ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
[personal profile] ambrmerlinus
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Specksynder starts out like it's going to go somewhere but then it kind of trails off into nothing.

According to Ishmael, long ago in the 1600s, the command of a whaling ship was divided between its captain and its harpooneer. This is a promising beginning, indicating that we will be talking about the harpooneers in this chapter, who are, let's face it, some of the most interesting people aboard.

But no. Instead Ishmael goes off on a tangent about where everybody sleeps on a boat and how this is all some great metaphor for our place in society or whatever blah blah blah whaling is awesome, we get it.

He does, however, end the chapter with the following weirdness.

pg. 154: But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then the plebian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization. Nor, with the tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hind incidentally so important in his art, as the one now alluded to.

My first thought is, "Oh yeah, Tsar Nicholas II, the guy whose wife hung out with Rasputin and whose daughter starred in a Don Bluth movie." But then I remembered that Moby Dick was written pre-1850, while the guy I'm thinking of didn't come into power until 1894.

Tsar Nicholas I, on the other hand, ruled from 1825-1855, and while it doesn't look quite as disastrous as Nicholas II's, he did help Russia lose the Crimean War. So, oops.

Either way, Ishmael is doing some more gloomy foreshadowing, then doing a little pointing dance around his foreshadowing and going "Look! See? See what I did there? Do you get it? Want me to explain it? 'Cause I can explain it!"

In Chapter Thirty-Four: The Cabin-Table, Ishmael explains dinner.

Aboard the Pequod, the officers all eat together in the cabin.

DOUGH-BOY: Dinner's ready, Captain.
AHAB: Dinner's ready, Starbuck.
STARBUCK: Dinner's ready, Stubb.
STUBB: Dinner's ready, Flask.
FLASK: /does a little dance.

And that is why Flask is my favorite officer so far.

The officers eat dinner in silence, and there's a metaphor about how they're all like some kind of super-uptight family with Ahab as the oblivious dad and Flask as the twitchy, eager-to-please youngest son. Once they're done, it's the harpooneer's turn to eat, and Ishmael gets all Ishmaely.

According to Ishmael, the harpooneers are so savage in their eating habits that the cook is a nervous wreck every time he serves them. He cites an incident where Tashtego pretended to scalp the cook and I am not touching that with a ten foot pole. Daggoo is, once again, compared to an animal (this time an African elephant) and we are reminded that Queequeg eats people sometimes. So it goes.

Chapter Thirty-Five: The Mast-Head, in which Ishmael describes a mast-head and it turns out not to be what I expected.

I'd been assuming the Pequod was equipped with a crow's nest, but this is not the case. Instead of a barrel on a stick to stand in...

pg. 164: Your most usual point of perch is the head of t' gallant-mast, where you stand upon two thin parallel sticks (almost peculiar to whalemen) called the t' gallant cross-trees. Here, tossed about by the sea, the beginner feels about as cosy as he would standing on a bull's horns.

So, yeah, not comfy.

Despite this discomfort, Ishmael is some kind of pro at slacking.

pg. 166: For one, I used to lounge up the rigging very leisurely, resting in the top to have a chat with Queequeg, or any one else off duty whom I might find there; then ascending a little way further, and throwing a lazy leg over the top-sail yard, take a preliminary view of the watery pastures, and so at last mount to my ultimate destination.

Let me make a clean breast of it here, and frankly admit that I kept but sorry guard.


You don't say. Ishmael–worst sailor ever?

He goes on to describe how totally relaxing sitting up in the mast-head is, to the point where he daydreams and fails to see any whales at all. Then he brings us back to downertown.

pg. 167-168: There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

Remember kids, pay attention up there, lest you fall screaming to your death. Have fun whaling!

And now, a presentation from the department of Being Off-Topic. Remember Chapter Seventeen: Ramadan? I found an even shorter summary.

---

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
Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen (You Are Here)
Part Sixteen
Part Seventeen
Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen
Part Twenty
Part Twenty-One
Part Twenty-Two

Date: 2011-05-03 01:54 am (UTC)
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)
From: [personal profile] dorothean
Hi! I stumbled across your journal somehow and am totally delighted with your reviews of Moby Dick. I read it so long ago that I was extremely pleased to find that I had not just made up how awesome Queequeg is.

Date: 2011-05-05 04:57 pm (UTC)
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)
From: [personal profile] dorothean
I think the person who linked to you (I don't even remember whose journal that was--I was surfing through people's reading lists) said that you showed up on the "recent entries posted on Dreamwidth" page and that's how they found you.

I got a lot more readers when I started doing readthroughs of Robin McKinley novels (which I am currently stalled on). I bet my list would really like what you are posting. Do you mind if I mention your project in a post on my journal? (if publicity means too much pressure, I definitely understand!)

Date: 2011-05-06 09:01 pm (UTC)

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