Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Moby Dick" page 360

Melville refuses to gloss over the violence and cruelty of the whaling business:

As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the whole upper part of his form, with much of it that is ordinarily submerged, was plainly revealed. His eyes, or rather the places where his eyes had been, were beheld. As strange misgrown masses gather in the knot-holes of the noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points which the whale's eyes had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs, horribly pitiable to see. but pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely discolored bunch or protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank.

'A nice spot,' cried Flask; 'just let me prick him there once.'

'Avast!' cried Starbuck, 'there's no need of that!'

But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more than sufferable anguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with swift fury blindly darted at the craft, bespattering them and their glorying crews all over with showers of gore, capsizing Flask's boat and marring the bows. It was his death stroke. For, by this time, so spent was he by loss of blood, that he helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had made; lay panting on his side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin, then over and over slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white secrets of his belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most piteous, that last expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn off from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy gurglings the spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground -- so the last long dying spout of the whale.


  1. Hmm, I think this man could write. One year I need to read Moby Dick, but I can't put down Gingerbread Man just yet.

  2. I am within 70 or so pages of finishing Mr. Melville's book. After that, I'm going to read Jasper Fforde's "The Fourth Bear," which oddly enough features the Gingerbread Man. Coincidence? Hmmm.

  3. Davin: It is very sad. Melville gave the whales credit for intelligence, and never assumed they were dumb fish swimming around not understanding what was happening to them. He contrasts the uses man makes of whales with the barbarity of the fishing industry all through the book, though he never condemns the practice. It was 1845, after all.

  4. I was cringing the whole time. I'm still not interested in trying to go back and reintroduce myself to Melville.