Chapter 93: The Castaway

Frequently in Moby-Dick we see objects having different meanings for different viewers. As discussed in an earlier post, ocean voyages in Moby-Dick often take on an aspect of introspection or soul-searching. These two ideas come together in “The Castaway” when the crew leaves Pip, the Pequod’s black cabin-boy, alone in the ocean to die.

Stubb needs Pip to fill in for an injured boatman, and in Pip’s first experiences on the hunt, he jumps out of the boat twice with fright. The first time Pip jumps, Stubb gives him a formal and “half-humorous” reprimand in front of the crew. He tells Pip that “a whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama,” and that next time Pip jumps, Stubb will leave him behind. The second time Pip jumps, Stubb leaves Pip in favor of catching a whale.

Pip ends up floating in the ocean for a long while before the Pequod accidentally happens upon him and brings him aboard. In Pip’s moments alone, Ishmael describes the ocean drowning “the infinite of [Pip’s] soul” just enough for “the miserman, Wisdom, [to reveal] his hoarded heaps.” Whatever deep wisdom of being Pip realizes in his moments of “intense concentration of self,” drives him mad for the remainder of his life (and the book). Perhaps Pip realizes that unlike the other members of his crew, he is a commodity to be weighed against the price of whale oil. Or perhaps the intense loneliness of Pip’s hours in the ocean gave a far too accurate reflection of Pip’s everyday life as a castaway, stripped of community and held hostage in a faraway land.

Chapter 93: The Castaway

As my body’s buoyed
So my soul does sink —
Beheld the primal device!

In the open ocean,
I’m the center stage —
Like the sun, castaway.

And I never knew
What a concentrated
Mass of self rests in me always.

Do I seem a little crazy?
Heaven never speaks with reason,
And I could never surmise
How to speak with reason.

I’m frail in body,
But I’ve held the weight
Of God on my undisguised soul!

And I’m here before you
As a Titan stands —
Terrorize all rationality.

[instrumental]

Do I seem a little crazy?
Heaven never speaks with reason,
And I could never surmise
How to speak with reason.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 29, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea February 2, 2009

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