Tuesday 25 February 2020

Moby-Dick Chapters 121 - 130

It's hard to believe, but after 6 months and 3 weeks, we are now into the final week of our #slowread #MobyDickReadalong. I'm going to miss this book. A lot.

Before I get all nostalgic and sentimental, I will jump into the next lot of chapters. Surely, this is the week we will finally confront Moby-Dick face-to-face!

Ch 121: Midnight - The Forecastle Bulwarks (Stubb and Flask mounted on them, and passing additional lashings over the anchors there hanging.)
  • The storm continues.
  • It would seem that Stubb is disconcerted with the thought that they could be tying up the anchors, never to be used again.
  • Flask is philosophical and berates Stubb to 'be sensible.'
  • He, in turns becomes philosophical 'I wonder, Flask, whether the world is anchored anywhere; if she is, she swings with an uncommon long cable, though.'

Ch 122: Midnight Aloft - Thunder and Lightning (The main-top-sail yard - Tashtego passing new lashings around it.)
  • In contrast to the philosophising Stubb and Flask, we have rhyming, sing-song Tashtego who simply wants the storm to stop and a glass of rum, 'um, um, um!'
  • The shortest chapter in the book?

Ch 123: The Musket
  • Starbuck's reckoning.
  • A loaded musket tempts him to kill the sleeping Ahab 'shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship's company down to doom with him?'
  • He thinks about his wife and child waiting at home, the consequences of mutiny and how this action would make him a murderer. After 'wrestling with an angel' he replaces the musket and asks Stubb to wake Ahab instead.

Ch 124: The Needle
  • The morning sees the storm easing and the sun trying to come out. However the electrical energy of the storm has affected the magnetic force of the compass needles. 
  • The Pequod now has no quadrant, no compass and the anchors have been tied up. 
    • Their fear of Ahab was greater than their fear of Fate.

Ch 125: The Log and Line
  • Another tool to help a ship measure it's progress at sea.
  • Ahab spontaneously decides to test it, even though he has barely used it during the entire cruise.
  • The Manxman is concerned that the line has deteriorated from heat and moisture.
  • Ahab is unconcerned.
  • The line snaps.
    • 'I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad sea parts the log-line.'
  • Science is broken.
  • Ahab turns to more madness and prophecy.
  • He calls Pip to him and claims the abandoned child as his own 'Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth.'
    • 'Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings.'
    • A human touch amongst the madness.

Ch 126: The Life-Buoy
  • The crew are 'startled by a cry so plaintively wild and unearthly - like half-articulated wailings of the ghosts.'
  • Is it the 'voices of newly drowned men in the sea' as suggested by the Manxman?
  • Ahab laughs at the superstitious talk and tells everyone it's only the seals who inhabit the nearby rocky islands.
  • Although, of course, sailors also have superstitions about seals!
    • Their human look, their peculiar tones, 'seals have more than once been mistaken for men'.
    • Another reminder that mankind is not that far removed from the animal world.
  • But then we lose our first man.
  • Up 'til now, the crew of the Pequod have survived intact, if you can call Pip's mental state after his accident, intact.
  • The first watch in Moby-Dick territory falls from his perch, perhaps he was not fully awake?
  • The life-buoy is flung out, but the man is gone. And so is the buoy.
    • they regarded it, not as a foreshadowing of evil in the future, but as the fulfilment of an evil already presaged.
  • The life-buoy needs to be replaced.
  • Queequeg volunteers the use of his coffin.
  • Starbuck calls the carpenter to make the coffin water-tight.
    • Life and death go hand in hand.

Ch 127: Ahab and the Carpenter (The coffin laid upon two line-tubs, between the vice-bench and the open hatchway; the Carpenter calking its seams; the string of twisted oakum slowly unwinding from a large roll of it placed in the bosom of his frock.—Ahab comes slowly from the cabin-gangway, and hears Pip following him.)
  • The carpenter gets annoyed at Pip and Ahab's mad ramblings and philosophising.
  • Ahab sees the coffin as an immortality-preserver for the soul into the next world.

Ch 128: The Pequod Meets the Rachel
  • The Rachel has seen the white whale, but they have lost a boat crew in the hunt. On board the boat is the Captain's young son. He is desperate to find his son and appeals to Ahab as a father, to help him search for the missing boat.
  • The Manxman claims that the wailing sounds from last night were the cries of the drowned crew.
  • But Ahab is undeterred, 'Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time.'
  • The Pequod presses on. 
  • The Rachel is last seen yawing 'hither and thither at every dark spot.'
    • You plainly saw that this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without comfort. She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.

Ch 129: The Cabin (Ahab moving to go on deck; Pip catches him by the hand to follow.)
  • Ahab now also abandons Pip, for fear that Pip's madness will somehow cure his own. 
  • Ahab acknowledges that he needs his madness to continue this quest.
  • Pip is confined to Ahab's cabin.
  • Pip's madness is about loss of self 'Who's seen Pip?'
  • Ahab's is about too mush self.

Ch 130: The Hat
  • The crew are feeling the strain. Silence, fear and misgivings. The worked like machines, they dumbly moved about the deck.
  • Fedallah does not appear to sleep and Ahab stands in his pivot-hole.
  • He eats in the open air and has stopped shaving. They stand side by side, but do not talk.
  • After 3 or 4 days with no sightings of the whale, Ahab begins to be distrustful of his crew's fidelity.
  • He decides to be the first to spot the white whale himself and has himself hoisted up to the royal mast.
  • He has only been aloft ten minutes when a red-billed savage sea-hawk makes off with his hat.
    • Another bad omen.

Still no Moby!
Talk about making an eleventh hour appearance!
The suspense is killing me!

I'd love to hear about your progress through Moby-Dick and please remember to add any new posts about the book or Melville to the linky in the original post.

Extracts - Chapter 7
Chapters 12 - 16
Chapters 17 - 20
Chapters 21 - 25
Chapters 26 - 30
Chapters 31 - 34
Chapters 35 - 40
Chapters 41 - 44
Chapters 45 - 49
Chapters 50 - 60
Chapters 61 - 70
Chapters 71 - 80
Chapters 81 - 90
Chapters 91 - 100

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