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.
In this chapter, the author describes, in detail, a seemingly mundane thing called the “whale-line”. This is simply the rope which connects the harpoon to the boat. These strong ropes used to be made of hemp, but in Melville’s day they were made of something called Manilla. The whale-line is actually really important because, if it is not coiled or handled properly, it can maim, dismember, or drag a man overboard, when in pursuit of a whale. Ishmael compares the omni-present danger of the whale-line to the more general omni-present dangers of life:
“All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters around their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”