A Smart Dude Reads Moby-Dick: Episode 3. ENTER CYBORG WE MEAN AHAB

On (almost) the occasion of the Big M-D’s birthday, we’re pleased to bring you our third installment of a Smart Dude.  (Click for episodes one and two.) We promise that we are inviting the Smart Dude back out of genuine enthusiasm and not because his dick analysis is really stiring up some big, hard stats. Though, truly: it is.–Eds.

 

But in what way is he not human?

So yesterday was the 161st anniversary of Moby-Dick, and we all know that the traditional 161stanniversary gift is an irreverent review. (This could get awkward when people start living long enough to celebrate a 161st wedding anniversary – make a mental note to ask your great-grandkids about this because we’ll all be uploads in a quantum computer in Saturn’s rings by then.) When I started reading Moby-Dick, I had no idea that people would all of a sudden care much more about this book than at any time in recent memory. We have the Moby-Dick big read, with which I have almost kept pace in my reading (I plan to listen after I’m done reading because the two experiences are, to me, quite different). We have yesterday’s lovely google doodle. Why now? What is it about the world today that has made a book that is 161 years old suddenly more relevant than it was last year, or on its 150th anniversary?

This is a good question but I’m not going to answer that question because, apparently like Ishmael, I’m pretending to just be along for the ride.

Since our last installment, I’ve only read one additional chapter – but what a chapter! Chapter 28: Ahab. (I’d like to pause for a moment and point out the comment on the second installment from “Lusciousthe Cat”, who hails from “The University of Hard Knocks” and would like to share some of his wisdom about penis enlargement. Lusciousthe is obviously on board with all of the dick-based linkbait in that post. Even so, an additional six inches seems a bit extravagant, no?) [Eds: No comment.]

We strongly feel Samuel L. would be an excellent Ahab.

Twenty-eight chapters in, we finally meet one of the most famous iconic figures of American literature, Captain Ahab. His presence has been felt in so many ways, but he’s remained invisible up to this point. When he finally emerges from his crèche belowdecks, our narrator notes the effect on the crew (some combination of reverence and fear) and describes Ahab’s appearance in great detail, although Ahab doesn’t really do anything but stare out to sea like an emo. He is gaunt but solid, a sculpture of inert bronze or hewn from a living tree, but most prominently, he is marked with a long scar from his head, presumably down to his feet (so says one of the sailors, although it sounds like nobody knows for sure where the scar ends – not exactly a topic of polite conversation). Is the scar like the damage lightning leaves on a tree? Or is it more like the seam left from casting metal in a mold? Such a complicated man.

Oh, right, and he’s got a fake leg carved from a whale’s jaw. Just like the Pequod lost its mast off of Japan and they built a new one with what was at hand. (Although the nature of the ship was unaffected by the replacement, Ahab became a human-whale cyborg.) The ship has been adapted to Ahab’s needs as well, with divots placed in convenient locations to brace his whale-leg in (I am guessing ivory doesn’t grip as well as Crocs), further enhancing the link between the Captain and his ship (or perhaps the ship and her Captain). And is that a little sexual? I haven’t worked in very many dick references in this installment, and I’m afraid to sully my search history with “ivory dildo” but I feel like that’s a thing. Either way, I’m pretty sure he has an ivory penis strapped to his leg. Penis, penis, every where, nor any … nevermind.

Ahab on Ivory

Ahab is tangibly less than human due to his whale-leg, but Ishmael can’t seem to decide in what way he is inhuman – is he like a statue, and therefore not alive, or like a great tree, or like a legend? Regardless, it’s clear that the Pequod does not need him – yet. This implies the question (but – pedant alert – does not beg the question) of what sort of task lies in the Pequod’s future that could possibly require such a man as he.

I was expecting an entrance filled with blood, rage, and spittle, as if Mastodon’s “I Am Ahab” were his WWE entrance music. Instead, the mystery man appears on deck, and just sort of … looms. Even so, his entrance is powerful, just as his absence was a near-physical presence.

 

 

Jake Bartolone: Exactly that type of person.



  1. November 1, 2012 @ 4:30 pm Dan Walden

    I totally want my students to jump into this discussion.

    Reply

    • November 1, 2012 @ 5:06 pm Sarah and Sarah

      Your students SHOULD totally jump into this discussion! Have at it.

      Reply

  2. November 29, 2012 @ 3:16 pm Justin Louis

    This is fantastic, if for no other reason than the fact that you subtly tagged it with “Cylon”. Sneaky, very sneaky.

    Reply


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