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Chapters 124 - 126
Ishmael tells the reader about the log and the line (Chapter 124). A log is attached to a long line, which follows the ship from the stern, to determine the speed and direction of the ship. The Pequod’s log and line has never been used, so it has become rotten in the sun and water. Ahab suddenly orders that the log and line be used, so it is immediately tossed over the stern of the ship. But the line breaks. Ahab asks for the line to be mended and a new log attached. He orders the crew to help in this work, and Pip, the doughboy volunteers. But because of his crazed state of mind, they tell him to stay away. When Ahab observes Pip wondering on the deck, he tries to speak to him. But Pip gives him a vague answer. Ahab feels bad for the boy. He decides to keep the boy by his side and that he will stay with him in the cabin. As both Ahab and Pip walk back to the cabin, one of the sailors comments: "There go two daft ones now. One daft with strength, the other with weakness."
The ship has entered the waters near the equator on hearing the voices of seals from the islands nearby, the sea men feel that some ill omen is going to affect the ship. Soon after that, they find that one of the men on top of the main mast had fallen in the sea. They rush for the life-buoy, but it is in bad condition. Meanwhile the seaman who had fallen in the sea is lost. The sailors feel that the ill omen has come true. Meanwhile, Starbuck consents to a suggestion that Queequeg’s coffin be made into a life buoy.
These chapters reveal that the hardened, mad and grim Ahab has a heart. For perhaps the first time he feels for someone in the ship and he even tries to help him. In fact, his madness is reflected in Pip’s own madness. Yet Pip’s madness is benign whereas Ahab’s is destructive and malignant. Here, the author seems to suggest that all men however evil they might appear have something good within them.
The life-buoy here becomes another object that is imbued with various meanings. Here Queequeg’s coffin is made into a life- saving device. Within this paradox lies the complexity of life with its ever-shifting meanings and uncertainties.