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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Ahab

Finally, after much fretting and digressing on Ishmael's part, Ahab makes his appearance. All he does is stand on the deck, but really, that's all he needs to do, because he's freakin' Ahab, and Ishmael fills in the rest.

pg. 128: He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them, or taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness. his whole high, broad form seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini's cast Perseus. *

Googling "bronze ahab" did not turn up any statues, which is a disappointment, because it seems like such an obvious sculpture to make. If a man is described as a bronze statue, clearly the next step is to cast him in bronze. There is a bronze statue that includes Ahab, but it's really more about the whale.

pg. 128-129: Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. [...] Whether that mark was born with him, or whether it was the scar left by some desperate wound, no one could certainly say. By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage little or no allusion was made to it, especially by the mates. But once Tashtego's senior, an old Gay-Head Indian among the crew, superstitiously asserted that not till he was full forty years old did Ahab become that way branded, and it came upon him, not in the fury of any mortal fray, but in an elemental strife at sea.

Well, that's good and mysterious.

In addition to this, a Manxman* among the crew asserts that "if ever Captain Ahab should be tranquilly laid out [...] whoever should do that last office for the dead, would find a birthmark on him from crown to sole." (pg. 129)

The whole birthmark/scar thing is enough to momentarily distract Ishmael from Ahab's more well-known quality: his missing leg. In place of it, Ahab has an ivory peg-leg. There's a hole in the planking that fits it perfectly so he can stand securely in place on deck and stare at stuff.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb

I honestly wish I could just type up this entire chapter, because it's excellent. Queequeg's accent aside, Melville's writing is at its best when he does dialogue, and this chapter is all about the dialogue.

Ahab likes to pace the ship's decks at night. Thanks to his ivory peg-leg and the severe lack of soundproofing aboard the Pequod, this tends to keep the crew from sleeping. In the middle of one of these midnight strolls, Stubb comes up on deck and suggests that Ahab put some tow on his peg to muffle the thumping sound. This suggestion does not go over well.

pg. 132-133: "Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb," said Ahab, "that thou wouldst wad me that fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly grave; where such as ye sleep between shrouds to use ye to the filling one at last.–Down, dog, and kennel!"

Starting at the unforeseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, "I am not sued to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like it, sir."

"Avast!" gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away, as if to avoid some passionate temptation.

"No, sir; not yet," said Stubb, emboldened, "I will not tamely be called a dog, sir."

"Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone, or I'll clear the world of thee!"

Oh, snap.

Stubb takes the hint and makes his way back under the deck, muttering to himself for a page and a half as he does so and using the word "queer" no less than eight times. He's just resolved himself to go to sleep and think no more about Ahab when–

pg. 134: "But how's that? didn't he call me a dog? blazes! he called me ten times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses on top of that! He might as well have kicked me, and done with it. Maybe he did kick me, and I didn't observe it, I was so taken all aback with his brow, somehow.

Stubb. You need sleep. Go to bed.

Chapter Thirty: The Pipe is less than a page. In it, Ahab tries to smoke his pipe on deck, but the smoke blows back in his face, so he throws it into the ocean. Good times.

In Chapter Thirty-One: Queen Mab, Stubb dreams of Ahab.

STUBB: So I was sleeping in my bunk and I dreamed that Ahab came up and kicked me with his peg-leg but then he turned into a pyramid when I tried to kick him back and then a badger-haired, hunchbacked merman came up and told me to stop kicking the pyramid!Ahab and when I threatened to kick him, too, he mooned me and it turned out his butt was made of spikes, so I didn't kick him. Then he said I should be honored to be kicked by an ivory leg rather than a wooden leg. What do you think it means?
FLASK: Whatever.

*I was curious as to what "Cellini's cast Perseus" looked like; maybe you were, too.

**Had to Google this, but apparently a Manxman is a person from The Isle of Man, "a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland." Also they have the oldest continuous parliament in the world? Bear in mind, I'm getting all my facts from Wikipedia, so accuracy is not 100% guaranteed.

Anyway, now you know.


Other adventures in Moby Dick include:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen (You Are Here)
Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen
Part Sixteen
Part Seventeen
Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen
Part Twenty
Part Twenty-One
Part Twenty-Two


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

February 2012

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