|Captain Ahab aiming his harpoon to Moby Dick|
When money is more important than humanity
Pip was Pequod’s one clumsy crew. One day, when he was stationed on Stubb’s boat during a lowering, he jumped accidentally to the sea. At first Stubb took an effort to row back and picked him up, but the next time he abandoned poor Pip stranded on the sea for sometimes because they were too busy hunting a whale, before the ship finally picked him up. The incident changed poor Pip soul; he got mad after that.
madness was increasing
When they are approaching Moby Dick’s location, Ahab asked the blacksmith to build him a deadly harpoon from special iron, which was baptized with the hapooners’ blood in the name of the Devil. However, on the other side, Ahab has strangely touched by the mad boy Pip, that he let him stay in the same cabin. And afterward, Pip could never part from Ahab.
The Pequod met another whaling ship—the Rachel—which has just met Moby Dick and lost several boats and crews because of it. Its captain pleaded Ahab to help them in the search, but Ahab abandoned them, now that the sign of Moby Dick’s presence has finally appeared.
Ahab vs Starbuck
One day the cask containing sperm oil was leaking; Starbuck asked for Ahab’s command to hoist the ship to Burtons, but Ahab rejected it. Starbuck bravely countered him, and finally Ahab consented to it. When the Typhoon storm attacked Pequod, the ship was shook severely; Starbuck insisted to change direction homeward, but Ahab insisted to go through the storm to chase Moby Dick. The lightning burnt a part of the ship, but instead of frightened, Ahab cursed and worshipped the fire.
Finally the storm subsided; when Starbuck was going to report it to Ahab, he found him asleep. He almost tried to kill Ahab with his own musket to ship the ship, but, struggling with his consciences, he finally declined the plan.
Finally….hunting Moby Dick!
The Pequod finally entered the Pacific oceans and headed to Japanese sea, in where it is suggested that Moby Dick was now swimming. For days the sea was so calm and serene, just like the strange calmness in the air before storms.
In order to see Moby Dick first, Ahab located himself on the highest mainmast head. He need to secure himself by ropes, and must trust one of his men to handle it. Strangely, he picked Starbuck, the man who often contradicted him and whose loyalty thus should have been the least. Nonetheless, Ahab put his life into Starbuck’s hand. With Starbuck too did Ahab express his sadness. It was on a bright sunny morning, when Ahab’s heart was softened and he felt weary of forty years of whaling, leaving his wife and children. Starbuck—for the umpteenth time—persuaded him to go home, but Ahab persistently went on. But before that, he insisted that Starbuck must stay onboard while he would be lowering for Moby Dick.
Moby Dick finally appeared! On the first day of hunting, it survived after having broken Ahab’s boat in two and thrown the old man into the sea. The old man drenched but survived too. On the second day, Moby raised again from the sea, attacked again the boat, turned over Ahab’s boat, again—as if it knew who’s its real foe!—and this time he lost his ivory leg. It turned out later that his Oriental crew, Fedallah, has killed. At one point Ahab realized the vanity of the pursue; he also feared the dark omens himself. Still, he’s too stubborn to let the revenge go, and strove to Moby Dick the next day.
The final day was the superb climax of this book.
My random thoughts
Stubb’s abandonment of Pip only shows, that indifference is in fact another shape of moral corruption. The interesting thing is how the monomaniac Ahab—while he could abandon another ship’s pledge to search its missing crew—could be touched by Pip, that he treated him like a son. So, in a way, perhaps indifference is even worse than monomaniacness? Ahab might be cold against anything that hindered him from his revenge, but somewhere in the corner of his heart, he might still have room for humanity. While Stubb….well, I doubt it that he ever have a pity or affection towards others. After several reflections, I think the following passage from the end of chapter 96 highlights this idea.
“There is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”
If I understand it right, Melville wanted to say that a person should be noble or virtuous; that although he might one day fall into sin, he might still has chance to rise again. While an indifferent one, without any principles in him, is much worse, because he is just indifferent whether he does right or wrong, and thus there is no hope to bring him to salvation. Do you think that’s what it means? But whatever it is, by the above quote, I think Melville did not explicitly put Ahab as a wicked villain. Rather, he showed us what an irony, for a man as noble and clever as Ahab, to fall like that just because he has let himself led by passion of revenge. Do you agree?