve searched all night for their last boat. The captain’s son was aboard it. He implores Ahab to help them search the seas. No, says Ahab.
Moby-Dick, Day 129
Chapter CXXVII The Deck
Ahab berates the carpenter for making a life-buoy out of a coffin: “Art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolizing, heathenish old scamp?”
Moby-Dick, Day 128
Chapter CXXVI The Life Buoy
The Pequod approaches the equator, lonely seas, with no sign of other ships. One night just before dawn they hear a wild cry some think is mermaids & others think the cries of newly drowned men. That morning, a sailor fresh from his hammock falls off the masthead and into the sea. They throw the life buoy for him, but he doesn’t catch it, he’s already sunk, and the life buoy sinks, too. Ahab says the cry was seals. They don’t have the right wood to make another life buoy, so the carpenter is instructed to make one out of Queequeg’s coffin.
Moby-Dick, Day 127
Chapter CXXV The Log and Line
Ahab instructs the Manxman and Tahitian to throw the log line. Manx says it’s rotted. Ahab says do it anyway. He does. It breaks. Pip pipes up. Manxman shoos Pip away. Ahab protects him, says, “Share my cabin.”
Moby-Dick, Day 126
Chapter CXXIV The Needle
Early morning, high seas. Sun’s astern. What? Sun astern? Compass says we’re heading east, but we’re going west (the direction Starbuck would like to go). Oh. Compass needles reversed polarity in the storm. Ahab makes new needle.
Moby-Dick, Day 125
Chapter CXXIII The Musket
The wind dies down a bit and Stubb & Starbuck cut loose the shredded sails and set new ones that let the helmsman steer again and not watch the compass spin crazily around. Even better, the wind shifts, a fair wind for their course. Starbuck goes below to tell Ahab the good news, but stops outside Ahab’s cabin where there’s a rack of muskets. He considers killing Ahab with the notion that thus would he prevent Ahab killing them as he pursues Moby-Dick, heedless of all else. Then he puts the musket down. Lets Stubb tell Ahab the wind’s changed.
Moby-Dick, Day 124
Chapter CXXII Midnight Aloft — Thunder and Lightning
Midnight. Tashtego lashes the main-top-s’l yard, tells thunder, We don’t want you, we want rum. Give us a glass of rum.
Moby-Dick, Day 123
Chapter CXXI Midnight — The Forecastle Bulwarks
Stubb harangues Flask as they lash down the anchors in the driving rain of the typhoon. Be sensible, he says. It’s not hard. You find it hard, says Flask. Yeah, well, I’m all wet. No one can be sensible when they’re wet.
Moby-Dick, Day 122
Chapter CXX The Deck Towards the End of the First Night Watch
Starbuck tells Ahab they should take down the main-top-s’l yard and fix some of the rigging. Ahab pretty much calls him a coward.
Moby-Dick, Day 121
Chapter CXIX The Candles
A typhoon rips the sails from the masts. A wave staves in the stern of the foremost whale-boat — Ahab’s. Lightning threatens. Starbuck calls to throw out the lightning rod chains. St. Elmo’s fire dances at the ends of the yard arms and the barb of Ahab’s harpoon. Let’s turn around and go home, cries Starbuck. You have vowed to hunt the white whale with me, says Ahab.
Moby-Dick, Day 120
Chapter CXVIII The Quadrant
Ahab takes a reading on the quadrant, then rails at the sun for being able to look at Ahab and Moby-Dick at the same time and not tell Ahab where Moby-Dick is. Then he rails at the quadrant for telling only current latitude and not the future. It’s a small step from there to smashing the quadrant on the deck and stomping it to bits. Dead-reckoning for Ahab from here on.
Moby-Dick, Day 119
Chapter CXVII The Whale Watch
While overnighting in his boat by a dead whale, Ahab awakes from a dream of hearses. Fedallah has prophesied Ahab will see on the sea two hearses ere he dies, that Fedallah will pilot him, presumably to death, and that hemp will kill Ahab, which Ahab interprets to mean the gallows.
Moby-Dick, Day 118
Chapter CXVI The Dying Whale
The crew of the Pequod kills four whales, one killed by Ahab. Ahab watches the dead whale as the sun sets, musing on the fact that the whale, in dying, turns its head towards the sun: “life dies sunwards full of faith.” Then, in one of those prickly, judgmental, and white Christian supremacist statements that dot the novel, he calls on “the dark Hindoo half of nature.”
Moby-Dick, Day 117
Chapter CXV The Pequod Meets the Bachelor
Chock full of whale oil, the Bachelor’s heading home to Nantucket, its crew frolicking on deck. Come, raise a drink with us! the captain calls. Ahab’s all, Bah, humbug.
Moby-Dick, Day 116
Chapter CXIV The Gilder
Near Japan, the Pequod chases a lot of whales, so they’re in the boats a lot & Ishmael waxes rhapsodic about calm & storm & the sea & the ages of man.
Moby-Dick, Day 115
Chapter CXIII The Forge
Ahab give the blacksmith nails from racehorse shoes to forge a harpoon shank with. Then he has him turn a razor into a barb, for he’s not going to shave again until…well, he doesn’t say until Moby-Dick is dead, but that’s the implication. He also advocates madness as a way of life. Oh, and tempers the blade not with water but with blood of the three harpooneers.
Moby-Dick, Day 114
Chapter CXII The Blacksmith
The blacksmith has a portable forge that he fixes to the deck, on which he forges and fixes harpoon points, spades and lances. He walks funny. The rest of the crew badgered him till he told them why — one cold night en route between towns he slept in a barn and lost part of his feet to frostbite. Before that, he lost his wife and family to his drinking.
