Thursday, December 31, 2015

Moby Dick Ch. 36: The Quarter-Deck

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

At long last, Captain Ahab assembles the crew on the deck of the Pequod and addresses them.  He tells them the true meaning of their voyage—to capture and kill a white whale named Moby Dick, the same whale that bit off his leg.  He offers a gold doubloon to the man who first sees the white whale.  Ahab literally hates Moby Dick, saying:

“Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.  And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, tip he spouts black blood and roll fin out.”

Starbuck is skeptical about the the captain’s mission.  “I came here to hunt whales,” he says, “not my commander’s vengeance.”  But Ahab’s enthusiasm wins over the crew.  He calls the three harpooneers to bring their harpoons, and he does a kind of blessing on them: “It seemed as though, by some nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life.” 

The crew shares a flagon of some fiery concoction, and Ahab shouts to the men, “Drink, ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow—Death to Moby Dick!  God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!”

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