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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 68: Musings From a Sixth reading of the Great Book

CHAPTER 58. Brit


“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”




How many times can I say this, this is my favorite passage in all of Moby-Dick? But good grief – aren't those words something to marvel at?


Ishmael begins this chapter by telling us that his boat has come upon right whales feeding on brit. These are not the sperm whales The Pequod is hunting for, so Ish can feel free to observe and ponder. I like pondering Ishmael.

Ish tells us that the yellow organisms called brit are thick in the water, looking for all the world like meadows of wheat. And the whales, mowing through the fields, look like rocks from the sea mast or like elephants feeding in the wild. Or so Ish says. It’s a beautiful picture, until it’s not.


Ish then asks us to consider the ocean and how things work beneath the water. And you know he’s saying THINK ABOUT YOUR OWN LIFE AS WELL! There is so much going on beneath us that we never think about or know about or even understand. Things we imagine are beautiful (i.e. snow leopards) can turn on us in a heartbeat. And good heavens – this line – “Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea.” Do we land creatures not feed on each other as well?

When we imagine the ocean and the sharks and the whales and the stinging, biting things we never consider when walking the dog in our neighborhood, do we consider the same when walking the earth?


I mean, if this doesn’t get you to read/love Moby-Dick, nothing will. Until the next chapter!

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