Moby-Dick, Day 113
Chapter CXI The Pacific
They reach the Pacific, “the mysterious, divine Pacific zones the world’s whole bulk about; makes all coasts one bay to it; seems the tide-beating heart of earth. Ahab’s even more focussed that ever on Moby-Dick, if that’s possible.
Moby-Dick, Day 112
Chapter CX Queequeg in his Coffin
Queequeg catches a fever and draws near death. He asks for a slender canoe for his coffin, in which he lays his harpoon & other belongings. He tests it out, pronounces it worthy, goes back to his hammock. Pip talks crazy talk. Queequeg gets better.
Moby-Dick, Day 111
Chapter CIX Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin
Starbuck comes into the cabin to tell Ahab some of the casks in the hold must be leaking, for they are getting oil from the pumps. They must “put up the Burtons,” whatever they are, and repair the casks. Ahab says no. Get back on deck. Starbuck says what about the owners? They won’t like losing oil. Ahab doesn’t care. Go on deck, says he. Starbuck presses his point. Ahab points a musket at him. Starbuck says, Let Ahab beware of Ahab. Ahab considers, relents, orders Burtons put up.
Moby-Dick, Day 110
Chapter CVIII Ahab and the Carpenter
Monologe & dialogue, carpenter & Ahab. Ahab has a fancy to get smith to build him a sort of golem, a giant man. The carpenter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Ahab feels his missing leg.
Moby-Dick, Day 109
Chapter CVII The Carpenter
The carpenter is a multi-tool and just as smart.
Moby-Dick, Day 108
Chapter CXVI Ahab’s Leg
Ahab damaged his peg leg hopping into his boat from the Samuel Enderby. Back in Nantucket, he’d wiped out and conked his head. He orders a new peg leg.
Moby-Dick, Day 107
Chapter CXV Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish?
Ishmael dismisses earlier claims that whales measured 100m. He also wonders if whales’ numbers will diminish, like the buffalo’s. He thinks not.
Moby-Dick, Day 106
Chapter CXIV The Fossil Whale
Ishmael jokes about how his book expands to the size of its subject. “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme,” says he. Then he talks about whale fossils.
Moby-Dick, Day 105
Chapter CXIII Measurement of the Whale’s Skeleton
The skeleton Ishmael measured was 72 feet long. The biggest ribs were 8 ft. Biggest vertebrae: 3’x4’. Smallest: 2”.
Moby-Dick, Day 104
Chapter CXII A Bower in the Arsacides
Ishmael once dissected a baby whale on deck. Also, in the Solomon Islands, he measured a whale skeleton now overgrown with greenery.
Moby-Dick, Day 103
Chapter CXI The Decanter
Ishmael considers the English whaling industry as represented by the house of Enderby. Also large quantities of comestibles aboard Dutch ships.
Moby-Dick, Day 102
Chapter C Leg and Arm. The Pequod of Nantucket Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London
A ship comes astern them whose captain has a white peg arm like Ahab’s peg leg. Yes, a victim of Moby-Dick, too. But unlike Ahab, the captain of the Samuel Enderby doesn’t want to hunt him anymore.
Moby-Dick, Day 101
Chapter XCIX The Doubloon
Way back when, Ahab promised a gold doubloon to whoever raised the white whale. Now he daily contemplates the doubloon as he stumps between binnacle and mainmast, where it resides. After he contemplates it, everyone else does, too, trying to read it as if it were an astrological chart.
Moby-Dick, Day 100
Chapter XCVIII Stowing Down & Cleaning Up
Oil goes into casks, casks go into holds, the ship’s cleaned up, everything’s tickety-boo & sparkling, three more men in the look-outs to do it again.
Moby-Dick, Day 99
Chapter XCVII The Lamp
Sailors on merchant ships do everything below-decks in the dark. Sailors on whaling ships fill their lamps with whale oil.
Moby-Dick, Day 98
Chapter XCVI The Try-Works
An account of the sort-of kiln blubber is boiled in. Watching it one night from the helm, Ishmael is mesmerized, reversed, averts disaster.
Moby-Dick, Day 97
Chapter XCV The Cassock
Now Ishmael draws our attention to the whale’s penis, “longer than a Kentuckian is tall,” which a sailor called the mincer skins, dries & dons in order to mince up blubber for the pots.
Moby-Dick, Day 96
Chapter XCIV A Squeeze of the Hand
Squeezing lumps of cooling spermaceti, Ishmael feels calm and benevolent: “Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!” He also describes different types of blubber — white horse, plum-pudding, slobgollion, nippers.
Moby-Dick, Day 95
Chapter XCIII The Castaway
Pip takes a place in Stubb’s boat after one of his rowers sprains a wrist. Then when they harpoon a whale, Pip panics & leaps out of the boat with the whale line around his neck & chest so that to save him they must lose the whale. Stubb tells him if he leaps out again, Stubb won’t pick him up. He leaps out again. Stubb doesn’t pick him up. The other boats don’t pick him up. At last he is saved by the remaining crew on the Pequod. After that, Pip’s mental health is not the best.
Moby-Dick, Day 94
Chapter XCII Ambergris
Ambergris smells nice & is used in perfume but it comes from dyspeptic whales. Ishmael disputes the notion all whales are smelly.
