Ahab really lets himself go here, hygiene thrown out the porthole. He knows life is about to get crazy; he can feel it. While he deviously watches Starbuck climb the mast a bird steals his hat, causing him to reflect on his desires. He wonders if Starbuck would love him if he passed on finding the whale.
The Pequod Meets The Delight
Ahab and the hollow-cheeked captain of The Delight trade insults and rhymes in time with a rhythm pounded out on the deck by Daggoo, Queequeg, and Tashtego. The three harpooners discuss plans for their variety stage show in Boston. Tashtego is adamant about more straightmen in the troupe. He feels that, “Three comedians aren’t as funny as three comedians and three straightmen. The audience deserves a larger ensemble.”
Ahab’s final plea for Starbuck. He recounts his youth, his hardships, and his wanderings, all to gain Starbuck’s affection. Starbuck has other worries. He lost $500 to Flask in a chance bet. Flask held out a series of cards and asked Starbuck to pick one. Starbuck did and was asked to slip the card back into the deck, which he did. Flask shuffled and fanned the cards and closed the fan. He waved his hand over the deck and the three of clubs rose from it. Starbuck now wishes he had had a third party shuffle the deck. He does not trust Flask.
The Chase—First Day
The whale is spotted and chased. Ahab is depressed and remains in his cabin. [Nat—I wrote two versions of this chapter and don’t know which one I’ll use. I’ve enclosed both. My favorite has Ahab retiring to his cabin and sleeping. When he wakes he is in Nantucket and realizes he has been dreaming the whole “whale chase.” His wife yells at him to fix the leaky roof. He rises from the bed and steps in the puddle that has accumulated on the floor. A torn cover of a magazine entitled Pequod is submerged in the puddle. I don’t think the chase is key to the story—I think the moral is that men can’t live without women. The book could end here unless you have suggestions, or prefer the remaining chapters as the coda.]
The Chase—Second Day
Ahab comes right out and says, “Starbuck, of late I’ve felt strangely moved to thee; ever since that hour we both saw—thou know’st what, in one another’s eyes.” Flask pays Stubb $20 for a bet they had on when he’d break down. The whale chase resumes and Starbuck doesn’t have his heart in it. He keeps staring through the scope to the far islands and daydreams that there’s something there for him. He picks his nose and Stubb returns the $20 to Flask, victim of another bet on the grooming habits of his commander.
The Chase—Third Day
Ahab and the whale are both knocked unconscious—simultaneously! There is a lot of imagery and magical narrative here, designed to heighten the reader’s sense of concern. Who will wake first, the whale or Ahab? [Nat— I’ve lapsed into tragic symbolism here. Help me with another dream sequence!] Ishmael is watching all this from the top of a floating coffin. He had opened the coffin to get in and get dry but water poured in and the coffin slightly sank. He opened the coffin four times before he realized it is best to sit atop the coffin and worry about comfort later on. All of his crewmates die from their encounter with the white whale, four squids, hungry birds, a manta ray, a disgruntled porpoise, and merciless bloated spiky fish that stealthily puncture the ravaged crew.
Ishmael is rewarded for his passivity. A beautiful nymph named Rachel plucks him from the sea and takes him to her island estate in nearby Borneo. He asks her how an island girl acquired riches and a name like Rachel and she laughs and says silly man, you ask such silly questions.