Previous Chapter: Moby Dick Chapter 41: Moby Dick (summary)

This is Moby Dick Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale (summary).
Vocabulary Words found in this chapter: Moby Dick Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale (Vocabulary Words)

Admittingly, the whiteness of Moby Dick scares Ishmael above all things. And he hopes to explain himself here in a random way. Some natural objects like marbles, japonicas, and pearls have the hue of white; various nations recognize this color as royal superiority; and all other things like the modern kings of Siam, Hanoverian flag, Austrian Empire, and even saying that the white men is master over every dusky race.

Additionally, Romans mark a joyful day with a white stone; the innocence of brides, benignity of age; Native Americans give the white belt of wampum as the deepest pledge of honor; whiteness typifies the Judge; a king’s or a queen’s horse is milky-white; and religions has made it the symbol of divine spotlessness and power.

Moreover, the Persian fire worshippers hold the white forked flame as the holiest in the altar; in Greek mythology, Jove is incarnated in a snow-white bull; To Iroquois, sacrifice of White Dog is the holiest festival for them; Chrisitan wear an alb or tunic which are white, worn beneath the cassock.

With all these said, Ishmael states that he sees something that strikes him more panic than that of the redness of the blood. For instance, the white polar bear and the whte shark are both dangerous and furious. 

For Ishmael, because the polar bear is both colored white and thus mixed with the idea of being innocent yet dangerous, it makes it more intimidating. And same with the great white shark.

Ishmael remembered the first time he saw an albatross when he was at the mast-head upon the Antarctic seas. There he saw a white, feathery thing that he likened to an angel and even bowed himself down to it because of its divine features. 

Then he asked the sailor beside him what kind of bird that is. In reply, the sailor said that it’s called “goney”. Thereafter, Ishmael learned that it’s what some seamen call the “albatross”. In comparison, Ishmael frequently sees grey albatrosses but said that he hasn’t felt any emotions he had in that of the white ones. 

White Albatross in Moby Dick Chapter 42 summary.
White Albatross.

Most famous in the Western and Indian traditions is the White Steed of the Prairies. They elect a white horse as the king of the wild horses in the rocky mountains. Even the bravest Indians tremble and awe whenever they see that horse. 

But with all the gloriousness and divineness that the color white offers, as said earlier, it can also terrify. Namely, an Albino person can sometimes shock the eyes of his own friends and families. Why? Because of the whitish skin tone.

And, even the White Tower of London stands out in the imagination of a person over the neighboring structures, Byward Tower and Bloody. To compare the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the first one most of the time overcomes the latter. Likewise, the White Sea exerts spectralness over the Yellow Sea

Ishmael stated that an imaginative person who doesn’t agree that whiteness makes some things more terrifying, can be the opposite case to another person. Then, he presented two examples to support this. 

First, a mariner who heard the shout of invaders in their ship at night stands up and sharpens his senses and abilities. Likewise, in another case, he’s called from his hammock at midnight because their ship has passed through a milky whiteness. Suddenly, he also stands up and runs straight onto the ship’s helm. This colored white sea is horrible to him as a real ghost. So, he never rests until he gets to the blue water again.

Second, to the native Indian of Peru being alone at the top of the Andes mountains would feel the fear and loneliness. Same is the backwoodsman of the West in the middle of the unbounded, snowed prairie. And being between the Antarctic seas, an injured sailor would think that he’s already in the cemetery. 

Andes Mountains, Peru on Moby Dick Chapter 42 summary.
Andes Mountains, Peru.

Moreover, the color white is like a white flag hung out for surrender. Even a strong young colt in some peaceful valley of Vermont would jump in fright if you shake a fresh, white buffalo robe behind it. Ishmael likened himself to that colt; the milky sea, rustlings of frosts of mountains, desolate shiftings in snows of prairies to the shaking of the white buffalo robe.

We have not yet understood why the color white can scare some. Maybe it is because of its indefiniteness, or because of its blankness. Or maybe because it can mean a lot, like a blank paper that can be written with anything with any meaning. 

Ishmael agrees to what some natural philosophers theorize—everything colored white that’s considered beautiful just conceals its true hideous color and dangerous character. To conclude, the White Whale’s the symbol to all of these things.

End of Moby Dick Chapter 42: The Whitenes of the Whale (summary).

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