Moby-Dick, Day 93
Chapter XCI The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud
The Pequod in calm seas comes upon a French ship with two dead whales moored to its sides, both long-dead and stinking, not freshly caught. Stubb takes his boat over to the Rose-Bud and convinces the captain the whales carry plague and must be cut loose. He takes one of the whales and cuts from it precious ambergris.
Moby-Dick, Day 92
Chapter XC Heads or Tails
Ishmael tells of a duke who, calling on a British law that says the head of any whale caught belongs to the king and the tail to the queen, takes for himself as stand-in for monarch, a whole whale caught by a crew for their own profit.
Moby-Dick, Day 91
Chapter LXXXIX Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
Ishmael elucidates the unwritten laws of whaling: I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it. II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.
Moby-Dick, Day 90
Chapter LXXXVIII Schools and School-Masters
Ishmael observes that some whale pods comprise young males & some females with 1 male, while old males cruise alone.
Moby-Dick, Day 89
Chapter LXXXVII The Armada
As the Pequod passes Java & Sumatra, they spy a giant pod of whales spread over two or three square miles. Woohoo! They gain on them. But then Tashtego sees something in their wake! Malayan pirates! The Pequod outruns the pirates & lowers the whaleboats. Queequeg harpoons a whale that takes them on a merry ride through more whales, whom they dart with harpoons with squares of wood stuck to the rope-ends so as to provide drag and tire the whales out. They end up in a calm kind of centre of the pod of whales where they spy baby whales swimming below them, one even so newborn its umbilical cord is still attached. In the end, only one whale is killed & retained.
Moby-Dick, Day 88
Chapter LXXXVI The Tail
Ishmael considers the whale’s tail, used for propulsion, whacking boats, not to mention “mystic gestures.”
Moby-Dick, Day 87
Chapter LXXXV The Fountain
Ishmael considers the whale’s spout. Is it water or vapor? He comes down on the side of vapor. Also a bit about how whales oxygenate their blood while below.
Moby-Dick, Day 86
Chapter LXXXIV Pitchpoling
Queequeg oils the bottom of his boat. Tashtego harpoons a whale & Stubb tosses the lance-like pitchpole over & over, each time piercing the whale till it dies.
Moby-Dick, Day 85
Chapter LXXXIII Jonah Historically Regarded
For every whaler who is skeptical of the story of Jonah in the whale (what about the gastric juices?) is an answer to how it might have been so.
Moby-Dick, Day 84
Chapter LXXXII The Honor and Glory of Whaling
Ish counts the hero roll of whalers: Perseus, St. George (whale=dragon), Hercules, Jonah, Vishnu. “What club but the whaleman’s can head off like that?”
Moby-Dick, Day 83
Chapter LXXXI The Pequod Meets the Virgin
A captain of the Jungfrau begs lamp oil of the Pequod. Whales spotted. A chase! Whose boats will win? The Pequod’s. But the whale sinks.
Moby-Dick, Day 82
Chapter LXXX The Nut
The sperm whale’s brain is small but its vertebrae are big.
Moby-Dick, Day 81
Chapter LXIX The Praire
Ishmael tries a little physiognomy on the sperm whale & finds looking at the brow of the whale is like looking at god.
Moby-Dick, Day 80
Chapter LXVIII Cistern and Buckets
Tashtego goes up on the yard arm, cuts into the whale’s head suspended on the tackle, and scoops out buckets of spermaceti, until at last, when the bucket has to go down twenty feet to scoop, he falls in himself, and then the head comes partially off the tackle and Dagoo runs up the rigging and throws down a bucket to save him and then fully off the tackle and Queequeg dives in after with his sword and cuts Tashtego out of the whale’s head.
Moby-Dick, Day 79
Chapter LXVII The Great Heidelburgh Tun
Ishmael compares the sperm whale’s head to something called the Great Heidelburgh Tun but containing spermeceti rather than wine.
Moby-Dick, Day 78
Chapter LXVI The Battering-Ram
The sperm whale’s head, with no nose, with eyes way back on the side, with super-tough skin, makes a really good battering ram.
Moby-Dick, Day 77
Chapter LXV The Right Whale’s Head — Contrasted View
Right whales have two blow holes and baleen instsead of teeth and Ishmael thinks the head looks like a square-toed shoe.
Moby-Dick, Day 76
Chapter LXIV The Sperm Whale’s Head — Contrasted View
Now that the Pequod has a sperm whale’s head on one side and a right whale’s head on the other, Ishmael compares them. Their eyes are tiny relative to their head, the size of a colt’s, their ears the size of a hare’s. They cannot see directly in front of or behind them, but only one side and another. What’s that like? The teeth and bones of the head are taken aboard for making stuff out of.
Moby-Dick, Day 75
Chapter LXXIII Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale and Then Have a Talk Over Him
The chapter title pretty much sums it up. Apparently there’s a superstition that if you once hang the head of a sperm whale on one side of your ship and the head of a right whale on the other side, that ship will never sink. So Stubb and Flask kill a right whale and debate whether Fedallah is the devil.
Moby-Dick, Day 74
Chapter LXXII The Monkey-Rope
Backtrack: when stripping the whale of blubbler, it was Queequeg who inserted the hook, during which effort he wore a safety belt with a line called a monkey-rope up to Ishmael with the end fixed to his belt. From the deck he keeps an eye on Queequeg and with a jerk here a jerk there yanks him from being caught between whale and ship or yanks him away from the mouths of sharks.
