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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 32: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 32: Day 32: Cetology

“The Fin-Back is not gregarious. He seems a whale-hater, as some men are man-haters. Very shy; always going solitary; unexpectedly rising to the surface in the remotest and most sullen waters; his straight and single lofty jet rising like a tall misanthropic spear upon a barren plain; gifted with such wondrous power and velocity in swimming, as to defy all present pursuit from man; this leviathan seems the banished and unconquerable Cain of his race, bearing for his mark that style upon his back.” 




It is expected, in a classification of whales, that Ishmael would give scientific facts related to each whale – size, coloration, eating habits. But Ish instead becomes a creative writer.

He tells us that the Fin-Back is not sociable. But that is not enough. Ish says the Fin-Back is a ‘whale-hater,’ though how that looks is unclear. This particular whale is also ‘shy.’ He swims alone in ‘sullen’ waters. In fact, this Fin-Back is the ‘Cain of his race,’ ‘banished.’

Why not a strict scientific detailing of the Fin-back whale? Because Ishmael sees the romantic ideals of each whale just as he had in man. Why not show us each class of whale as Ish sees them, full of character and personality and legend. People might dislike Cetology, but there is beauty to be had in these descriptions.

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