Moby Dick: Chapters 41-50

Chapter 41: For it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out – a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features: the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

Chapter 42: …he (the mariner) feels a silent, superstitious dread: the shrouded phantom of the whitened waters is horrible to him as a real ghost; in vain the lead assures him he is still off sounding; heart and helm they both go down, he never rests till blue water is under him again.

Chapter 43: ‘Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.’

‘Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the Quakeress’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re the chap.’

Chapter 44: Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the sperm whales, guided by some infallible instinct – say, rather, secret intelligence from the Deity – mostly swim in veins, as they are called, continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such undeviating exactitude that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart, with one tithe of such marvelous precision.

Chapter 45: For God’s sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! Not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man’s blood was spilled for it.

Chapter 46: Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object (giving chase to Moby Dick) – that final and romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash – aye, cash.

Chapter 47: The sperm whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from other tribes of his genus.

Chapter 48: The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it were, like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of water, also, the whales were swimming.

Chapter 49: There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.

Chapter 50: ‘Who would have thought it, Flask!’cried Stubb; ‘if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! He’s a wonderful old man!’

And, there’s one other quote from Chapter 48 that I am pondering:

There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.

I believe, with all my heart, that we ought to hold up hope in the midst of despair. But, is he “hopelessly holding up hope” because he is a man without faith? I suggest that is the case, for it is only from faith that I am able to continue in hope.

2 thoughts on “Moby Dick: Chapters 41-50

  1. I’m so glad that we are almost reading neck to neck. As I read chapter 49 last night, I wondered if you’d pick that beginning paragraph for your quote, which you did.

    As for the second quote from chapter 48. How close you read it. Your comment on that quote makes me see how I’m not even scratching the surface of this fascinating work. I believe that’s why it’s so entrancing, as I read, part of it sips to my unconscious. It’s a book when characters, imagery, symbolism, plot, language, it all comes together so flawlessly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad that we are reading at roughly the same pace, too; it is so much fun to talk about together. And your last sentence combines with how I am thinking of a post of all the things I never expected from this novel.


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