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Chapter 48: The First Lowering picks up right where the cliffhanger for Chapter 47 left off, and describes the five phantoms that are now preparing Ahab's boat for the whale hunt.

pg. 230: The figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and coiled round and round upon his head.

Emphasis added to accentuate Ishmael's gift of incredible subtlety. Gee, I wonder if this guy is a villain of some sort.

pg. 230: Less swart in aspect, the companions of this figure were of that vivid, tiger-yellow complexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas;

Tigers aren't yellow. I realize that's the least of our problems here, but still.

The description goes on.

pg. 230: –a race notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty, and by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord, whose counting-room they suppose to be elsewhere.

...

MOVING RIGHT ALONG.

The dude with the one tooth and the hair-turban is Fedallah, by the way. The presence of him and his four compatriots is so shocking to the rest of the crew that even the mates forget to do their jobs and just kind of staaaaaare at Ahab's boat until Ahab is like, "Dudes. Spread out and get going," and they do so.

(Ishmael is in Starbuck's boat, btw. I suspect this is because Queequeg is Starbuck's harpooneer and Queequeg and Ishmael cannot bear to be separated for even a moment.)

Stubb, for the record, has an interesting management style.

pg. 231: "Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little ones," drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom still showed signs of uneasiness. "Why don't you break your backbones, my boys? What is it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder boat? Tut! They are only five more hands come to help us–never mind from where–the more the merrier. Pull, then, do pull' never mind the brimstone–devils are good fellows enough. [...] Here!" whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle; "every mother's son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth. That's it–that's it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her–start her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!"

Ishmael is careful to note that, while saying this, Stubb never shouts or yells. Instead he's practically lying around in the boat, totally relaxed, every word coming out in a drawl. Apparently this is a good strategy, as it inspires his crew to pull even harder.

Starbuck, meanwhile, manages his crew by whispering at them like he's their dad or something. I can't decide whether it's comforting or creepy.

Flask, unlike the other mates, shouts his directions.

And Ishmael takes a moment to remind us how great his foreshadowing was.

pg. 233: For me, I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Step 1: Foreshadow something.
Step 2: Point at the foreshadowing while doing a little dance.
Step 3: The foreshadowed event comes to pass.
Step 4: Repeat step 2.

Back to Flask, who is short and is balancing on the tip of his boat to see better until finally Daggoo offers to let him stand on his shoulders. I am not making this up. Flask gets a piggyback ride from Daggoo while they are chasing a whale.

(Ishmael, of course, takes this moment to point out Daggoo's "barbaric majesty" and I gag a little.)

Also, Stubb wears his pipe in his hat like a feather.

To Flask again:

pg. 237: Roar and pull, my thunderbolts! Beach me, beach me on their black backs, boys; only do that for me, and Ill sing over to you my Martha's Vineyard plantation, boys; including wife and children, boys.

Uh...

pg. 237: Lay me on–lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad: See! see that white water!" And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his head, and stamped up and down on it; then picking it up, flirted it far off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and plunging in the boat's stern like a crazed colt from the prairie.

I think Flask needs a nap.

What's Ahab up to while all this goes down?

pg. 237: But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of his–these were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed light of the evangelical land.

I am forced to conclude that Ahab is giving his crew directions in the Black Speech of Mordor and move on.

Finally, Starbuck's boat catches up to the whale, and Queequeg throws his harpoon just as the whale comes up underneath them and spouts. The crew (including Ishmael) is tossed out of the boat and the whale escapes with only a grazing wound from the harpoon.

The boat survives, though half-full of water, and the crew gets back in and heads for the Pequod. And then a storm comes up, because this day didn't suck enough.

Come sunrise, Starbuck's crew is still all together, drenched and miserable and lost. But not for long, because here comes the Pequod, bearing down on them and showing no sign of turning or stopping.* The crew abandons the boat just in time to see it run over by the ship. Finally, the crew of the Pequod notices the crew of Starbuck's boat floating around down there and scoop them all up. Everyone is safe and sound.

Chapter 49: The Hyena opens right after the rescue of Starbuck et all, with Ishmael complaining.

pg. 241: "Queequeg," said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck, and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water; "Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of thing often happen?" Without much emotion, though soaked through just like me, he gave me to understand that such things did often happen.

Ishmael goes on to ask Stubb and Flask the same question, and they give him the same answer as Queequeg, while giving off the impression that Ishmael really should have expected this when he signed up. Listening to all their accounts, Ishmael comes to a decision.

pg. 242: taking all things together, I say, I thought I might as well go below and make a rough draft of my will. "Queequeg," said I, "come along, you shall be my lawyer, executor, and legatee.

It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at their last wills and testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond of that diversion. This was the fourth time in my nautical life that I had done the same thing.


On the one hand, Ishmael's job means that he could die doing it at any moment (even if he isn't very good at it). On the other hand, I keep picturing a terrible Moby Dick high school AU where Ishmael is the Hot Topic kid that won't stop hanging around graveyards and writing his own will over and over again. Queequeg is the new guy who just moved from New Zealand. He joins the football team and becomes the star quarterback and I have officially put too much thought into this and need to stop now.

*Cue Road to El Dorado reference.

---

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