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Chapter 124: The Needle

It's a bright, sunshiny morning aboard the Pequod. Everyone is having a great time until Ahab comes up on deck.

pg. 543: But suddenly reined back by some counter thought, he hurried towards the helm, huskily demanding how the ship was heading.

"East-sou'east, Sir," said the frightened steersman.

"Thou liest!" smiting him with his clenched fist.


Well that's a little harsh, don't you think?

pg. 543: "Heading East at this hour in the morning, and the sun astern?"

...Okay, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The ship's compasses claim the ship's going east, but common sense (sunrise coming from the east, yet the sun is behind them in the morning) dictates the ship is going west. How is this possible?

pg. 544: But ere the first wild alarm could get out abroad among the crew, the old man with a rigid laugh exclaimed, "I have it! It has happened before. Mr. Starbuck, last night's thunder turned our compasses–that's all. Thou has before now heard of such a thing, I take it."

"Aye; but never before has it happened to me, Sir," said the pale mate, gloomily.


Don't worry, Starbuck. It happens to everyone.

But how to get the ship back on the right course? If you're Ahab, the method is simple: make your own compass out of the head of a harpoon and prove to the crew that east is east and west is west like some kind of god of science and/or magnetism.

At any rate, this MacGuyver-worthy display impresses the crew enough to prevent another mutiny. The chapter ends with this:

pg. 546: In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride.

FORESHADOWING!

---

Chapter 125: The Log and Line, according to Wikipedia, is "a navigation tool used by mariners to estimate the speed of a vessel through water."

It's also the only navigational tool remaining aboard the Pequod, now that the quadrant has been smashed and the compasses have had their polarity reversed.

Unfortunately, the log-line is so rotted that it breaks the instant Ahab attempts to use it. So now the Pequod has no navigational equipment to speak of.

I repeat: they are sailing with no navigational equipment. They might as well be driving a car without a speedometer. Or headlights. At night.

Their situation is looking pretty fucking bleak is what I'm saying.

Not that Ahab cares, of course. He just tells the carpenter to make a new log and line, since as we well know, the carpenter can do literally anything.*

While the sailors are hauling in the broken line, along comes Pip. They ask what he's about, and get this heartbreaking response.

pg. 548: "Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whale-boar. Pip's missing. Let's see now if ye haven't fished him up here, fisherman. It drags hard; I guess he's holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him off; we haul in no cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking water. A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off–we haul in no cowards here. Captain Ahab! Sir, Sir! here's Pip, trying to get on board again."

Can we just take a moment to talk about how utterly fucking tragic Pip is? Abandoned in the middle of the ocean, left with a shattered sense of identity held together with a glue of deep and profound self-hatred, to the point where his first instinct is to attack any reminder of himself he sees in the world.**

Just... fucking Pip, man. All of the hugs.

The weirdest turn of all, though, is that Ahab should agree with me.

pg. 549: "There can be no hearts above the snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens! look down here. Ye did beget this luckless child, and have abandoned him, ye creative libertines. Here, boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pips 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! This seems to me, Sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls may hold by. 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."


Oh God my heart D:

pg. 549: "Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse horrors than are here.

FORESHADOWING!

And so Ahab and Pip away, hand-in-hand, leaving me with conflicted feelings about Ahab being an obsessive fool who's gonna get everyone killed and Pip being a kid who really needs a fucking friend right now.

---

Chapter 126: The Life-Buoy

Just before dawn, the Pequod is sailing along, business as usual, until–

pg. 550: the watch–then headed by Flash–was startled by a cry so plaintively wild and unearthly–like half-articulated wailings of the ghosts of all Herod's murdered Innocents

Some think it's mermaids, some think it's ghosts; everybody's freaked out except the harpooneers, who are all like, "Seen it."

Ahab sleeps through the whole thing, and when Flask tells him what happened, his response is essentially, "lol u guise it's just seals chill out."

