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Moby Dick Chapter 13 - The Wheelbarrow
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Author:  Robert Tulip [ Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:35 am ]
Post subject:  Moby Dick Chapter 13 - The Wheelbarrow

Since this book has 135 chapters, I will just keep opening new threads one by one, aiming to get through the whole thing eventually, and mentioning things that catch my eye.

Chapter Link: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/270 ... m#2HCH0013

"Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber"

There is a wonderful insouciance in Melville's style here, presenting such a bizarre event as so innocent and ordinary. The head is not shrunken but embalmed in the Maori style.

For a good explanation on the roaring trade in embalmed heads see http://canterburyheritage.blogspot.com. ... ecord.html

Here are some pictures from the blog, the first from a museum in Belgium.

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HM wrote:
[Queequeg] tells a funny story about the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The owners of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which to carry his heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant about the thing—though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way in which to manage the barrow—Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. "Why," said I, "Queequeg, you might have known better than that, one would think. Didn't the people laugh?"


This story is a beauty, both for indicating how an ordinary technology that seems so obvious to all who are familiar with it can be obscure when seen for the first time, and also, showing how the wheelbarrow, now universal, was absent from Europe through the Dark Ages, and barely mentioned in antiquity. Somehow those Egyptians moved hundred ton blocks of stone without wheelbarrows!
Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheelbarrow

Queequeg's touche response to Ishmael's tittling snigger about the wheelbarrow story is to explain how a white man visited his island and washed his hands in the punch bowl before the assembled guests at a wedding feast, showing that the civilized can be just as idiotic as savages when confronted by things that are new to them.

They take ship for Nantucket, and a bumpkin mocks Queequeg, who puts him in his place: "by an almost miraculous dexterity and strength, [Queequeg] sent him high up bodily into the air; then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the fellow landed with bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turning his back upon him, lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to me for a puff."

The captain threatens to kill Queequeg, wherupon the poor bumpkin is swept overboard, and saved from drowning by another miraculous piece of savage nonchalance. The conclusion? "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians."

Author:  Chris27 [ Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moby Dick Chapter 13 - The Wheelbarrow

Thanks for the hard work, Robert - it's really good to read along with others, I'm finding. I'm also enjoying the re-reading - having got 2/3 through before this forum started.

For me the crucial line in this chapter is 'I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took his last long dive'

It's suddenly an intimation of the serious story to come which has been till now only indicated in general terms by the description of the chapel.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moby Dick Chapter 13 - The Wheelbarrow

No question, whaling was a serious business. Queequeg warns the bumpkin not to treat him lightly, and then saves him with a heroic dive. Ishmael says he will outlive Queequeg. We still have not encountered the monomaniac Captain Ahab...

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