Chapter 25: Postscript

People often think of Moby-Dick as a story about Captain Ahab and his obsessive quest, but all signs point to something much more democratic. Indeed, the very first story Ishmael tells of the Pequod’s voyage involves the death of a crew member. In the apotheosis Ishmael sees leaping from the watery grave, Ishmael seems to identify his story as the deification of a whaleman. This democratic intent plays out through the book as a whole, including the subsequent chapters, which first defend the honor of whaling as a profession, and then introduce each officer formally, according to rank.

Among this sequence of chapters, Ishmael pauses for “Postscript,” which transitions his story from the assertion of democratic honor to the reality of hierarchy and power. In the process, Ishmael not only mocks the ceremonies of monarchy, but also implies that kings and queens exist only because of the labor of common people. Underneath this implication lies the further implication that monarchy is itself purely a construction of the people, who willfully supply and honor ridiculous ceremonies which supposedly transform a man into a king.

Of course, this is exactly what happens in the course of Ishmael’s story. Ahab first seems to be a different kind of captain, spouting democratic ideals and promises of liberty from hierarchical power. The crew choose to follow Ahab, and in so doing create a tyrant, willfully giving up their natural, democratic power for a chance to create a god from a man. Moby-Dick is only the story of Ahab in that he is the hierarchy in a story of common people caught in a complicated and age-old relationship with power.

Chapter 25: Postscript

Did you know
It’s a key regal dignity, oh for sure,
To taste good?
He’s a well-seasoned leader, a salty germ!

And all told,
At the grand coronation he’s crimped and curled
With some oil,
While a holy significance gives the foil.

Take one, take two, take three,
Take all of it.
We view the rule of kings
As sodomy!

We know what kind of men are you,
Given fully to pompous fools.

So often,
A contemptible signifier for men,
Like or not,
Is the well-oiled nature of every lock.

Safe to say
That a king wouldn’t use the same oil as they.
Fancy pants
Needs the oil from the free men who bear the lance.

Take one, take two, take three,
Take all of it.
We view the rule of kings
As sodomy!

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 7, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea April 3, 2010

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. You have an astonishing website; thanks for all the work you’ve put into.

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