Moby-Dick, Day 73
Chapter LXXI The Jeroboam’s Story
A boat from a ship called The Jeroboam comes alongside the Pequod, but the captain declines an invitation aboard, as their ship carries a sickness he doesn’t want to spread. With the captain is a young, freckled man counted mad who left the Shakers for whaling but now calls himself Gabriel and acts as prophet or demi-god to the other men, though he does none of the work of sailing or whaling. He predicted doom for his ship’s encounter with Moby-Dick, and sure enough, the mate who went after the whale lost his life. Hearing Ahab means to hunt Moby-Dick, he predicts Ahab’s doom, too.
Moby-Dick, Day 72
LXX The Sphynx
Ishmael describes how difficult it is to take the whale’s head off, when it comprises a third of the body. This time, on the Pequod, the head is suspended from the yard-arm off the side of the ship. While everybody else is at lunch, Ahab talks to it.
Moby-Dick, Day 71
LXIX The Funeral
Stripped of its blubber, the head cut off, the whale, not so very much smaller now, is set adrift and the carcass set upon from above and below by birds and sharks.
Moby-Dick, Day 70
Chapter LXVIII The Blanket
Ishmael argues that the layer of blubber is truly the whale’s skin, for on top of the blubber is the thinnest of layers that he says dries transparent, some of which he uses for bookmarks.
Moby-Dick, Day 69
Chapter LXVII Cutting In
The men hook whale, slice blubber and haul on tackle, peeling blubber off the whale as skin off an orange.
Moby-Dick, Day 68
Chapter LXVI The Shark Massacre
Mostly, ships leave a killed whale moored to the ship overnight and “cut in” to it in the morning with all hands, unless there are so many sharks there’d be no whale left by morning. This night, the two men on watch kill sharks with a long sharp spade.
Moby-Dick, Day 67
Chapter LXV The Whale as a Dish
Whale, to eat, is rich and oily and most people don’t like it.
Moby-Dick, Day 66
Chapter LXIV Stubb’s Supper
Stubb taunts the cook while eating whale steak retrieved by Dagoo from the dead whale now docked beside the ship. Sharks also eat the whale.
Moby-Dick, Day 65
Chapter LXIII The Crotch
A stick that one end of the two harpoons rests on.
Moby-Dick, Day 64
Chapter LXII The Dart
Ishmael argues that the harpooneer ought not to have to row along with everyone else as the whale is chased because a) his strength for the throw is thereby diminished and b) he has to turn, seize the harpoon and throw all in a moment and by going from rowing to throwing his accuracy may be compromised. He also says that the officer in charge of the boat and the harpooneer should not switch places once the harpoon is thrown and lodged. But they do.
Moby-Dick, Day 63
Chapter LXI Stubb Kills a Whale
A moment after Ishmael drowses at the mainmast-head, he and everyone else spy their first sperm whale of the voyage. Down the boats go again and give chase. Mr. Stubb puffs on his pipe and harangues everyone to row hard. Tashtego harpoons the whale. The line from the last chapter plays out. The whale dives and drags them around for a while. Then it seems like Stubb stabs the whale a few times before it spouts blood and dies.
Moby-Dick, Day 62
Chapter LX The Line
The rope used to attach to the harpoon used to be hemp with a bit of tar in it. Now it’s Manilla rope. It is carefully coiled in tubs so as to feed out smoothly without hitch when a whale is swimming off with a harpoon in it, and several lengths of it are looped loosely fore and aft in the boat so that it lies across the oars of the men as they row. This, I gather, is so that there is plenty of slack so that when the harpoon is thrown, it is not stopped short or its progress slowed by the friction as the line feeds out from the tub.
Moby-Dick, Day 61
Chapter LIX Squid
Daggoo from the main-mast lookout sees something vast and white in the seething waters. “The White Whale! The White Whale!” he cries. They lower four boats from the ship and give chase. It’s a giant squid.
Moby-Dick, Day 60
Chapter LVIII Brit
Ishmael, inspired by the sight of right whales mowing paths through something called “brit” and seeming like rocks or islands rather than creatures, muses on the proclivity of the sea to smash and swallow everything.
Moby-Dick, Day 59
LVII Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars
Now Ishmael chronicles what paintings, carvings and works of art on whalebone sailors themselves make, how they begin to see whales in cliffs & mountains.
Moby-Dick, Day 58
Chapter LVI Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales
Ishmael notes some not-too-bad representations of whales. Weirdly, the best ones are French.
Moby-Dick, Day 57
Chapter LV Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Ishmael itemizes all the false depictions of whales he knows of, granting that the artists were forced to go on guesswork. “Frederick Cuvier’s Sperm Whale,” he says, “is not a Sperm Whale, but a squash.”
Moby-Dick, Day 56
Chapter LIV The Town-Ho’s Story
Ishmael tells a long story about a crappy, mean mate on the Town-Ho and the seaman who defies him & how Moby-Dick ate the mate.
Moby-Dick, Day 55
Chapter LIII The Gam
“GAM. Noun—A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground, when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats’ crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.” What didn’t happen with the Albatross.
Moby-Dick, Day 54
Chapter LII The Albatross
They pass another ship, the Goney, or Albatross, one that by the length of the beards and state of their rags has been out four years, but fail to communicate with it. The captain of the Albatross accidentally drops his speaking trumpet just as he’s about to speak. Or is it accidental? Maybe it’s more mystical doom-speaking omens.
