Friday, May 6, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 94: A Squeeze of the Hand

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 chapter describes a scene in which Ishmael and other sailors on the Pequod are dipping their hands in tubs of whale oil to squeeze out the lumps.  Although this may sound like a gross task, it is described as actually very pleasant.  The oil smells sweet and feels good on the hands.  This communal activity, like stomping grapes into wine, creates a kind of intimacy and affection among the men.  Ishmael muses:

“I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules.  Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social ascerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy!  Come, let us squeeze hands all round; nay let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.”


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