Moby Dick (Chapters 31-40)

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Chapter 31: ‘Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts! If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!’

Chapter 32: Next: how shall we define the whale, by his obvious externals, so as conspicuously to label him for all time to come? To be short, then, a whale is a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.There you have him. However contracted, that definition is the result of expanded meditation.

Chaphter 33: Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends, and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling gourd) the command of the ship’s deck is also his…

Chapter 34: Over the ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral-beach, surrounded by his warlike but still deferential cubs.

Chapter 35: The three mast-heads are kept manned from sunrise to sunset; the seamen taking their regular turns (as at the helm), and relieving each other every two hours. In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant, the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful.

Chapter 36: “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke – look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

Chapter 37: The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run…Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

Chapter 38: Will I, nill I, the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries; aye, he would be a democrat to all above; look how he lords it over all below!

Chapter 39: Because a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer…

Chapter 40: Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel fear!

Look at Chapter 38: “…tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut.” That phrase has jumped out in my reading! What cables are towing me? Sugar, for one thing, which seems as innocuous as a whale in the sea, and yet I seem unable to sever it completely. And surely, there are things which try as I might, I cannot cut away (judgement, perfectionism, a critical spirit).

11 thoughts on “Moby Dick (Chapters 31-40)

  1. tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut… mine would be ‘patience’, -I’m always so impatient, so jumpy, lack of restraint, -can’t keep quiet, and talk before I think, judgment as well.
    Can’t say enough how much I look forward and relish your quote posts.

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    • Thank you, Silvia, for your involvement with, and appreciation of, Moby Dick. It is going to be in the top ten books I’ve read for 2019, how about for you? I always look forward to those lists of favorites coming around in four short months. As for patience, we’ll, you could add that to my list of cables, too.☺️

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        • Maybe…but, it will take some kind of novel to beat Anna Karenina for me.

          Where are you in Moby Dick? I have just finished Chapter 65, and I am “afraid” I am far ahead of the planned read-along which Brona put in place. But, it’s too late to slow down now. This is a most excellent novel in every way.

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          • I know. Anna Karenina is a great novel. If you love it, The Makioka Sisters and Fortunata and Jacinta are the Japanese and Spanish counterparts.
            I’m about to start chapter 49. I can’t slow down either! It’s mind-blowingly good.

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            • I hope to read The Makioka Sisters for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13 starting in January. (Here, by the way. And do, please join in if it pleases you.) Thank you for reminding me about it, and Fortunata and Jacinta which I’ve not heard about.

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              • I’m joining in. I’m looking forward to it. I have no sliver of doubt that you will fall in love with The Makioka Sisters. I can’t wait to see what you think about something in it that’s quite controversial in a good way. I won’t say anything. I want you to go to it without knowing anything. If you know a bit about it, try not to find out anything else. There’s only a first time reading a classic like this.
                By the way, would you recommend me a title for the challenge? Thanks.

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  2. Now you have really intrigued me about The Makioka Sisters, Silvia! And, of course I’ll recommend a title for you when the Japanese Lit rapture Challenge 13 rolls around. You’ll have to tell me if you want a classic, a crime, a magical realism, or just a few of my favorites. ☺️

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