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Chapters 22 - 23
It is on a cold Christmas morning that the ship leaves the harbor, but instead of the captain, it is the two owners - Captain Peleg and Bildad--who call the shots, bringing the crew members together and giving them instructions. Very soon the vessel moves into the ocean. The weather is dark, mystery and gray.
While Captain Peleg and Bildad give orders to the crewmember, Peleg does it in his characteristic salty dog language. On the other hand, the dignified Captain Bildad does so in a soothing voice with quotes from the Psalms and the Bible.
Soon, it is time for Peleg and Bildad to bid farewell. As they leave they give last minute instructions to the officers. Ishmael is moved when he sees the two owners bid farewell to their ship with tears in their eyes. Again, the captain of the ship does not make an appearance.
When Ishmael meets the crewmembers, he is surprised to see Bulkington as the helm man of the ship. Bulkington is the sailor who Ishmael had seen at the Spouter's Inn, in New Bedford. He is surprised because Bulkington had only just returned from a two year long voyage and within week he is on board for another long journey.
Chapter 22 gives a rather amusing account of how the two owners get the ship moving from the harbor. The humor lies in the differences in their style and manner of running the ship. Yet when it is time to leave, these two elderly men part with tears in their eyes, as though they are bidding farewell to their own flesh and blood. The ship leaving on Christmas Day evokes the birth of Jesus. Ishmael is leaving on a new voyage that will be significant to his growth as a human.
Chapter 23, is an extremely short chapter - "a six inch chapter" as the author puts it. Speaking of Bulkington, the author uses the imagery of the sea and the shore. According to him the fact that Bulkington keeps coming back to the sea suggests that he wants to retain the independence of his soul, "while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore." The sea is the symbol of the highest truth. And Bulkington, the quiet, earnest thinker keeps coming back to it in search of truth.