Thursday, July 12, 2012

I think Moby-Dick is turning me into an animal rights activist...


Chapter 80 – The Nut
If physiognomy is not beneficial, how about phrenology?  In this case, being that the whale has a small brain inside a mighty brow, one could say the whale has no pride and no honor.  But I like Ishmael’s suggestion: to apply the Sperm Whale’s spinal cord to the same phrenology, for,“…that much of a man’s character will be found betokened in his backbone.  I would rather feel your spine than your skull…” Imagine that being a test to get elected to public office!

Chapter 81 – The Pequod Meets the Virgin
The Jungfrau, an empty German oil-ship, asks the Pequod for oil since they have been unable to capture sperm whale and replace their supply.  Just as the captain is returning to his ship, both crews spot whales, and the chase is on.  The Pequod’s harpooners are the victors as they overtake an older, maimed whale.  When this particular whale begins to sink, as sometimes happens for unknown reasons, the crew have to cut it lose or it will sink them.

 Chapter 82 – The Honor and Glory of Whaling
Ishmael expresses his reverence for whaling given those who have been great whalemen or connected to whales in history, such as:  Perseus, St. George and the Dragon - which was really a whale, you know - Hercules, and, of course, Jonah; and why not Vishnoo, the god of the Hindoos?  And somehow I get the feeling that Ishmael is being sarcastic…

Chapter 83 – Jonah Historically Regarded
Ishmael continues the story of Jonah, but with regard to some Nantucketers who distrust the truth of the Prophet because they claim that “a penny roll would have choked [the whale];” or that Jonah really hid out in the whale’s mouth; or that the whale was really a floating craft with the name “The Whale,” which does not fit since Scripture calls it a Great Fish.

Chapter 84 – Pitchpoling
More whales are spotted and hunted, and Tash is prosperous in harpooning one, but the whale is still fleeing; therefore, Stubb uses a lance of steel and pine to stab the bolting whale over and over until it dies.  This is getting really sad.

Chapter 85 – The Fountain
A whale has lungs like a human and survives by coming above the surface to inhale air through its spiracle on top of its head.  His respiratory system makes him defenseless to humans, and hunters believe that the spout is poisonous.  They also believed that whales have no voice, but Ishmael’s whale biology is a little outdated.

Chapter 86 – The Tail
The tail of a whale is at least fifty square feet, and Ishmael lists five motions it is capable of and their reasons: for propulsion; for defense; for touch; for play; and to plunge into the deep ocean.  Ishmael compares the whale to the elephant on land, and proclaims the whale “the most devout of all beings.”

Chapter 87 – The Grand Armada or a Messy Chapter
The Pequod, now in Southeastn Asia, hunt a massive group of whales, where Queequeg strikes one whale that pulls them violently into the panicked herd; Starbuck uses “druggs” to injure or kill those whales not captured but in the way.  This harpoon detaches from the detained whale, and no longer pulling the boat, the craft ends up sitting in the calm of the storm, enclosed by the surrounding frenzied group of fugitive whales.  In the calm and most ironic environment, smaller whales visit the crew, nursing mothers and their young, innocent and ignorant of the danger about them. Finally, after escaping the circle, the crew picks up one drugged whale and the remaining herd flees only to be picked up later by other whalers.

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