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Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick 
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Post Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/270 ... m#2HCH0041

This chapter explains the mythological, legendary and fabulous reputation of Moby Dick, the white whale, terror of the seven seas, and why Ahab bore him a grudge. Very much a key chapter to disabuse those who think whaling is a peaceful sport like croquet, Moby Dick is presented here in his full supernatural intelligence, scheming the destruction of his evil pursuers. I present here some key extracts, including why crazy Ahab came to his monomania. Much as I try to minimise your burden, dear reader, with numerous dull words, I fail to see one word that I could excise further with a clear conscience, such is the centrality and brilliance of this chapter.

I understand from the site where I got the picture at the end, and I have little reason to doubt it other than the arrow of time, that Moby Dick was modeled on Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan.

What I particularly like here is Melville's explanation of his "furious trope" how Ahab's insanity was concealed, not abated. And here was me thinking the word trope was banned outside English Literature departments. They got it from Melville!

Read if you dare!

Moby Dick, ghost who swims, whale that cannot die

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Quote:
CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.
I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge.

For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompanied, secluded White Whale had haunted those uncivilized seas mostly frequented by the Sperm Whale fishermen. ... several vessels reported to have encountered, at such or such a time, or on such or such a meridian, a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and malignity, which whale, after doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely escaped them; to some minds it was not an unfair presumption, I say, that the whale in question must have been no other than Moby Dick. Yet as of late the Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not unfrequent instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the monster attacked; therefore it was, that those who by accident ignorantly gave battle to Moby Dick;

...those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance caught sight of him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one of them, almost, as boldly and fearlessly lowered for him, as for any other whale of that species. But at length, such calamities did ensue in these assaults—not restricted to sprained wrists and ankles, broken limbs, or devouring amputations—but fatal to the last degree of fatality; those repeated disastrous repulses, all accumulating and piling their terrors upon Moby Dick; those things had gone far to shake the fortitude of many brave hunters, to whom the story of the White Whale had eventually come.

Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more horrify the true histories of these deadly encounters. For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events ... whalemen as a body (are) unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them. ...the whaleman is wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth.

...all manner of morbid hints, and half-formed foetal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which eventually invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from anything that visibly appears. So that in many cases such a panic did he finally strike, that few who by those rumors, at least, had heard of the White Whale, few of those hunters were willing to encounter the perils of his jaw.

...there are plenty of whalemen, especially among those whaling nations not sailing under the American flag, who have never hostilely encountered the Sperm Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the leviathan is restricted to the ignoble monster primitively pursued in the North; seated on their hatches, these men will hearken with a childish fireside interest and awe, to the wild, strange tales of Southern whaling.

... the Sperm Whale not only to be a consternation to every other creature in the sea, but also to be so incredibly ferocious as continually to be athirst for human blood.... 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." ... to chase and point lance at such an apparition as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man. That to attempt it, would be inevitably to be torn into a quick eternity.

... in the minds of the superstitiously inclined, was the unearthly conceit that Moby Dick was ubiquitous; that he had actually been encountered in opposite latitudes at one and the same instant of time.
...the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers; and from time to time have originated the most curious and contradictory speculations regarding them, especially concerning the mystic modes whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports himself with such vast swiftness to the most widely distant points.
... some whalemen should go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would still swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout thick blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet would once more be seen.

But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in the earthly make and incontestable character of the monster to strike the imagination with unwonted power. For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out—a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with the same shrouded hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive appellation of the White Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by his vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea, leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden gleamings.

Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror, as that unexampled, intelligent malignity which, according to specific accounts, he had over and over again evinced in his assaults. More than all, his treacherous retreats struck more of dismay than perhaps aught else. For, when swimming before his exulting pursuers, with every apparent symptom of alarm, he had several times been known to turn round suddenly, and, bearing down upon them, either stave their boats to splinters, or drive them back in consternation to their ship.

