Chapter 46: Surmises

Once Ahab spills the beans about his true and singular purpose for the Pequod and its crew, one would assume that he would get right to it, not wasting any time lowering for whales along the way, let alone spending the time necessary to remove and try out the blubber. In “Surmises,” Ishmael takes a moment to suggest some possible motives for Ahab to so aggressively hunt whales along the way as he hunts Moby Dick.

1) Perhaps he’s taking out his hatred of Moby Dick on all whales. Perhaps he knows a thing or two about basic probability, and understands that the fewer the whales in the ocean, the more likely it is that one of them is Moby Dick.

2) Perhaps he wants to distract his mates and crew from thinking about: a) the peculiarity and lawlessness of a captain commandeering a ship for private vendettas, and b) just how scary Moby Dick is supposed to be. Both thoughts would grow wildly over time, were the men not comforted along the way by the familiar and relatively more predictable tasks of whaling.

3) Perhaps he knows that very few things in life trump mankind’s “common, daily appetites.” Even the Crusaders pillaged on the way to attempt what they considered a most holy quest (albeit, the supposedly spiritual aim of the quest was itself to pillage). To take the crew’s hopes of being paid at the end of the voyage would surely mean mutiny.

4) Perhaps he’s trying to prevent mutiny by micromanaging the crew day to day. Whaling is something Ahab can micromanage expertly.

Maybe he wanted to keep the men in good practice for the big day? Maybe his irrationality extends to this decision as well? Maybe all of the above?

Chapter 46: Surmises

Our purpose clear; it has begun,
But for every tool you count beneath the sun,
Only mankind’s opposition,
From his fickle disposition,
Needs a careful kind of maintenance on the way.

We’ll fight lick for lick,
We’ll kill Moby Dick,
But we’re gonna pick old Neptune’s pockets
All along the way!
Our pious delight
Too far from our sight,
So we’ll think about the money for today.

And not the least on Ahab’s mind
Is the joy he reaps from killing Moby’s kind.
Though he has a wife in token,
He is married to the ocean,
And he skips upon the waves of blood he laid.

We’ll fight lick for lick,
We’ll kill Moby Dick,
But we’re gonna pick old Neptune’s pockets
All along the way!
Our pious delight
Too far from our sight,
So we’ll think about the money for today.

Our purpose clear, off in the distance
Swims a holy fish we seek with great insistence,
But that’s many months in coming,
So for now the ship is running
Off the fuel of material desire.

We’ll fight lick for lick,
We’ll kill Moby Dick,
But we’re gonna pick old Neptune’s pockets
All along the way!
Our pious delight
Too far from our sight,
So we’ll think about the money for today.

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 17, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea August 28, 2010

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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