ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
[personal profile] ambrmerlinus
Before we get started, I would like to direct your attention to this picture drawn for me by D-Ray, because it is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your stone-cold heart.

In Chapter Thirty-Six: The Quarter-Deck, we finally see some plot.

pg. 168: It was not a great while after the affair with the pipe that one morning shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his wont, ascended the cabin-gangway to the deck.

Ahab paces like a fiend for a while until he seems to reach some sort of decision and calls absolutely everyone on board on deck. This is kind of like the sailing equivalent of an unplanned fire drill.

Why has Ahab done this? First, it is to ask the most elementary of questions (for whalers, at least).

AHAB: What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?
CREW: Sing out for him!
AHAB: Good! And what do ye next, men?
CREW: Lower away, and after him!
AHAB: And what tune is it ye pull to, men?
CREW: A dead whale or a stove boat!

That last sentenced confused the fuck out of tiny!Ken, whose abridged-for-children edition of the book included the phrase without any explanation as to its meaning. In the age of Google, I can now determine that a "stove boat" is a broken, smashed, crushed, utterly destroyed boat. ("Stove" is the past tense of "stave," which means "to break or smash a hole in; to crush or smash inward," according to t'internet.)

Anyway, Ahab takes a gold coin and nails it to the main-mast of the ship, announcing that whoever spots a white whale gets it. This description sounds familiar to the harpooneers.

TASHTEGO: Is this whale named Moby Dick?
AHAB: What?
TASHTEGO: Does he wave his tail around a whole bunch?
DAGGOO: Does he have a weird spout?
QUEEQUEG: Does he have three harpoons embedded in his side and twisted around each other? Also, would it kill Melville to give me a line of dialogue without transcribing my apparently ridiculous accent?
AHAB: Aye to all of those, except that last point Queequeg brought up. We're looking for Moby Dick!
STARBUCK: Hey Captain, isn't Moby Dick the whale that ate your leg?

pg. 171: "Aye, aye," he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose

...Well, then.

Ahab goes on to tell the crew that this is their true mission: to kill Moby Dick! Everyone is totally willing to go along with this except for Starbuck.

STARBUCK: Do you think maybe we should hunt some other whales, too? Some non-Moby Dick whales? So we can fill up all those empty barrels in our hold, do the job we were hired for, and not piss off our shareholders?
AHAB: Pfft, profit margins! Those don't matter, Starbuck! What matters is in here!

pg. 172: "He smites his chest," whispered Stubb, "what's that for! Methinks it rings most vast, but hollow.

Hear hear, Stubb.

Starbuck continues to call Ahab out on his bullshit until Ahab gets fed up.

pg. 173: Talk not blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. [...] Take off thine eye! more intolerable than fiend's glarings is a doltish stare! [...] Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot, Starbuck!


pg. 173: (Aside) Something shot from my dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.

Apparently Ahab has superpowers now.

Also, throughout the chapter, little stage directions keep showing up in the text. This is the first time they have appeared in the book and I am both frightened and confused.

After Ahab makes his proclamation, there is "a low laugh from the hold" (pg. 173), along with previously-billowing sails going flat and the wind itself getting real real creepy. Could this be foreshadowing? Is the Pope Catholic?

Ahab ignores these portents of doom and calls for "the measure," which is maritime-speak for "let's all drink some booze." While someone runs to get said beverage, Ahab stares down the rest of the crew.

pg. 174: But those wild eyes met his, as the bloodshot eyes of the prairie wolves meet the eye of their leader, ere he rushes on at their head in the trail of the bison; but, alas! only to fall into the hidden snare of the Indian.


Finally the booze arrives, and Ahab takes a swig and passes it on.

pg. 174: Short draughts–long swallows, men; 'tis hot as Satan's hoof.

So, like McDonald's coffee, then?

While everyone's having a good long swallow, Ahab instructs the three mates to bring their lances and cross them together. He grabs the lances at the point where they cross and staaaaaaares into the eyes of the mates, hoping to use his magical powers to inject some of his enthusiasm into him. Apparently this works? I dunno.

Once the mates are through, Ahab calls up the harpooneers, has them remove the heads from their harpoons, and use the hollow left in the handle as a cup for more booze.

Starbuck is displeased, but protests no more.


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
Part Sixteen (You Are Here)
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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