Saturday, March 26, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 78: Cistern and Buckets

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.

And now the task fell to the Native American harpooneer Tashtego to stand atop the head of the Sperm Whale with a cutting lance.  To extract the precious oil, he had to cut a hole in the creature's massive head, then lower bucket after bucket into the hole to retrieve the spermaceti.  This Tashtego did, pulling out 80 or 90 bucketfuls of oil, which were emptied into large tubs.  When nearly all the sperm had been excavated, Tashtego slipped and fell into the whale’s head!  First, Dagoo lept to the rescue, jumping in the whale’s head to retrieve his fellow harpooneer.  However, the weight of the two men soon became too much, and the giant head plunged into the ocean, and began to sink, with Tashtego still inside!

Then the valiant Queequeg wordlessly dived into the sea, to rescue the drowning man.  Using a sharp lance, Queequeg managed, underwater, to cut a hole in the bottom of the head and pulled Tashtego out, head-first, like delivering a baby.  Thus Queequeg saved his fellow harpooneer from a watery death in the head of a whale.  Ishmael writes, “And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, the delivery of Tashtego, was successfully accomplished."

Queequeg "delivers" Tashtego.

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