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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 78: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book


CHAPTER 71 The Jeroboam’s Story

 

“Moby Dick was fairly sighted from the mast-heads, Macey, the chief mate, burned with ardor to encounter him; and the captain himself being not unwilling to let him have the opportunity, despite all the archangel’s denunciations and forewarnings, Macey succeeded in persuading five men to man his boat. With them he pushed off; and, after much weary pulling, and many perilous, unsuccessful onsets, he at last succeeded in getting one iron fast. [. . . ] Now, while Macey, the mate, was standing up in his boat’s bow, and with all the reckless energy of his tribe was venting his wild exclamations upon the whale, and essaying to get a fair chance for his poised lance, lo! a broad white shadow rose from the sea; by its quick, fanning motion, temporarily taking the breath out of the bodies of the oarsmen. Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of furious life, was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc in his descent, fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty yards. Not a chip of the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any oarsman’s head; but the mate for ever sank.”

 


 

Musings:


This chapter is a warning. First of all, it is another gam where communication is averted. The men on board the ship have been exposed to a malignant epidemic and so no meeting can take place. The men try to communicate from boat to beat, but even the sea tries to interrupt. That and a crazy passenger on board the Jeroboam named Gabriel.

 

The upshot is we learn that a crew member named Macey had heard of Moby-Dick and wanted to capture him. So he tried and died in the process. Macey was too fixated on gaining fame for killing the white whale, Gabriel cried, and so too is Ahab. Hmmm – a warning indeed!

 

As the unfinished gam is about to conclude, Ahab remembers he has a letter for a member of the Jeroboam’s crew. Of course it is to Macey, who is dead, and to add insult to injury, the letter gets lost in the sea.


A chapter about failed communication, the insistence on the dominance of nature, and signs being ignored. Even when Ahab hears situations that should seem familiar to him, does he listen? Obviously not!

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