Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nothing But Bad Omens


Chapter 50 – Ahab’s Boat and Crew.  Fedallah
According to “whale-wise people,” it is not prudent for a captain to man his own crew to pursue whales, especially a maimed captain; and obviously, the owners of the Pequod have not approved Ahab’s boat and crew, which explains Ahab’s secrecy.  Ishmael also claims that Fedallah remains a mystery as to how he is known to Ahab.

Chapter 51 – The Spirit Spout
During his night watch from the main-mast head, Fedallah thinks he spots a whale’s spout, but then it is gone.  This continues for many nights, and Ishmael refers to it as the “phantom spout” eluding them; others think it is Moby Dick leading them to their end.  They are heading to the dangerous Cape of Good Hope.

Chapter 52 – The Albatross
As the Pequod passes the homeward bound Albatross, Ahab calls out to ask if they have seen Moby-Dick, but as the captain begins to call back, the trumpet falls away from him into the sea.  A fateful sign?

Chapter 53 – The Gam
“A Gam is a social meeting of two or more whaling ships on the sea where they exchange visits” - two captains on one ship, and two first mates on the other; obviously the Albatross and Pequod did not have a gam.  In addition, Ahab prefers gamming only with crews who have critical information about Moby-Dick.

Chapter 54 – The Town-Ho’s Story
Another homeward bound ship, Town-Ho, is able to give information on Moby-Dick, though it seems more about a complication aboard the Town-Ho when two crew members, Radney and Steelkit, clash.  Steelkit seeks revenge on Radney, but before he can confront him, the crew faces Moby-Dick; Radney falls from the harpoon boat and is taken into the jaws of the Great Whale as it plunges down below the surface.

Chapter 55 – 57 On the Monstrous Pictures of Whales; Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes; Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars
Ishmael claims that most portrayals of whales are erroneous, and you would have to see a whale in order to know what it truly looks like; and that is rather difficult given that it is almost always under water.  Then Ishmael gives an account of French artists’ depictions of specific whales in proper form, which seems peculiar since the French are not whalers.  Finally, Ishmael discusses forms of whales carved in different materials by whalers themselves.  He says that whales are everywhere in nature: as a petrified mass in the earth to the stars in the heavens above.

 Chapter 58 – Brit
Ishmael begins the chapter explaining that brit is the yellow substance of crustaceans that Right Whales feed on.  Then he compares the terrors of the ocean and the peace of the land to that of man: the human soul is but a small island of peace and joy surrounded by the horrors of life!

Chapter 59 – Squid
Daggoo calls out that he has spotted the White Whale, and Ahab gives the order to lower down all four crews into the sea.  The great phenomenon they see is only the Giant Squid, although a rare sighting and usually food for the Sperm Whale, but another bad premonition for those who are superstitious.

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