Moby-Dick, Day 53
Chapter LI The Spirit-Spout
One night in tropical seas, while keeping a look-out in the main mast-head, Fedallah spies a whale spout lit up by the moon. While they don’t usually chase whales at night, he calls out “There she blows” anyway, and they put up extra sail to speed the Pequod closer, but never close the gap. The next nights they see it again but never twice. They come to think it’s a ghost. They come to think it’s Moby-Dick. They round the Cape of Good Hope. It snows.
Moby-Dick, Day 52
Chapter L Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.
All that time Ahab was prepping his whaleboat, it wasn’t just so he’d have a spare. He kept his extra crew & boat secret so the Pequod’s owners wouldn’t bar him from endangering himself aboard the whaleboat.
Moby-Dick, Day 51
Chapter XLCIX The Hyena
Ishmael feels like life is a practical joke. Starbuck is prudent & cautious? How come we almost died, then?
Moby-Dick, Day 50
Chapter XLVIII The First Lowering
A big chapter. The five men seem to be Ahab’s private whaleboat crew. They’re led by Fedallah, described as an old man with a white turban. The others are Filipino, assuming that’s what Melville means by their being “natives of the Manillas.” The four boats, led by Ahab and the three mates, set off to chase the whales Tashtego spotted. From time to time they stop, stand up, try to gain height to see the whales over the swells. Starbuck charges Queequeg to stand and scout. Flask climbs atop Dagoo to do the same. The water whitens. A squall rises. Queequeg throws the harpoon but it glances off the whale and the whale submerges, throwing up huge waters that swamp the boat. The squall turns storm, too rough to even bail. They lose sight of the other boats, can’t raise them by calling. They light a lamp, stick it on a pole, and Queequeg holds it up through the night. Come the misty morning, they first despair, then cock their ears to the strain of rope and sail on the wind, then leap into the water to avoid being run over by the Pequod, which does indeed smash their boat as it looms out of the fog. The Pequod had given them up for lost, but they are rescued.
Moby-Dick, Day 49
Chapter XLVII The Mat-Maker
Ishmael and Queequeg are meditatively weaving a sword-mat when Tashtego cries from above, “There she blows!” Everyone swings into action. They work the cranes, lower the boats. Then Ahab cries out, and ranged around him are five men they’ve never seen before, five men they didn’t know were aboard.
Moby-Dick, Day 48
Chapter XLVI Surmises
Ahab, for practical reasons like maintaining his men’s loyalty — for one thing, there’s no pay if they catch only one whale — adjures them to keep an eye out for all whales, not just Moby Dick.
Moby-Dick, Day 47
Chapter XLV The Affadavit
Ishmael gives examples of whales so recognizable they’ve been given names, whales that have been re-met years afterward with the harpoons of the first time still in them & whales that have staved in ships, e.g., the Essex.
Moby-Dick, Day 46
Chapter XLIV The Chart
Ahab pulls out his chart and plots his course, taking into account all the places Moby Dick has been spotted.
Moby-Dick, Day 45
Chapter XLIII Hark!
While passing buckets down a line from the water-butt to the scuttle-butt, a sailor hears a cough from the hatches. Is there a stowaway?
Moby-Dick, Day 44
Chapter XLII The Whiteness of the Whale
Even though whiteness is, like, symbolic of all kinds of great things, says Ishmael (yes, he’s racist about it), it also makes things extra freaky. So Moby Dick is extra freaky.
Moby-Dick, Day 43
Chapter XLI Moby Dick
Ishmael allows that he was one of the huzzahing men and then goes on to outline the superstitiousness of whalers and the ways in which the white-headed whale became mythologized, regarded as supernatural, and malevolent, in part for its tendency to turn on its pursuers and smash their boats, as he did to Ahab that time, and Ahab, enraged, stuck the enormous whale with a six-inch knife and the whale chomped off Ahab’s leg and Ahab raved in his hammock so his mates had to sew him into it as into a strait-jacket, after which he seemed to come to himself, but in fact, did not, but narrowed his entire being into one goal: killing that whale.
Moby-Dick, Day 42
XL Midnight, Forecastle
Following the soliloquys, a play: an international cast of sailors calls for young Pip to play tambourine for a jig while a squall rises. A fight brews between Dagoo and a Spanish sailor after Dagoo says, “Who’s afraid of black’s afraid of me! I’m quarried out of it!” and another sailor says, “Is that lightning?” and the Spanish sailor says, “No, it’s Dagoo’s teeth.” They’re all chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” (or actually, “Row! Row! Row! Row!”) when the command comes to reef the sails in face of the squall.
Moby-Dick, Day 41
XXXIX First Night-Watch
Stubb has a soliloquy: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hem! … Because a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer.
Moby-Dick, Day 40
Starbuck has a soliloquy: My soul is more than matched; she’s overmanned; and by a madman! … Oh, life! ’tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee!
Moby-Dick, Day 39
Ahab has a soliloquy: All loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne’er enjoy… I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened!
Moby-Dick, Day 38
XXXVI The Quarter Deck
Ahab stalks the deck all day, then, unusually, calls the entire crew to muster round the capstan. He walks up and down some more. Then he offers $16 in gold to the man who spots a white whale with a wrinkled brow, crooked jaw and three holes in his right fluke. All three of Queequeg, Tashtego and Dagoo know the whale Ahab means: Moby Dick. Ahab’s a coach in a pre-game dressing room, whipping up enthusiasm. Huzza, huzza, cry the men. But, Starbuck says, isn’t there something not so good about vengeance against an animal who is just being an animal, though he takes your leg off being it? And what about killing, like, regular whales, which is what we’re supposed to be doing?
