Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 62: The Dart

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, Ishmael explains how difficult and exhausting is the harpooner’s job when chasing a whale.  Not only is the harpooner expected to heave a heavy metal lance 20-30 feet with accuracy, he is also expected to do his share of rowing, shouting, and not getting killed.  Ishmael writes, “He is expected to set an example of superhuman activity…it is the harpooneer who makes the voyage.”

Ishmael proposes a new whale-ship policy regarding harpooners.  They should not be required to row or shout—only fling the harpoons.  This way, they would have more strength and focus, and would therefore be more accurate.  “To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart (harpoon),” Ishmael writes, “the harpooners of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.”  This last section echoes the language of Karl Marx, and has a distinct flavor of working class rage.  Harpooneers of the world, unite!


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