Though Ishmael tends to see a good deal of humanity in the whale, in “The Shark Massacre,” he highlights the shark as being completely alien to humanity. Driven by lusty urges, the shark will voraciously devour anything in jaws’ reach — a whale carcass, a fellow shark, or even, in a description somewhat reminiscent of Scooby-Doo-era animation, its own entrails, which once swallowed come right back out to be devoured anew. Says Ishmael, sharks are inhabited by a “Pantheistic vitality,” evinced here by its continued attempts to eat Queequeg’s hand long after it has died.
Ishmael’s characterization of the shark as completely inhuman seems strange, as it almost immediately follows a chapter comparing Stubb’s racist acts towards the cook to the behavior of sharks. Does Ishmael perhaps feel that some men in this world have given up their humanity for power (power of rank, power of the mob)? Or does Ishmael lead us to imagine that in every human soul lies an ongoing battle between the whale and the shark, which untended will leave us stripped of our humanity at the hands of our own neglect?
Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre
‘Round and ’round neither up nor down,
The teeth of sharks till a fertile ground.
An empty eye, a cold machine
Bites in reflexivity.
A giant whale, a mass deceived,
After sharks visit for a meal,
And strip each bone, and leave no meat,
Quite a thorough industry.
And even cut, a shark will eat
The entrails out of its own defeat,
And once consumed, the entrails leak
Back out of its misery.
Beware, young man, for death misleads,
A soulless shark still pursues its greed.
It snaps its jaws when thus subdued,
Pain fulfills it more than food.
(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 10, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea May 29, 2011