Moby-Dick, Day 37
Chapter XXXV The Mast-Head
Ishmael takes his first turn at the top of the mast-head in southern climes, where it’s warm and pleasant, if treacherous. Naturally, the chapter is a long, philosophical-historical disquisition on southern whale-ship mast-heads (spare, open to the wind) versus Greenland whalers’ crow’s-nests (cosy, enclosed, with locker for extra layers) and the dangers of putting dreamy young men up there who’ll contemplate the soul rather than scour the horizon for whales.
Moby-Dick, Day 36
Chapter XXXIV The Cabin-Table
The steward calls Ahab to table. Ahab tells Starbuck, who follows in a moment, Starbuck tells Stubb, who follows after similar delay. Stubb tells Flask. Flask does a defiant little shoeless (and therefore noiseless) jig above the others’ heads before following himself. He’s last to arrive and first to leave the captain’s table and by consequence always hungry. They eat in silence. Next the steward calls in the harpooneers, who eat largely and happily, while the steward cowers in fear.
Moby-Dick, Day 35
Chapter XXXIII The Specksynder
This chapter starts out describing how in whaling, the harpooner, the Specksynder, or Fat-Cutter in Dutch, was once basically the co-captain of the ship. The captain would be in charge of the navigation, the Specksynder in charge of getting the whales. But it’s not really clear how this applies on the Pequod, except that Ahab isn’t snobby about the quarterdeck.
Moby-Dick, Day 34
Chapter XXXII Cetology
Ishmael catalogues whales for 17 pages. He’s of the mind that they are warm-blooded fish with lungs.
Moby-Dick, Day 33
Chapter XXXI Queen Mab
Stubb tells Flask his dream: Ahab kicked him with his ivory leg and when Stubb kicked back, he kicked his leg right off.
Moby-Dick, Day 32
Chapter XXX The Pipe
Ahab smokes an ivory pipe, gets no pleasure from it, hurls it into the ocean.
Moby-Dick, Day 31
Chapter XXIX Enter Ahab; To him, Stubb
Now they run in southern climes, Ahab is mostly on deck, day and night. When Stubb complains of Ahab’s peg leg on the ceiling of his cabin, Ahab insults him, Stubb takes issue but doesn’t slug him.
Moby-Dick, Day 30
Chapter XXVIII Ahab
As the Pequod makes its way south, Ahab appears on the quarter-deck. He is thin and hard and has a scar and a peg leg made of ivory. There’s a little hole in the deck he fixes the leg in.
Moby-Dick, Day 29
Chapter XXVII Knights and Squires
We meet 2nd and 3rd mates, unflappable pipe-smoking Stubb and short, pugnacious Flask, & harpooneers Tashtego, who is Native American, and Daggoo, African, both described in racist if not uncomplex terms.
Moby-Dick, Day 28
Chapter XXVI Knights and Squires
This chapter introduces the first mate, Starbuck, lean, smart and superstitious, a man with little liking for insane risk-takers.
Moby-Dick, Day 27
Chapter XXV Postscript
The oil that anoints monarchs is probably whale oil. See how noble whaling is?
Moby-Dick, Day 26
Chapter XXIV The Advocate
Ishmael argues that whaling is a noble, not a debased, profession. He compares commanders of whaling ships to commanders of naval ships: both butchers. They explore more than explorers. They colonize more than colonizers.
Moby-Dick, Day 25
Chapter XXIII The Lee Shore
Ishmael sees at the helm of the Pequod a man he’d seen earlier at the inn, just returned from four years at sea, marvels at him and philosophizes about the relative merits of dead at sea and safety on land.
Moby-Dick, Day 24
Chapter XXII Merry Christmas
The Pequod weighs anchor and sets sail. Peleg kicks Ishmael in the butt to get him going as Bildad pilots the boat out. No sign of Ahab.
Moby-Dick, Day 23
Chapter XXI Going Aboard
On their way to the Pequod, Ishmael sees shadowy figures running ahead. Elijah looms from the fog and pretty much says they’re ghosts. On board, Queequeg sits on a sleeping rigger.
Moby-Dick, Day 22
Chapter XX All Astir
The Pequod is got ready, sailor’s chests put aboard. She’s gonna sail soon. Any day now. Still no sight of Ahab, but Bildad’s sister brings odd items aboard that might be wanted.
Moby-Dick, Day 21
Chapter XIX The Prophet
Ishmael and Queequeg are collared by a raggedy fellow who asks if they’ve shipped in the Pequod. Yes, they’ve signed articles, says Ishmael. How about your souls? asks the other guy. Never mind. Maybe you don’t have souls. Ahab has enough for both of you. He’s warning them off of Ahab and the Pequod. Ishmael takes little heed until he learns the man’s name is Elijah. Then he goes, Hm.
Moby-Dick, Day 20
Chapter XVIII His Mark
Ishmael takes Queequeg down to the Pequod. Peleg and Bildad ask if he’s Christian. Yuparoonie, says Ishmael. Queequeg demos his mad harpoon skills and signs on. What is his mark, the mark he makes to sign the rolls? An infinity symbol.
Moby-Dick, Day 19
Chapter XVII The Ramadan
Queequeg fasts motionless for an exceptionally long time while Ishmael worries about Queequeg’s health and later berates him about his beliefs. Queequeg is unfazed.
