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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 94: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book


Chapter 93 The Castaway


“The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”

 


 

Musings:


At last, we come to the Chapter on Pip. I love Pip. Later we will see how Pip is shown as an example of Ahab’s humanity.

 

Pip is a child of perhaps 12 or 13. He is working on the Pequod as a helper, but when Stubb loses a man to injury, Pip fills in on the small whale boat. And Pip is scared. But the first venture goes well. The second time, the rope scares Pip as it unwinds beneath his seat on the boat and Pip jumps into the ocean, getting caught up in the rope and almost choking. Tashtego cuts the rope, saving Pip and losing the whale. Some jokes about slavery are made. Yuck.

 

Poor Pip has to go on the whaling boat again and this time, when the ropes scare him and he jumps, the boat leaves Pip behind and heads for the whale. Pip is alone in the ocean for a long time. Ishmael/Melville writes: “But the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it?”

 

And Pip is never the same. Being alone in the middle of nothingness changes Pip. He saw that what we call God is nature and nature in and of itself, is indifferent. We drown or we are saved or we have a leg eaten by a white whale. It’s not personal – it just is. And after you see that, as Pip did, how can you be ‘normal’ again.

 

“He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad.” So fate is God and fate lands where it will and Pip, poor kid, understands that now. What a chapter, shipmates.

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