Sunday, February 28, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 69: The Funeral

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 short chapter is one of the most beautiful and haunting in Moby Dick.  In it, Ishmael describes how, after the whale is stripped of blubber and decapitated, its corpse is lowered into the sea and discarded.  As it slowly floats away, it is feasted upon by sharks and sea birds: “That great mass of death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives: There’s a most doleful and most shocking funeral!…Oh, horrible vulturism of Earth! from which not the mightiest whale is free.”

After death, perhaps the whale’s skeleton may wash ashore somewhere, like a ghost: “Thus, while in life the great whale’s body may have been a real terror to his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic to a world.  Are you a believer in ghosts, my friend?”

"The Funeral" by Frank Stella (from Moby Dick engravings)

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