Already several fatalities had attended his chase. But though similar disasters, however little bruited ashore, were by no means unusual in the fishery; yet, in most instances, such seemed the White Whale's infernal aforethought of ferocity, that every dismembering or death that he caused, was not wholly regarded as having been inflicted by an unintelligent agent.

Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the white curds of the whale's direful wrath into the serene, exasperating sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.

His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in the eddies; one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly seeking with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That captain was Ahab. 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. No turbaned Turk, no hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more seeming malice. Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.

It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more. Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the gales. And, when running into more sufferable latitudes, the ship, with mild stun'sails spread, floated across the tranquil tropics, and, to all appearances, the old man's delirium seemed left behind him with the Cape Horn swells, and he came forth from his dark den into the blessed light and air; even then, when he bore that firm, collected front, however pale, and issued his calm orders once again; and his mates thanked God the direful madness was now gone; even then, Ahab, in his hidden self, raved on. Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab's full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished. That before living agent, now became the living instrument. If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.

This is much; yet Ahab's larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted. But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound.

...Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.... Gnawed within and scorched without, with the infixed, unrelenting fangs of some incurable idea; such an one, could he be found, would seem the very man to dart his iron and lift his lance against the most appalling of all brutes.... with the mad secret of his unabated rage bolted up and keyed in him, Ahab had purposely sailed upon the present voyage with the one only and all-engrossing object of hunting the White Whale. Had any one of his old acquaintances on shore but half dreamed of what was lurking in him then, how soon would their aghast and righteous souls have wrenched the ship from such a fiendish man! They were bent on profitable cruises, the profit to be counted down in dollars from the mint. He was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.

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 invunerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. How it was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man's ire—by what evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much their insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be—what the White Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life,—all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick? Who does not feel the irresistible arm drag? What skiff in tow of a seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest ill.

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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
Robert Tulip wrote:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm#2HCH0041
This chapter explains the mythological, legendary and fabulous reputation of Moby Dick, the white whale, terror of the seven seas, and why Ahab bore him a grudge. Very much a key chapter to disabuse those who think whaling is a peaceful sport like croquet, Moby Dick is presented here in his full supernatural intelligence, scheming the destruction of his evil pursuers.


Around the time I read this chapter there were news stories being reported about a movement to grant non-human personhood to cetaceans because of their intelligence and self-awareness - this is a movement backed by scientist. I remember thinking at the time that Melville got it right when describing Moby-Dick's intelligence. I found articles from the BBC & The Guardian from Feb. 2012. Here is a bit of the article from The Guardian --

Whales and dolphins 'should have legal rights'
Campaign for intelligent marine mammals to have right to life, which would protect them from hunters and captivity

The Guardian, Monday 20 February 2012

Campaigners who believe that dolphins and whales should be granted rights on account of their intelligence are to push for the animals to be protected under international law.
A group of scientists and ethicists argues there is sufficient evidence of the marine mammals' intelligence, self-awareness and complex behaviour to enshrine their rights in legislation.
Under the declaration of rights for cetaceans, a term that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises, the animals would be protected as "non-human persons" and have a legally enforceable right to life.
If incorporated into law, the declaration would bring legal force to bear on whale hunters, and marine parks, aquariums and other entertainment venues would be barred from keeping dolphins, whales or porpoises in captivity.
"We're saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness and self-awareness are no longer unique human properties. That poses all kinds of challenges," said Tom White, director of the Centre for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
The idea of the whale's malignity might be different for us than it was for Melville or readers of the time. I don't know about you, but I can't help yelling, "Go Moby," when I hear how he rounded on pursuing whaling boats and smashed them to bits. He must have been a hero to the other whales of the ocean. For me, the falseness of the malignity charge further undercuts claims that Ahab might have on our sympathy. Since it's only whaling boats, not other shipping, that MD is said to have taken vengeance on, he is a principled fighter. How much worse humans can be, who, like Ahab, have these crazy projections that they place on other people or creatures. Ahab's vengeance is completely misplaced, as Starbuck has already said.

