Friday, July 02, 2004

To close the awful shark-chapter, where Stubb eats the whale-steak and humiliates his cook, Melville returns to the idea that Stubb seeing by the light of the fresh-harvested whale’s oil while he eats of the whale might at first seem insulting. He goes on:

“But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? And that is adding
insult to injury, is it? Look at your own knife-handle, there, my civilized and
enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is the handle made of?
–what but the bones of the very brother ox you are eating? And what do you pick
your teeth with, after devouring that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl.
And with what quill did the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of
Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last
month or two that that society passed a resolution to patronize nothing but steel

Now there’s a lot here, I’m focused now on the final flourish. Following the illustration that even do-gooders do harm by the structure they live in (Melville in Moby-Dick makes it a metaphysical structure which in turn orders humanity’s social structure: the seer structures the metaphysic in all cases and in a case like this, in a society like this, extractive, our, it’s gonna be ugly) and on, Melville has the goose-lovers go mechanical. The choice is between a savage life organic with your around, or a mechanical life removed.

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