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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 95: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hands

“Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm forever!”




And here we go, the chapter on sperm. Whale sperm, shipmates. I guess.

I will readily admit that Ishmael does go on and on and on and on about whale sperm. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say Ish wished to convey the beauty of a day he once spent aboard a whale ship. Whale sperm, as we’ve already learned, is an ingredient in perfume making. And, as Ish tell us, it is silky and smells like violets.


The act of sitting in a circle, squeezing the lumps out of the sperm, was intoxicating. It sounds pretty incredible: “As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine.”


This chapter is the one people like to point to and say, ‘See? This book is homoerotic.’ I’m not sure this isn’t more about humanity and a beautiful day and a contrast to the next chapter on the try-works, but who cares? On board The Pequod, Ish has no romantic entanglements that we know of. I take this chapter as either one of the universal jokes Ish/Melville loves or a shared love with a group of men or the description of a perfect day on board a whale ship.

In any event, if you want to see what all the buzz is about, read it!!

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