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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 70: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

CHAPTER 60. The Line


“But why say more? All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”




Okay – spoiler alert – whale lines will play a big part at the end of the book – so more foreshadowing here. I guess Melville knew how to drop those easter eggs, huh?

This chapter gives us a lot of detailed information about whale lines – what they’re made of, covered with, how thick they are and so on and on and on.


We then find out about the disasters that could befall whalers who get caught up in the line. It sounds pretty awful huh? Getting your foot caught in the rope with the other end of the rope in a harpoon stuck in a whale. We mere land people can’t even imagine the fear, the horror of having a foot or an arm or a torso taken off by a rope that got twisted around our body part, right?


WRONG, shipmates. Ishmael waxes philosophical once again. We all have metaphorical ropes around our neck and who knows when it will be our turn to be caught in the metaphorical line and actually perish. We think we are so safe in front of our fireplaces away from whales and ropes, but nope – not true. Death comes to all of us. Things are happening all around and if we just take one small step back or forth - doom. Thanks for the reminder that we are never really in control, Ish.

But really – what a chapter!

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