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CHAPTER 93: THE CASTAWAY
Not everyone on board a whaling ship goes out in a boat when a whale is sighted. Some, called ship-keepers, remain. On the Pequod, the ship-keeper is Pip, the black youth we saw playing the tambourine during the drunken party on the quarterdeck. Pip is bright and tender-hearted, but not a good sailor. When he has to take a crewman's place on Stubb's boat, he leaps into the water when the whale raps the hull, so that Stubb must choose between catching the whale and rescuing Pip.
Stubb rescues the boy, but warns that in the future his decision will be different. "A whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama," Stubb says callously. (Once again Melville is emphasizing man's sharkish nature.) But Pip doesn't heed the warning: he jumps again. And this time he's abandoned as Stubb's boat flies after the fleeing whale. When, hours later, Pip is finally rescued, he has gone mad.
As Melville describes Pip's madness, it is a peculiar kind of madness. In fact, it may even be a kind of wisdom. Pip's soul was drowned, Ishmael says-or rather, not drowned but carried to the depths of the sea where it viewed "God's foot upon the treadle of the loom." (Remember how the universe was compared to a loom in the chapter, "The Mat-Maker.") The description of Pip's descent into the ocean resembles Ahab's description of the Sphynx-like whale's head. Like the whale, Pip has seen the secrets of the universe; like the whale he can't communicate those secrets. Pip will have a special role to play as the book continues.
CHAPTER 94: A SQUEEZE OF THE HAND
The whale killed when the boat sailed into the "Grand Armada" of whales is brought back to the Pequod for butchering. As Ishmael has already mentioned, the sperm oil crystallizes when exposed to air and must be squeezed back into liquid. He and several other crewman sit and push their hands into the violet-scented oil, sometimes mistaking one another's hands for the lumps of oil they're squeezing.
Melville is showing an alternative to the bitter sense of isolation that Ahab and others (sometimes including Ishmael) feel. As he sits squeezing the oil, Ishmael enjoys the same sense of brotherhood he felt with Queequeg. The crewmen are united, no longer isolatoes. So powerful is this feeling of goodwill that it temporarily defeats even Ahab: Ishmael forgets about the oath he took to destroy Moby-Dick, and declares that he now knows he won't find happiness in large things, in theories or dreams, but only in simple day-today living-in "the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the country": all the things that Ahab rejects.Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version