ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
[personal profile] ambrmerlinus
Chapter 41: Moby Dick, in which the word "consternation" is used twice.

Ishmael explains that sailors are superstitious.

pg. 190: [...] in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth.

Please let that metaphor die.

Apart from sailors, some naturalists attest that sperm whales in general are remarkably ferocious.

pg. 191: For in his Natural History, the Baron himself affirms that at sight of the Sperm Whale, all fish (sharks included) are "struck with the most lively terrors," and "often in the precipitancy of their flight dash themselves against the rocks with such violence as to cause instantaneous death."

...Yeah, that totally happens.

Ishmael goes into all the wacky legends surrounding the white whale, including the belief that he is capable of being in multiple places at the same time. The amazing omnipresent whale! (Could there be more than one albino sperm whale in the world? Surely not, no.)

Moby Dick is not only believed to be everywhere at once, but also impervious to death. Ishmael says immortality is but ubiquity in time (pg. 193), which I thought to be an interesting turn of phrase.

In sum, Moby Dick is an omnipresent, immortal super-whale with a whole bunch of human kills under his blubbery belt. Keeping this in mind, Ishmael takes the reader to flashback land and asks them to consider just how pissed off and perhaps insane Ahab must be to attack Moby Dick with a six-inch knife.

pg. 194: And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick had reaped away Ahab's leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field.

Somehow I doubt it was that clean. From what I understand, sperm whale jaws are less bitey and more crushy. Still impressive, though.

Regardless, Ahab took the loss of his leg personally, believing the whale to have human intelligence and therefore human malice, making its attack on him a vindictive act worthy of vengeance. Hence the misadventure we find ourselves on now.

pg. 197: Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a Job's whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals–morally enfeebled also by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask.

Think very highly of your crewmates, do you, Ishmael?

In Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale*, we learn what Moby Dick means to Ishmael.

pg. 198: Aside from those more obvious considerations touching Moby Dick, which could not but occasionally awaken in any man's soul some alarm, there was another thought, or rather vague, nameless horror concerning him, which at times by its intensity completely overpowered all the rest; and yet so mystical and well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of putting it in a comprehensible form.

Ishmael, lord of Vaguetown.

pg. 198: But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught.

Ishmael's flashes of self-awareness amuse me to no end. Dim and random indeed.

He goes on to say the color white is the best color ever, prized the world over, in every culture.

pg. 199: this pre-eminence in it applies to the human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership over every dusky tribe;

...

I can't even.

Moving right along, Ishmael says that despite the inherent goodness of the color white, everyone fears it. He brings up polar bears and great white sharks as examples of white animals that scare people. Personally, I think this has less to do with the animals' coloring and more to do with their teeth and carnivorous tendencies, but what would I know. Ishmael says it's the color, then it's the color.

He then goes on a super-long tangent about how albatross are like angels, which reminds me of my favorite lateral thinking puzzle ever**, so that's good, I guess.

Ishmael also talks about albino people, and how society hates them.

pg. 202: The Albino is as well made as other men–has no substantive deformity–and yet this mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him more strangely hideous than the ugliest abortion.

Little harsh there, Ishmael, don't you think?

He spends the rest of the chapter puzzling over why, why, dear God why the color white scares him so.

pg. 207: Or is it, that as an essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors;

I can't decide whether to send Ishmael to a philosophy class or just give him a bong.

*"Consternation" count: 1

**The version I heard is as follows: "A man goes into a restaurant, orders albatross soup, eats one bite, pulls out a gun, and shoots himself in the head. Why?" The idea is to ask yes-or-no questions until the answer is unraveled. It's fun! And it makes the IHOP employees look at you funny.


---

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

Date: 2011-05-08 06:35 pm (UTC)
fadeaccompli: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fadeaccompli
Oh, hey! I remember the albatross logic puzzle!

...though in my experience, those logic puzzles often come down rapidly to "who heard them before" as opposed to "who can think laterally," especially given the ridiculous premises necessary for most of them. They do make interesting car games if there's one no one else had heard yet, though. Never tried them in IHOP. That sounds like a game all its own!

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