Ishmael explains that this does not really help matters.

pg. 551: most mariners cherish a very superstitious feeling about seals, arising not only from their peculiar tones when in distress, but also from the human look of their round heads and semi-intelligent faces, seen peeringly uprising from the water alongside. In the sea, under certain circumstances, seals have more than once been mistaken for men.

I heartily agree with him, and would like to add the following.

Picture this: You are swimming in the ocean. The water is cold to the point where your extremities are going numb and you should probably consider heading in to shore. You dive under one last time and, out from the darkness too deep for the sun to pierce, a face approaches. A face too human and yet inhuman, at just the right point to build a homestead in the Uncanny Valley. A face attached to twelve feet of gluttonous, slug-like blubber capable of moving far faster than you in the water. A face full of teeth that belong in a hyena or half-starved lion, not in a face that could pass for human if you squint. That face full of teeth is the last thing you see.

In conclusion, seals are the stuff of nightmares.***

Anyway, the next morning, everybody's getting back to work when the guy working on the mast-head falls off and into the sea. They throw the life-buoy after him, but there's no sign of him trying to grab it, and the buoy itself is so sun-damaged that it takes on water and sinks. As Ishmael puts it, the first sailor to look for Moby Dick in Moby Dick's territory has drowned.

This bodes well.

Fortunately, a replacement life-buoy is fairly easy to come by. Queequeg generously volunteers his unused coffin for the position.

pg. 552: "A life-buoy of a coffin!" cried Starbuck, starting.

"Rather queer, that, I should say," said Stubb.


You think everything's queer, Stubb. You're worse than I am.

---

Chapter 127: The Deck introduced me to the exclamation "Middle aisle of a church!" (pg. 554), which I will now take to using in everyday speech.

Pip has taken to following Ahab around like a lost puppy. You can probably guess the effect this has on my heart.

Ahab goes to check on what the carpenter's up to. The carpenter, having previously seen making a new leg for Ahab, is now turning Queequeg's coffin into a life-buoy. Ahab disapproves.

pg. 554: "Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, al-grasping, inter-meddling, monopolizing, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."

Ahab deliberates on the topic at great length, before returning belowdecks with Pip.

pg. 556: Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from thee!

...please consider rephrasing that.

---

Chapter 128: The Pequod Meets the Rachel is a pretty self-explanatory title. Sing along if you know the words.

AHAB: Have you seen the White Whale?
OTHER CAPTAIN: Have you seen a whaleboat adrift? Contains at least one crewman related to me, and possibly one child?
AHAB: Dude I seriously do not give a shit about human life at this point, just point me at the damn whale.
OTHER CAPTAIN: Okay, really? We are talking about missing children here. I will pay you actual money to behave like a decent member of society and help me out.
AHAB: Not gonna happen. Later, bros.

Shockingly enough, the crew does not take this as a hint that maybe their captain is completely gone and they should definitely mutiny now.

---

Chapter 129: The Cabin is super freakin' sad.

Ahab and Pip are attached at the hip by this point, but Ahab shakes Pip off to attend to some business on deck. Pip stays behind in the cabin and has a drinking party with his hallucinations. Absolutely anyone with a heart bursts into tears.

---

*Except mutiny, apparently. The entire fucking crew is incapable of doing the one thing that could save them all at this point.

**There's also another notable Pip quote on pg. 549: "Bell-boy, Sir; ship's-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip! One hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high–looks cowardly–quickest known by that! Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip the coward?" The description he gives of himself, down to the reward... does that remind anyone else of the escaped slave notices of the time?

***Cartoon seals are cute. Plush seals are cute. Harbor seals are cute from a distance. Harp seal babies are adorable. But seriously? Fuck leopard seals. Just... no. Please God no.

AUGH DON'T PET IT WHAT ARE YOU DOING IT'S GONNA CRUSH YOUR HEAD IN ITS JAWS!



---

For more adventures in Moby-Dick, check out the Moby-Dick, or The Rant tag. Alternatively, you can start from the beginning.

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ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
ambrmerlinus

February 2012

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