Moby-Dick, Day 18
Chapter XVI: The Ship
Queequeg, for unexplained reasons, wants Ishmael to pick a ship for the both of them. Ishmael settles on the Pequod. This is one of those rare long chapters. Here we are introduced to the two ship owners, Peleg and Bildad, good cop and bad cop, who offer a very low portion of the proceeds of the trip as payment or a ridiculous tiny portion of the proceeds of the trip as payment. Ishmael asks after the ship’s captain, Ahab, and learns that he is sick, or rather, not sick, but disturbed of mind, closeted away from the world, agitated…and that he has lost a leg. “Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!” There’s talk of how Ahab is named for a Biblical king, and a nasty one at that. A native woman has said that his name is prophetic. Peleg calls him “a good man—not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man,” only he’s been moody since he lost his leg.
Moby-Dick, Day 17
Chapter XV: Chowder
Ish sees portents of doom en route to Nantucket inn. There they are served excellent chowder, cod or clam, night and day.
Moby-Dick, Day 16
Chapter XIV: Nantucket
“Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it.” It’s a sliver of a sand in the middle of the sea. It is all about the sea. All people who have ever lived in Nantucket are bound up in the sea.
Moby-Dick, Day 15
Chapter XIII: The Wheelbarrow
Ishmael and Queequeg wheel their gear down to the boat that’ll take them to Nantucket in a wheelbarrow. Queequeg tells a story about how the first time he saw a wheelbarrow, he strapped it to his chest and carried both wheelbarrow and trunk. Then he tells a story about a white naval captain barging into a wedding feast in Queequeg’s village and using the central, honoured drinking bowl as a finger bowl.
On board the ship, “bumpkins” stare and make comments about Ishmael and Queequeg being so companionable. One of them imitates Queequeg behind his back, so Queequeg grabs him, throws him up in the air so as to perform a complete somersault. The man is affronted and complains to the captain. The captain threatens Queequeg. The sails go crazy. The boom crashes back and forth across the deck and knocks the somersaulted bumpkin overboard. Queequeg lassos and secures the boom, dives overboard (it’s cold, December) and rescues the bumpkin, treating it all as if it were no big deal. Ishmael is happy to have such a man as his friend and companion. “From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yeah, till poor Queequeg took his last long dive.”
Moby-Dick, Day 14
Chapter XII: Biographical
Here is how this chapter starts: “Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.” This sounds like a line from a children’s fantasy, and Queequeg is as constructed a “savage” as ever there were. Melville claims for him royal ancestry. He is a Prince, a prince who longed to know more of the not the world, but of “Christendom,” who boarded by skill an American sailing ship that had declined to take him on as a crew member and by force of will stayed and moved from the ruling class to the working class. But Melville’s construction of Queequeg is a little complicated. Though Queequeg “was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so than all his father’s heathens.” Queequeg’s impressions of “Christendom” are not improved with acquaintance of shore life, either. So Melville uses Queequeg to set up the expectation that Christianity is the true religion and the right way (why would Queequeg think that, Melville?) and then to become almost the true Christian himself in seeing how the purported Christians are not.
Anyway, Ishmael says he’s going to Nantucket to find a ship to sail on. Queequeg says he’ll go with him.
Moby-Dick, Day 13
Chapter XI: Nightgown
Ishmael and Queequeg again share a bed, but this time companionably. They wake early, before dawn. Ishmael muses on how great it is to feel warm and snug in bed, though he says that part of you must be cold to truly enjoy the warmth of being under covers. They smoke in bed. Queequeg begins to tell Ishmael about himself. No mention is made of a nightgown.
Moby-Dick, Day 12
Chapter X: A Bosom Friend
Ishmael returns to the Spouter-Inn and hangs out with Queequeg, noting his resemblance to George Washington. Ishmael is taken with Queequeg’s ease, calm and apparent indifference to the social. Ishmael’s own agitation and anger — the thing that made him want to knock hats off in the street, presumably — ease in Queequeg’s company. “I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.” (On this hint he does not elaborate.) Then they share a pipe: “…and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be.” Then they go to bed together. “Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.”
Moby-Dick, Day 11
I stalled a little. On Day 11. I fear this does not bode well. But I am going to keep going.
Chapter IX: The Sermon
The preacher preaches to them as if they are all in a boat together. Of what does he preach? Come on, guess. Wild guess. Hint: it’s about a whale. If you guessed Jonah, you win forty pounds of whale oil and a pair of matching pillow cases!
Moby-Dick, Day 10
Chapter VIII: The Pulpit
The preacher, a former whaler by his kit and bearing, mounts to the pulpit, which itself has a maritime feel. The ladder to it is like the ladder on a ship. The cross juts out like a bowsprit.
Moby-Dick, Day 9
Chapter VII: The Chapel
Ishmael goes to church, where silent worshippers contemplate their mortality while gazing on memorials to men lost to the whaling industry.
Moby-Dick, Day 8
Chapter VI: The Street
Ishmael reports who he sees on the streets of New Bedford — farmers who want to be whalers, dandies who want to be whalers, people from foreign climes, etc.
Moby-Dick, Day 7
Chapter V: Breakfast
Ishmael eats breakfast.
(Even though it is funnier to leave it at that, I feel I must add there is a discernible point to the scene. Ishmael expects whale tales, chatter, conversation at breakfast at the Spouter Inn, but there is none. Though the silence is not explained, the next thing Ishmael mentions is Queequeg at the head of the table, “coolly” wielding his harpoon to “grapple” beefsteaks from the other end of the table. Are the rest of the boarders afraid of Queequeg? Maybe.)