We don't see much talk about the beauty of the whales or any spiritual significance they might have. They have none of this, apparently, because they are industrial products, pursued for profit, turned into money for the crewmen and owners of the ships. That's just the way it will be when an animal is turned into a commercial product sold on a worldwide market. Not to romanticize, but it will be different when the animal directly benefits a small group, when all products from the animal go toward sustaining the group. Then the animal will have a spiritual significance, as it had/has for the Inuit peoples.



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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
DWill wrote:
The idea of the whale's malignity might be different for us than it was for Melville or readers of the time. I don't know about you, but I can't help yelling, "Go Moby," when I hear how he rounded on pursuing whaling boats and smashed them to bits.

I certainly was cheering for Moby.

Quote:
We don't see much talk about the beauty of the whales or any spiritual significance they might have. They have none of this, apparently, because they are industrial products, pursued for profit, turned into money for the crewmen and owners of the ships. That's just the way it will be when an animal is turned into a commercial product sold on a worldwide market. Not to romanticize, but it will be different when the animal directly benefits a small group, when all products from the animal go toward sustaining the group. Then the animal will have a spiritual significance, as it had/has for the Inuit peoples.

Nice observation. Pursuit of money vs. activities that directly sustain life.

Edit in: Oops, I didn't finish my post - I was interrupted by a knock on the door and off I went for a short hike at Bears Den. I mean to continue my thought - as in, it is interesting how the motivation behind an activity changes the activity and or our ideas and feelings about and even the outcome of an activity. And I wanted to say something about how the motivation behind an act can shape our justification for an action that might otherwise be considered distasteful or even immoral.


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Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:07 am
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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
Earlier in April the PBS show Nature aired a program titled, Ocean Giants: Deep Thinkers.

From a PBS station's website:
http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/feb/20/na ... -thinkers/

Whales and dolphins remain a constant source of fascination. But how much do we really know about them? Whales and dolphins, known as cetaceans, may appear to be totally alien to us — but with their mental ability, group communication and the recent discovery that dolphins have individual names, they are closer to us than we ever imagined.
This three-part series ("Giant Lives," "Deep Thinkers" and "Voices Of The Sea") provides new insights into the lives of whales and dolphins in a visually powerful, engaging and entertaining format. Two of the world’s top underwater cameramen — Doug Allan (“Planet Earth’s” polar specialist) and Didier Noirot (Cousteau’s front-line cameraman) — film breathtaking encounters.
Teams of intrepid scientists equipped with the latest technology are making extraordinary breakthroughs in their understanding of these intelligent life forms — breakthroughs that may safeguard their survival.
"Deep Thinkers" airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - The second part explores the cognitive and emotional lives of dolphins and whales, which have the largest brains of any animal.
Like us, cetaceans have special brain cells called spindle cells that are associated with communication, emotion, and heightened social sensitivity. These cells were once thought to be unique to humans, yet research is showing that whales and dolphins have may have three times more spindle cells than we do, leading scientists to believe that their mental abilities and emotional awareness could be far greater than we imagined.
At Baltimore Aquarium, the cognitive abilities of bottlenose dolphins have been investigated for over 25 years in one of the world’s leading studies into what dolphins might think about themselves and the world around them. Observing how they react to seeing themselves in a mirror reveals they do grasp that they are looking at an image of themselves and experience self-awareness, a sophisticated cognitive skill only a very few animals besides ourselves possess.

This website leads to the video --
http://video.pbs.org/video/2203913542/


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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 41 Moby Dick
It's mind-expanding to think about animals being more advanced than we are. Of course, my dog is more advanced than we are if we look at the information she picks up with her nose. But we don't consider those abilities to be advanced, because they don't involve frontal lobes where rational thought originates. With cetaceans, we're talking about aspects of mind that we do value, and possibly cetaceans may have us at a disadvantage in some areas. But it's unlikely that we'll ever be able to recognize animals as our equals, since none of them can build space shuttles or Wal Marts.



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