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Moby Dick: Renewed Pursuit, Chapters 99-132

[ Edited ]
Melville narrates the final pursuit of Moby Dick with great attention to strategic decision making and dramatic characterization. His literary invention is at a peak here also, all geared toward the end of great storytelling. Not to be missed! Chapters 99-132.

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 12-10-200610:58 PM

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 12-10-200610:59 PM

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Chapters 104 and 108: More Vertebrae

This seems to be a theme in MD! From Chapter 104:

There are forty and odd vertebrae in all, which in the skeleton are not locked together. They mostly lie like the great knobbed blocks on a Gothic spire, forming solid courses of heavy masonry. The largest, a middle one, is in width something less than three feet, and in depth more than four. The smallest, where the spine tapers away into the tail, is only two inches in width, and looks something like a white billiard-ball. I was told that there were still smaller ones... . Thus we see how that the spine of even the hugest of living things tapers off at last into simple child's play.
and Chapter 108 (Ahab is speaking):

By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious vertebra. So.

pmath wrote (here):
This is fascinating: does anyone know more about this?

If you attentively regard almost any quadruped's spine, you will be struck with the resemblance of its vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit, that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. ... Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from the cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man's character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world. [Chapter 80]

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Re: Chapters 104 and 108: More Vertebrae

Dissolve myself to a verterbrae? What do you think of Chapter 99, when he nails the doubloon to the mast?
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Chapter 99: "all are Ahab"

[ Edited ]
Bob, wasn't that in Chapter 36? Were you referring instead to the passage below? I don't really understand what Ahab is saying most of the time anyway, as he raves: I do understand Ishmael, on the other hand!

Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing.

"There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and all other grand and lofty things; look here,--three peaks as proud as Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself. Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes, 't is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then! Here's stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then."

fanuzzir wrote:
What do you think of Chapter 99, when he nails the doubloon to the mast?

Message Edited by pmath on 01-21-200712:12 PM

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More on Chapter 108: Luz

I just finished (re)reading Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Mary Barton, and in Chapter VIII, EG refers to what I later found is called the Luz bone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luz

Is this what HM is also referring to here?


fanuzzir wrote:
Dissolve myself to a verterbrae?

pmath wrote:
From ... Chapter 108 (Ahab is speaking):

By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious vertebra. So.


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Re: Chapter 99: "all are Ahab"

In that passage, Melville seems to promise his men pain and more pain. But more importantly, he instinctively sees the doubloon as an image of himself and his vastness, a habit that he brings to whales as well. That's even more significant here, for the doubloon is a token of the Spanish empire in the Americas, and represents the staggering riches of the Andean civilization (Incan) melted down into easily transportable form. It subsequently became the currency of the globe, even after the introduction of paper money; the Spanish imperial coin remained its value for these Yankee sailors. I love this passage because it reflects on New World history and the American fascination with the wages of the Spanish American empire, gold.

Thank you for getting my chapters straightened out, PMath.
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Re: More on Chapter 108: Luz

Good find pmath!




pmath wrote:
I just finished (re)reading Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Mary Barton, and in Chapter VIII, EG refers to what I later found is called the Luz bone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luz

Is this what HM is also referring to here?


fanuzzir wrote:
Dissolve myself to a verterbrae?

pmath wrote:
From ... Chapter 108 (Ahab is speaking):

By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious vertebra. So.





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Re: Chapter 99: "all are Ahab"

Thanks fanuzzir - that is an interesting explanation of the value of the gold and history of the doubloon. (There is a shrub at the bottom of my garden called a Choisya Sundance and when the sun shines on it I have described it like a pile of doubloons:smileyhappy: )




fanuzzir wrote:
In that passage, Melville seems to promise his men pain and more pain. But more importantly, he instinctively sees the doubloon as an image of himself and his vastness, a habit that he brings to whales as well. That's even more significant here, for the doubloon is a token of the Spanish empire in the Americas, and represents the staggering riches of the Andean civilization (Incan) melted down into easily transportable form. It subsequently became the currency of the globe, even after the introduction of paper money; the Spanish imperial coin remained its value for these Yankee sailors. I love this passage because it reflects on New World history and the American fascination with the wages of the Spanish American empire, gold.

Thank you for getting my chapters straightened out, PMath.


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ch. 127 Jack of all trades

"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?"

"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"

"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"

"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but they've set me now to turning it into something else."

"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."

"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."

>>> Could our gentle author be describing himself?
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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ch. 108 Phantom limbs

Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?

Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle?

I should humbly call it a poser, sir.

