Sunday, February 28, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 71: The Jeroboam’s Story

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.

While captain Ahab was speaking to the decapitated whale head, a crewman spotted another whale ship in the distance.  The ship turned out to be the Jeroboam, from Nantucket.  As they approached one another, the captain of the Jeroboam (whose name was Mayhew) alerted the Pequod that there was a sickness on the ship, so they should not board one another.

When the two ships were close together, Stubb spotted a man on board the Jeroboam who had become somewhat infamous—a man who called himself Gabriel.  He had “a deep, settled, frantic delirium in his eyes.”  The crew of the Pequod had been told of this Gabriel from the previous ship they’d encountered, the Town-Ho.  Here’s Gabriel’s story…

He was raised among a religious sect called the Shakers, and came to see himself as a prophet.  Basically, he was insane.  But he managed to conceal his insanity enough to get a whaling job on the ship Jeroboam.  Soon after the ship departed from Nantucket, Gabriel showed his true colors.  He said that he was actually he archangel Gabriel, and saviour of the seas.  He commanded captain Mayhew to jump overboard.  Because of Gabriel’s insane charisma, everyone on the ship both feared and revered him.  And it was in this state of frantic disarray that the Jeroboam encountered the Pequod.

Ahab asked captain Mayhew if they’d encountered Moby Dick.  Mayhew said they had, and one of their crew had perished in the unsuccessful attempt to harpoon the beast.  Eventually, the two ships parted ways—the Jeroboam under the power of a crazy man named Gabriel, and the Pequod under the power of a crazy man named Ahab.


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