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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 55: Musings from a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 45: The Affidavit

“So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in its earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume. [ . . . ] For this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires full as much bolstering as error. So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.”




As you can see, Ishmael is back. And since he tells us that the most important chapter in this book takes place in the first half of The Affidavit (an oath), let’s go there first.


Ish, in his best I-am-a-smart-guy tone, gives us information from legal documents, books, and anecdotal evidence (himself). What he tells us is the events in this book are true. 1) Harpoons have been found in living whales years after they were struck; 2) Whales will smash boats because they are pissed; 3) There have been other famous whales who were so awful whalers killed them to protect other fishermen.


So why all this info? And why is it all so important that Ish tells us it’s so important? It’s because we know the end. If everyone died because of an allegory or a fable or a tall tale told by fishermen, then what the hell?! But if there is legitimacy to death of all these men, then here we get it. Over and over and over.

Ish alone survives to tell the tale. He does not want you to believe this was all for naught. None of us do, right? I understand this Ishmael. And we’ll look at the rest of the chapter next time.

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