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Chapters 58 - 59
As the ship moves on its journey, it comes across a tiny yellow substance, which covers a large part of the ocean. The whales eat or swallow this substance called brit. As Ishmael looks at this huge patch of brit, he observes that just as the sea provides a means of survival for many species, it also has the power to destroy its own creatures. In other words, the ocean is a huge world, where one fish destroys another and a mighty creature like the whale can also be dashed against a rock and killed in a storm.
In the following chapter, Daggoo, who is on the watch, calls out when he spots a whale. Immediately the boats are lowered for a chase. But as the giant mass rises up again, the men on the boat realize that it is not a whale but a squid. The boats return back to ship.
In the chapter, The Line, Ishmael gives the reader a description of what exactly a whale line is. It is a manila rope that is tied to the harpoon. It is about 1,200 feet long and is coiled in a tub in the boat. The other end of the rope can be either tied to another line in the next boat as when a whale, struck by a harpoon, suddenly sinks down into the water; or the line is tied to the tub so as to keep the boat near the whale, just in case, the whale begins to race faster than the boat. This line is drawn over the oar handles, to prevent it from twisting, when the harpoon strikes the whale.
Once again, the author uses his knowledge of the whaling industry to make comments about his view of life. He suggests that the sea is like life. It can never be known completely but it should be respected and not taken for granted.
The squid, seen in the sea, is a symbol of bad luck. Many ships turn back on seeing one. The author suggests that sighting of the squid suggests that something bad is in store for the Pequod.
Again, the author uses the whale line to comment on life. He says that the whale line should be used carefully as it can get entangled with the men in the boat and pull them overboard into the waters. Similarly, the author states, all men are born with some danger or risk connected to their lives. Life is a long series of ‘entanglements’ against which men should be careful about.