EVERYBODY HOLD THE PHONE I FOUND THE BEST CHARACTERS
besides Queequeg IN THIS ENTIRE BOOK
This is actually a pet peeve of mine; Melville has this habit of writing really engaging, hilarious characters that you really want to spend 136 chapters with—and using them for like 10 pages. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HIS STORYTELLING CHOICES.
Anyway I will save that for later because these guys are genuinely hilarious and I’m just glad I got to meet them at all AND YOU WILL SEE WHY
things you need to know in order to understand this:
- every time they meet another whaling ship they flag it down and pump it for information about the white whale
- this time it’s an English whaling ship and they do in fact have news
- Captain Ahab is batshit fucking insane.
- no seriously that’s his actual characterization
- The other captain also lost a limb to Moby Dick—specifically, his arm.
This is how Ahab meets the other Captain:
With his ivory arm frankly thrust forth in welcome, the other captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his ivory leg, and crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades)
they cross bone limbs okay this is normal
And then he starts to tell the story of how he lost his arm and is describing the whale and it’s amazing:
"It was he, it was he!" cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his suspended breath.
"And harpoons sticking in hear his starboard fin."
"Aye, aye—they were mine—MY irons," cried Ahab, exultingly—"but on!"
"Give me a chance, then," said the Englishman, good-humoredly.
So I already love this guy, he is fantastic contrast to Ahab who is flipping out while he’s just enjoying telling his rad story of how he lost his arm. For multiple paragraphs so I won’t repeat it all but can’t you just picture this guy going on about this to a captive audience? I mean:
(clapping his hand just below his shoulder) “yes, caught me just here, I say, and bore me down to Hell’s flames, I was thinking; when, when, all of a sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript its way along the flesh—clear along the whole length of my arm—came out nigh my wrist, and up I floated”
Who gets that excited about talking about their arm getting ripped off?! AMAZING. Ahab would be all moody and shit about talking about his leg but not this guy, this guy is just like MAN LET ME TELL YOU I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HELL BUT NAW I’M GOOD JUST MY ARM’S OFF
BUT THEN when he’s basically done telling the part of the story that involves the whale, he decides to do THIS
"Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn."
Bunger turns out to be the doctor, and is described thusly (with a lot of editing on my part because hoo boy Melville is wordy):
The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had been all the time standing near them….his face was an exceedingly round but sober one…occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two cripple captains.
…he politely bowed, and straightway went to do his captain’s bidding.
so we have a very solemn doctor dude with a very chatty captain guy
AND THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GLORIOUS BECAUSE AS HE’S TELLING THE STORY THIS HAPPENS
"I did all I could; sat up with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of diet—"
"Oh, very severe!" chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly altering his voice, "Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night, till he couldn’t see to put on the bandages; and sending me to bed, half seas over, about three o’clock in the morning.
THIS GUY IS LIKE HAHA NO YOU DIDN’T YOU SAT UP UNTIL 3 AM AND GOT DRUNK
also he alters his voice when he talks to Doctor Bunger listen I am not saying anything
yet but altering his voice how? how smitten is this guy exactly be honest Melville
"Oh! a great watcher, and very dietetically severe, is Doctor Bunger. (Bunger, you dog, laugh out! why don’t ye? You know you’re a precious jolly rascal.)"
ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHY ISN’T THIS THE ENTIRE BOOK
BUT WAIT NO
IT GETS BETTER
"But heave ahead, boy, I’d rather be killed by you than kept alive by any other man."
DID YOU JUST—
Then the doctor is like
"I myself…am a strict total abstinence man; I never drink—"
"Water!" cried the captain. "he never drinks it; it’s a sort of fits to him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia"
THEY ARE BANTERING LIKE AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE AND I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS
"Oh, you solemn rogue, you—you Bunger! was there ever such another Bunger in the watery world? Bunger, when you die, you ought to die in pickle, you dog; you should be preserved to future ages, you rascal."
"What became of the White Whale?" now cried Ahab, who had thus far been impatiently listening to this by-play between the two Englishmen.
translation: jfc will you two quit flirting for two fucking seconds and STAY ON TOPIC
so he finally gets these two lovebirds to give him actual information about the whale and then my favorite part of the whole chapter happens
"Avast! roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks—"Man the boat! Which way heading?"
"Good God!" cried the English Captian, to whom the question was put. "What’s the matter? He was heading east, I think.—Is your Captain crazy?" whispering [to] Fedallah.
BEST LINE IN THE ENTIRE BOOK
seriously though I LOVE THIS GUY and his boyfriend doctor I demand an entire book about them and their hilarious banter true love immediately
Ishmael and Queequeg can come too
Oh and my other favorite thing is that the Captain is like LOL losing one arm was enough, I’m not hunting that whale anymore. Again this is the best contrast to Ahab ever because whatever crazy revenge deathwish missions are not even worth his time, he is too good-natured and hilarious and WOULD RATHER JUST STAY ON HIS BOAT AND FLIRT WITH HIS DOCTOR.