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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 44: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 40: Midnight, Forecastle

AZORE SAILOR. (Dancing) Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it, stig it, quig it, bell-boy! Make fire-flies; break the jinglers!

PIP. Jinglers, you say?—there goes another, dropped off; I pound it so.

CHINA SAILOR. Rattle thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of thyself.

FRENCH SAILOR. Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it! Split jibs! tear yourselves!

TASHTEGO. (Quietly smoking.) That’s a white man; he calls that fun: humph! I save my sweat.

[ . . . ]

DAGGOO. What of that? Who’s afraid of black’s afraid of me! I’m quarried out of it!

Spanish Sailor: Thy race is the undeniable dark side of mankind—devilish dark at that. No offence.

[ . . . .]

PIP: 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!




Flask doesn’t get his turn in the spotlight, but the crew does. They are all drunk and acting like fools. Melville wants us to see what a multi-cultural crew is aboard the Pequod. This is industry – all men working together to light our homes and make money for America. So we get to see the guys letting loose a bit, until things, as always, get too loose.

Pip is introduced. He’s the cabin boy. A young black child from Connecticut, he is apparently the entertainment for the evening. The men are amused by Pip, but the drinks are flying. The sailors are goading Pip, asking him to play harder, work harder. Tashtego makes a comment about how white men always think it’s fun to ask a person of color to work hard to entertain them. There are objections and Tash stays quiet. Then a sailor makes a comment about blackness and Daggoo replies. The Spanish sailor tries to calm things down with another racist comment. Daggoo is quiet.

None of this ‘hilarity’ is without meaning. Ahab is showing the multi-cultural crew, but he’s also showing how certain members of the crew are treated. Considering his father-in-law was a federal judge who stood firm on the Fugitive Slave Act, this was bravery on Melville’s part. Having men of color speak, showing the kind of crap they had to take, doing all of this in the middle of a novel about whaling! I am always impressed by Melville here. Always.

Pip, sweet Pip, gets the last word. When learning that the men are seeking to kill a white whale, Pip asks for mercy from the white God above. When I think about what later happens to Pip, I wish I could stop the book here and change the outcome.

What a chapter! More than just a drunken night. So much more.

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