Perth fashions a harpoon that Ahab demands be tempered with the blood of his pagan harpooners, and he howls out that he baptizes the harpoon in the name of the devil. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. Why would they not be gone? High philosophy, liberal feeling, abstruse metaphysics popularly phrased, soaring speculation, a style as many-coloured as the theme, yet always good, and often admirable; fertile fancy, ingenious construction, playful learning, and an unusual power of enchaining the interest, and rising to the verge of the sublime, without overpassing that narrow boundary which plunges the ambitious penman into the ridiculous; all these are possessed by Herman Melville, and exemplified in these volumes. Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head. Melville cannot do without savages so he makes half of his dramatis personae wild Indians, Malays, and other untamed humanities.
It will add to Mr. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. In all the scenes where the whale is the performer or the sufferer, the delineation and action are highly vivid and exciting. This state of uncertain dependency is the Melvillian dilemma: isolation warps the spirit, but, through lack of caring, the collective existence can be uncharitable , unjust, and oppressive. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. Upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, Ahab asks the blacksmith to forge a harpoon to use against Moby Dick.
The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. The Exploitative Nature of Whaling At first glance, the Pequod seems like an island of equality and fellowship in the midst of a racist, hierarchically structured world. The chapter-spinning is various in character; now powerful from the vigorous and fertile fancy of the author, now little more than empty though sounding phrases. If we choose to say that they 'identify themselves'. The Pequod does have a gam with the next ship it encounters, the Town-Ho.
Surely all this is not without meaning. Well, aside from being a giant white whale, about 90 feet long, he is the object in the story onto which all of the characters sort of project their own interpretations. Take almost any path you please, and ten toone it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death! But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. But even this wears off in time. Difficult of management, in the highest degree, they are wrought with consummate skill. What is the chief element he employs? What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. The ways of Moby Dick, like those of the Christian God, are unknowable to man, and thus trying to interpret them, as Ahab does, is inevitably futile and often fatal. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. Through the use of symbols and allegory, it shows that vengeance can erode one's sanity. The Pequod next comes upon the Jeroboam, a Nantucket ship afflicted with an epidemic. The delineation of character, too, is exquisitely humorous, sharp, individual and never-to-be-forgotten. Herman Melville is wise in this sort of wisdom.
Stubb tells them that the whales that they have vanquished are useless and could damage their ship, and when the Rosebud leaves these behind the Pequod takes them in order to gain the ambergris in one of them. Surely all this is not without meaning. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Moreover, the prophesies of Fedallah and others seem to be undercut in Chapter 99, when various individuals interpret the doubloon in different ways, demonstrating that humans project what they want to see when they try to interpret signs and portents. Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned.
The firmaments of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the robust and man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson's chest in his sleep. The other sailors on the Pequod have equally strange names: Starbuck, Stubb, and, of course, Flask. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. There is nothing surprising in this. Several days after encountering the Rosebud, a young black man on the boat, , becomes frightened while lowering after a whale and jumps from the boat, becoming entangled in the whale line.
I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. It is not a mere tale of adventures, but a whole philosophy of life, that it unfolds. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? When Pippin Pip does the same thing again, Stubb remains true to his word and Pip only survives because a nearby boat saves him. Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the white curds of the whale's direful wrath into the serene, exasperating sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.