Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 49: The Hyena

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.

This brief chapter gives Ishmael’s reaction to his brush with death in the previous chapter, when (in pursuit of a whale during a stormy squall), he was thrown overboard.  Ishmael asks more experienced whalers like Queequeg, Stubb, and Flask whether these kinds of brushes with death are common on a whaling voyage.  All three men respond in the affirmative—these things are common.

Given such a precarious state of affairs, Ishmael decides to write a draft of his will.  This resignation to the real possibility of his own imminent demise is actually kind of freeing for Ishmael.  He writes: “I felt all the easier; a stone was rolled away from my heart.  Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be.  I survived myself; my death and burial were locked up in my chest.  I looked around me tranquilly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.”

The Resurrection of Lazarus by Leon Bonnat (1857)

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