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2006/11/phantom_limbs_and_moby_dick.php

http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume4/issue2/features/higgins.html
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: ch. 108 Phantom limbs

Thanks Laurel - we know a lot more about this sad condition nowadays don't we:smileysad: Strangely enough I had a letter last week from a relative of mine in Trinidad who had both her legs amputated around 15 years ago and she wrote 'Sometimes when the weather is bleaky I still get phantom pains - after all these years! When this happens I have to take more medicine to get relief because it is really very painful':smileysad:




Laurel wrote:
Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?

Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle?

I should humbly call it a poser, sir.

http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2006/11/phantom_limbs_and_moby_dick.php

http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume4/issue2/features/higgins.html


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Re: ch. 127 Jack of all trades

Nice thought Laurel:smileyhappy: Or could it be Ahab's heathenish reference to Jesus the Carpenter - I can't see a connection but thought you might?




Laurel wrote:
"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?"

"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"

"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"

"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but they've set me now to turning it into something else."

"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."

"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."

>>>Could our gentle author be describing himself?


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Re: ch. 127 Jack of all trades

I thought of that, too. Carpenter as Creator. Ahab has definitely become a heathen.



Choisya wrote:
Nice thought Laurel:smileyhappy: Or could it be Ahab's heathenish reference to Jesus the Carpenter - I can't see a connection but thought you might?




Laurel wrote:
"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?"

"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"

"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"

"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but they've set me now to turning it into something else."

"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."

"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."

>>>Could our gentle author be describing himself?





"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Chapter 127: Carpenters and the Working Class

Very nice, ladies! This also takes us back to some of the earlier chapters Bob and I were discussing (I've quoted from our messages below).


pmath wrote (here):
I agree, Bob: to me, it sounds like the philosophy of a certain carpenter from Nazareth!

fanuzzir wrote (here):
I don't know how, but Melville puts these tremendous words in a working class dialect, and speaks to working class needs. And yet they are deeply philosophical and moving in their depiction of a human condition.


Laurel wrote:
I thought of that, too. Carpenter as Creator. Ahab has definitely become a heathen.

Choisya wrote:
Nice thought Laurel:smileyhappy: Or could it be Ahab's heathenish reference to Jesus the Carpenter - I can't see a connection but thought you might?

Laurel wrote:
"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?"

"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"

"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"

"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but they've set me now to turning it into something else."

"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."

"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."

>>>Could our gentle author be describing himself?


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Re: Chapter 99: "all are Ahab"



fanuzzir wrote:
In that passage, Melville seems to promise his men pain and more pain. But more importantly, he instinctively sees the doubloon as an image of himself and his vastness, a habit that he brings to whales as well. That's even more significant here, for the doubloon is a token of the Spanish empire in the Americas, and represents the staggering riches of the Andean civilization (Incan) melted down into easily transportable form. It subsequently became the currency of the globe, even after the introduction of paper money; the Spanish imperial coin remained its value for these Yankee sailors. I love this passage because it reflects on New World history and the American fascination with the wages of the Spanish American empire, gold.

Thank you for getting my chapters straightened out, PMath.




Like this book, everyone finds his own meaning in the doubloon:

..................................
Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing.

"There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and all other grand and lofty things; look here,—three peaks as proud as Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself. Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes, 't is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then! Here's stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then."

"No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil's claws must have left their mouldings there since yesterday," murmured Starbuck to himself, leaning against the bulwarks. "The old man seems to read Belshazzar's awful writing. I have never marked the coin inspectingly. He goes below; let me read. A dark valley between three mighty, heaven-abiding peaks, that almost seem the Trinity, in some faint earthly symbol. So in this vale of Death, God girds us round; and over all our gloom, the sun of Righteousness still shines a beacon and a hope. If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil; but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, to cheer. Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture; and if, at midnight, we would fain snatch some sweet solace from him, we gaze for him in vain! This coin speaks wisely, mildly, truly, but still sadly to me. I will quit it, lest Truth shake me falsely."

"There now's the old Mogul," soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, "he's been twigging it; and there goes Starbuck from the same, and both with faces which I should say might be somewhere within nine fathoms long. And all from looking at a piece of gold. . . . What then should there be in this doubloon of the Equator that is so killing wonderful? By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here's signs and wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls the zodiac, and what my almanac below calls ditto. I'll get the almanac and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's arithmetic, I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar. . . ."
.................................

> > > And on and on. This chapter needs to be read many times. At last comes little Pip, the wise fool:
.................................

"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."

