The Pequod Meets The Rachel. The Cabin. The Hat. The Pequod Meets The Delight. The Symphony.
Wow, I was not expecting a chapter like The Symphony so close to the end! That was one of my favorites since Ch 42 (The Whiteness of the Whale). Here's what's swirling and bubbling in my brain today:
* All the sexual imagery at the top of Ch 132 gave me pause. It seemed so irrelevant and tonally off... But as the chapter went on, I started thinking how it harkens back to Ahab's fake leg piercing his groin and laying him low. How that emasculation has driven him... Thinking of beauty and sex gives Ahab a moment to recognize his loneliness and question whether he's wasted his life. I loved Ahab having one moment of clarity where it's *possible* he might call it off, but then doubles down on his madness. (There's also another reference to Ahab's child-bride, harkening back to Ch 88 "Schools & School-Masters," where Melville asserts that old men will seduce young schoolgirls.)
* When he rejects Starbuck's plea to return home, Ahab surrenders his agency to God. It's not Ahab raising his arm against the whale, it must be God acting through him. Harkening back to Father Mapple's sermon in Chapter 9, "I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world's, or mine own." That theme of surrendering one's self of sense to a higher authority, especially an authority that should not be trusted.
* Why a "symphony"? I wondered if the structure of a symphony evokes Melville's theme of calm embedded in chaos, like ambergris nestled in filthy gore or the still island surrounded by turbulent seas. Turns out a symphony is simply an extended musical composition comprised of distinct movements, which I suppose one could argue is how Moby-Dick is laid out as a novel...? I don't totally understand the symphonic theory, but it does seem like different interpretations of theme and melody get explored in each movement. And this chapter is modulating, reasserting, all these themes Melville previously introduced...
I've joked with Kristen a few times that the monomania is always attributed to Ahab, but really it's Ishmael's... but the deeper I get into the book, the more I feel like I'M also obsessed with finding Moby Dick because it's been a long and arduous journey. So now, here we are, on the precipice of actually spotting the whale and I want to tell everyone I know! Maybe I've actually told a few people, and none of them are are impressed or excited as I'd hoped.