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Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin 
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Post Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/270 ... m#2HCH0081

A long chapter, but well worth reading by itself, for the description of the chase of the sperm whale.


Quote:
The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau, Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen.
Predestination is of course the core idea of Calvinism, that God knows his saints in advance. As becomes clear, it is not certain if the virgin in question is the ship Jungfrau or the old whale they chase.
Quote:
it's a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he's coming off to make us our coffee
and hence the name of the coffee shop chain.
Quote:
the German soon evinced his complete ignorance of the White Whale
obligatory interrogation by Ahab...
Quote:

whales were almost simultaneously raised from the mast-heads of both vessels... Aware of their danger, they were going all abreast with great speed straight before the wind
Melville uses this chapter to evoke sympathy for the whale, here for their fright at knowledge of the murderous intent of their pursuers.
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many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge, humped old bull... all the combined rival boats were pointed for this one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most valuable whale, but he was nearest to them
The target is set.
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"Oh! see the suds he makes!" cried Flask, dancing up and down—"What a hump—Oh, DO pile on the beef—lays like a log! Oh! my lads, DO spring—slap-jacks and quahogs for supper, you know, my lads—baked clams and muffins—oh, DO, DO, spring,—he's a hundred barreller—don't lose him now—don't oh, DON'T!—see that Yarman—Oh, won't ye pull for your duff, my lads—such a sog! such a sogger! Don't ye love sperm? There goes three thousand dollars, men!—a bank!—a whole bank! The bank of England!—Oh, DO, DO, DO!—What's that Yarman about now?"
As they say in the Olympic rowing.
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It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was now going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual tormented jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of fright. Now to this hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering flight, and still at every billow that he broke, he spasmodically sank in the sea, or sideways rolled towards the sky his one beating fin. So have I seen a bird with clipped wing making affrighted broken circles in the air, vainly striving to escape the piratical hawks. But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make known her fear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained up and enchanted in him; he had no voice, save that choking respiration through his spiracle, and this made the sight of him unspeakably pitiable; while still, in his amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and omnipotent tail, there was enough to appal the stoutest man who so pitied.
But most whalers feel as much pity as Daleks, or the sun.
Quote:

all three tigers—Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo—instinctively sprang to their feet, and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their barbs; and darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three Nantucket irons entered the whale. Blinding vapours of foam and white-fire! The three boats, in the first fury of the whale's headlong rush, bumped the German's aside with such force, that both Derick and his baffled harpooneer were spilled out, and sailed over by the three flying keels.
Who ever harpoons the whale first has rights to it.
Quote:
the monster's run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he tumultuously sounded. With a grating rush, the three lines flew round the loggerheads with such a force as to gouge deep grooves in them; while so fearful were the harpooneers that this rapid sounding would soon exhaust the lines, that using all their dexterous might, they caught repeated smoking turns with the rope to hold on; till at last—owing to the perpendicular strain from the lead-lined chocks of the boats, whence the three ropes went straight down into the blue—the gunwales of the bows were almost even with the water, while the three sterns tilted high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing to sound, for some time they remained in that attitude, fearful of expending more line, though the position was a little ticklish. But though boats have been taken down and lost in this way, yet it is this "holding on," as it is called; this hooking up by the sharp barbs of his live flesh from the back; this it is that often torments the Leviathan into soon rising again to meet the sharp lance of his foes.
Terrifying for the men and for the beast they are torturing to death.
Quote:
beneath all that silence and placidity, the utmost monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in agony! ...In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how appalling to the wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his head!
Melville empathises with the poor tormented creature.
Quote:

the boats gave a sudden bounce upwards, as a small icefield will, when a dense herd of white bears are scared from it into the sea.
What fun they had in the nineteenth century, drowning polar bears out of sheer malice.
Quote:

from the points which the whale's eyes had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs, horribly pitiable to see. But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.
Whales are so lucky that our solemn churches are now powered by fossil fuel, otherwise all the whales would long be extinct. As it is we are sending ourselves to extinction by cooking the earth itself.
Quote:
Still rolling in his blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely discoloured bunch or protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank. "A nice spot," cried Flask; "just let me prick him there once." "Avast!" cried Starbuck, "there's no need of that!" But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more than sufferable anguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with swift fury blindly darted at the craft, bespattering them and their glorying crews all over with showers of gore, capsizing Flask's boat and marring the bows. It was his death stroke. For, by this time, so spent was he by loss of blood, that he helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had made; lay panting on his side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin, then over and over slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white secrets of his belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most piteous, that last expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn off from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy gurglings the spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground—so the last long dying spout of the whale.
More piteous melancholy gurglings calculated to incite empathy for the whale and repugnance for his cruel killers.
Quote:
the body showed symptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled.
And that is what eventually happens.


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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
I read this chapter very quickly the first time, because it was so painful. On the second reading, I was at first angry with 'cruel' Stubb for lancing the whale in an already very sore and pus filled area, and then I thought that actually it brought the whales death quicker, so it may have been more merciful. Also, where did the stone harpoon come from? Sperm whales live to be about seventy years, so must have been a civilization still using stone tools. The aborigines? Also this chapter comes after a few very boring chapters on the physiology or phrenology of the whale. I wonder if that was the purpose of those chapters? to lull you into the unexpected horror of the killing of the whale?


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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
You know, I've also been puzzling as to why the whale sank. Perhaps it's because they can heat or cool their spermaceti at will. so if a whale had been ready to dive when it was killed, it would explain why it was not just the age of the whale that counted. Just a thought


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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
heledd wrote:
I read this chapter very quickly the first time, because it was so painful. On the second reading, I was at first angry with 'cruel' Stubb for lancing the whale in an already very sore and pus filled area, and then I thought that actually it brought the whales death quicker, so it may have been more merciful.
It read to me that Stubb is an example of where people use excessive cruelty to cover up to themselves the horror of their situation through a gratuitous toughness. Murdering majestic innocent whales so that churches may have candles is a grubby business. Conrad said the conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. Nor is whaling a pretty thing.
Quote:
Also, where did the stone harpoon come from? Sperm whales live to be about seventy years, so must have been a civilization still using stone tools. The aborigines?
The stone age persisted very late in the Pacific. In the highlands of Papua New Guinea people had not seen metal before the 1930s. The likelihood of traditional whale hunting methods in the Pacific continuing into the nineteenth century is strong, even though coastal islanders were of course aware of the redskins (English) and their foul murderous habits and high magical technology. But this stone harpoon is intended to convey the mystery of the sea, that we do not know where it came from or how traditional societies may have hunted whales. It reminds me of the many bizarre methods used by the Pequod which Melville draws attention to.
Quote:
Also this chapter comes after a few very boring chapters on the physiology or phrenology of the whale. I wonder if that was the purpose of those chapters? to lull you into the unexpected horror of the killing of the whale?

There is a saying that war is 99% boredom and 1% terror. The voyage of the Pequod is similar. Long slow periods sailing across the sea give plenty of time for reflection, punctuated by bursts of excitement of the chase.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
Is anyone interested in doing another Classic soon?



Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:06 pm
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Post Re: Moby Dick Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin
We could do Bel Ami? It's been suggested on the fiction forum. I got a free download


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