Moby-Dick, Day 6
Chapter IV: The Counterpane
Ishmael wakes the next morning with Queequeg’s arm around him. The tattoos on his arm match the pattern of the quilt, or so thinks Ishmael. After some struggle, Ishmael rouses Queequeg, who rises and dresses and then shaves — with his harpoon blade.
Moby-Dick, Day 5
Chapter III: The Spouter-Inn
The main point of this chapter is to introduce us to Queequeg, but naturally first we must follow Ishmael as he enters the inn, examines the sooty painting in the front hall (it’s a whaler), tries to engage a room and secure a bed — they’re all taken, he must share with a harpooner currently out about town — eats supper, observes the hoary crew of an incoming ship, and tries to wait out his roommate. The innkeeper tells him the harpooner is off trying to sell his head. Ishmael thinks he must be mad. The innkeeper clarifies — it’s a shrunken head from New Zealand. The harpooner had four and has sold three. He’s just trying to unload his last head. At last Ishmael and innkeeper guess that the harpooner has found somewhere else to stay for the night. Ishmael goes up to bed, examines the harpooners things, gets into bed and almost dozes off. That’s when his unknown roommate comes in. Ishmael can see him dimly. Bit by bit he begins to understand that the man is not just a tattooed white guy with a tan, he’s an indigenous man, complete with pipe and tomahawk that he appears to be bringing to bed. Ishmael is terrified. He calls out for the landlord. And thus, Ishmael is introduced to Queequeg.
Moby-Dick, Day 4
Chapter II: The Carpet Bag
Now Ishmael makes it not so far as Nantucket, where he will actually sail from, but to New Bedford, where he must wait out a few days before the boat to Nantucket. He looks for lodging. Two are too expensive, one of them “too jolly.” One looks promising but turns out to be an African-American church in the middle of an evening service. At last, after a disquisition on wind, a particular, vigorous wind (“Euroclydon”) that he mentions in relation to “Paul,” presumably the Biblical Paul. It’s cold. It’s December. There’s frost on the ground, ice. And he finds The Spouter, a downscale weather-beaten inn by the water, whose sign tells him the proprietor is one Peter Coffin. Ominous? And so we we end: “But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there is plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from our frosted feet, and see what sort of a place this ‘Spounter’ may be.”
Moby-Dick, Day 3
Chapter 1: Loomings
Ah. Here we are. Chapter I. “Call me Ishmael.”
Ishmael is what we can call him, but presumably Ishmael is not his name. He’s using a pseudonym and in the doing, he’s allying himself with Abraham’s son with his wife Sarah’s handmaid Hagar: Ishmael (and in my mind, then, with all those Biblical older brothers: Cain, Esau, et al — the less loved, the cheated, the murderous — but it wasn’t my intention to get into interpretation, only to convey the reading experience of Moby-Dick, so stop, stop, no more allusion-chasing or interpretation).
In this chapter, Ishmael tells us that when he has no money and a certain mood takes him that he wants to run into the street and knock people’s hats off, he goes to sea. We are all drawn to the sea, says he for many pages, offering many examples, and I have to grant he has a point. We all do like to look out to sea. Eventually, he lets out that he has lately been a country schoolmaster and formerly a merchant seaman but now, for some reason — a fascination with whales, fate — this time he is going a-whaling.
He’s funny, this Ishmael. He’s got a light touch, along with a cyclical trend toward hat-knocking-off and ocean-going. “Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage mangaers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and jolly parts in farces.”
Moby-Dick, Day 2
And now has it begun? Have we yet moved from roman numeral pages to arabic numeral pages? Can we call him Ishmael yet?
No. We cannot.
What follows next is “Extracts (Supplied by a Sub-sub-librarian).” This “poor devil of a sub-sub” has collected quotes about whales. Eighty-one of them. Not eight, not twelve, not fifteen. Eighty-one quotes mentioning whales, from the Bible to Darwin, writing just eleven years before Melville.
Here is Pilgrim’s Progress: “Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat in the mouth of a whale.”
Here is Ulloa’s South America: “…and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain,” which is indeed an insupportable smell.
Moby-Dick, Day 1
I started Moby-Dick or, The Whale probably ten years ago. I can see it sitting in our Vancouver housing co-op on the very cheapest available Ikea bedside table that we painted blue in Kitchener the same time we painted the Sally Ann dresser whose knobs have now been replaced with string. Read about two hundred pages. Was surprised at the humour of Ishmael’s voice in the early chapters. I had started the book other times and not noticed. Then it migrated to the lower level of the bedside table, which is the home of partly read books that I intend to finish one day. Then it went back to the bookshelf, the further-back holding cell for books I’ll someday read. Then we moved to the three bedroom unit in the co-op. Then to Kelowna. Then back from Kelowna. Then back onto the bedside table (Ikea mid-range model now, looks like actual wood). When I passed the 300 page mark and realized almost nothing had happened, I made a resolution to read one chapter a night. They are short chapters. A hundred pages later, I thought a daily recap of each chapter would be bloggy. So I started to summarize each chapter as I read them, but I didn’t go back to the beginning, I was too lazy. I started where I was, at Chapter 59. Now, even more time has passed, and it is time to go back to the beginning, and so here I go.
or, The Whale
It begins not with “Call me Ishmael,” as we all knew or know or thought we knew, but with “Etymology (Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School),” who quotes from Hakluyt (an old-time writer-up of famous voyages) and then gives us etymologies of Whale from Webster’s and Richardson’s dictionaries. Webster’s claims Swedish and Danish roots, Richardson’s Dutch and German, but both agree there’s a meaning of rolling or wallowing.