"Upon my soul, he's been studying Murray's Grammar! Improving his mind, poor fellow! But what's that he says now—hist!"

"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."

"Why, he's getting it by heart—hist! again."

"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."

"Well, that's funny."

"And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats; and I'm a crow, especially when I stand a'top of this pine tree here. Caw! caw! caw! caw! caw! caw! Ain't I a crow? And where's the scare-crow? There he stands; two bones stuck into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked into the sleeves of an old jacket."
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: ch. 108 Phantom limbs



Laurel wrote:
Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?

Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle?

I should humbly call it a poser, sir.



I always am suspicious of Jesus allusions (Christ-figure is one word I've heard too often), but now ...
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Re: ch. 127 Jack of all trades

[ Edited ]
Carpenter, hmmm... but what then about the blacksmith? How do they correlate? They worked together on the new bone leg. No leg, no Ahab. (see new post Ahab and others)

I hope that Meville meant it as a compliment that the brain slides down to his fingertops.

ziki
edited later:
PS Avast! I actually commented on the other (earlier) chapters here, thus not #127. I discovered afterwards. Sorry.127 is one of those I marked with --?--

Message Edited by ziki on 01-29-200701:22 PM

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Chapters 99-132-no leg no Ahab

[ Edited ]
Carpenter and blacksmiths cooperate to keep Ahab moving, make him a new leg.
In what ways do we keep giving leaders new legs?

The scene when Ahab can't make it up to the English ship shows that Ahab no matter how determined is dependent on the help (and/or cooperation) of others. Ahab walks the edge all the time (=have others to obey him and 'just about' not).

Ahab was also contrasted by the captain on the English ship, merry fellow who had the sense to let Moby-Dick be. No such option for Ahab. Starbuck senses that it all sails the wrong way (there are many signs) and that he'll have to pay for something he didn't bargain for.
There are many signs that Pequod is going wrong: storm, demagnetized compass etc etc and yet it is so obvious that nothing will stop Ahab. He no longer listens to any 'objections'.
What annoys me is that if the ship sinks, all the whales were really killed for nothing....and everything was a total waste and a senseless trip.

A man driven by private reasons is not a good leader. Actually not even if the reasons were positive. Say Ahab would like to marry some Pacific Princess and would drive the ship because of that wish.

Another contrast there: the happy dancing full ship returning...and the haunted-hunting Pequod.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-28-200701:37 PM

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Numbers in Moby Dick

I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion of Melville's use of numbers.

The last episode of the book--The Chase--takes three days. Plus, it takes three chapters. (I think that's the only episode that spills over into more than one chapter.)

The number three recurs time and time again (and time again) in the book. One of the best examples of this is The Candles chapter (number 119.) Melville describes three masts, each tipped with three corpusants (mystical lights). Stubb says "the corpusants have mercy on us all" three times. Dagoo rises up to thrice his real stature. The three "savage" harpooners all glow with the lightning. Melville uses the triple phrase, "standing, or stepping or running" in describing the skeletons in Herculaneum. And he uses the phrase "tri-ponted trinity of flames." In an aside (another theatrical devices Melville uses time and again), "the nine flames leap lengthwise to thrice their previous height."

Another wonderful example is the Midnight Aloft--Thunder and Lightning chapter, number 122. This chapter, the shortest in the book, has three sentences, with three phrases or sounds each. And there are 36 words in the chapter.

The number three has a mystical (and religious) significance. Time is divided into past, present, and future. Three is the prime triangular number. A nuclear family has three members--father, mother, child. The Christian God has three persons. There were three crosses on Calvary (and three masts on the Pequod). And Jesus is said to have risen from the dead on the third day.
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Re: Numbers in Moby Dick

[ Edited ]

friery wrote:
I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion of Melville's use of numbers.




Hey, we've been busy with whales, LOL. I didn't manage to count them yet!
I like the shortest chapter in the book because it is a quick and painless read.....um um rum.

But seriously; as we touched upon it Melville's writing has a certain melody to it, rhythm. You discover that first when you read the text aloud. Also the way it is written resembles more the way we talk, the spoken language...the book IMHO is more 'sounding' than ' a silent read'(not sure how to explain that [=some texts are informative and you do not mark the rhythm so much]. The number three stands for one of the basic beats in music and it is also a favo number of drama (drama triangle). # 2 an 4 are more stable. Three is 'dangerous'.

In fairy tales thrird time is valid.

I am glad you brought this up, now we can discuss it more!
:-)
ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-29-200701:28 PM

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