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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 65: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 54: The Town-Ho’s Story

“For my humor’s sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint’s eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn. Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer terms with me; and hence the interluding questions they occasionally put, and which are duly answered at the time.”



This chapter begins with a gam that took place between the Pequod and The Town-Ho. In this story, Tashtego hears some information from the Town-Ho folks, lets it slip out in his sleep, and is forced to tell the rest of the story, which he had been sworn to secrecy to keep quiet.


Part of this chapter bugs the crap out of me. It is the quote above. We get a glimpse of Ishmael years after the fall of the Pequod. He, apparently, is sitting in a bar in Lima, drinking and telling whaling stories. For some reason, this is not the version of sole survivor Ishmael I imagined.


Ishmael retells the story of a water leak aboard the Town-Ho. The problem takes place between the hunky Steelkilt and the ugly (Ish’s words) Radney as Steelkilt is busting butt to fix the leak. Radney is harassing Steelkilt and wielding a hammer which touches Steelkilt’s face. Steelkilt thus smites Radney. Mayhem ensues and Steelkilt is locked up but creates a mass rebellion on board the ship. The men, under Radney, capture Steelkilt and the captain is just about to kill him when Steelkilt “hissed out something, inaudible to all but the Captain; who, to the amazement of all hands, started back, paced the deck rapidly two or three times, and then suddenly throwing down his rope, said, ‘I won’t do it—let him go—cut him down: d’ye hear?’ Hmmm – what could it be? We never find out what Steelkilt said! Damn it!


Long story short, Radney gets the best of Steelkilt, but then who should appear to save Steelkilt? MOBY DICK himself! Moby is the hero of the Town-Ho story though he will be just the opposite in the tale of the Pequod.


This is such a weird chapter. Ishmael is telling a fictional story about a bigger fictional story in a bar years later to a bunch of drunk dudes. I guess this is his thing now? A story for a drink? And them, Ish says, the whole story is true. He has seen Steelkilt since that time! I will never understand this chapter or why it is here with the exception of the idea of Moby Dick being somehow a savior if the cause is good? Read it all yourselves and help me out please!

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