Burden of Proof

Ishmael is at it again. No, not canoodling with Queequeg. Not dancing with the dudes. Not even swinging from the mast-head. No. He’s presenting a position paper. He says he must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Moby Dick is a mean-spirited jerk. And not just MD, but all sperm whales. “It is very often observed that, if the sperm whale, once struck, is allowed time to rally, he then acts, not so often with blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate designs of destruction to his pursuers.”

Heck, can you blame him? The sperm whale’s life is unfolding just swimmingly when people start attacking him with pointed sticks, intent on killing him and boiling his blubber down into “a peculiarly valuable oil.

The Classics Slacker thinks that pretty much sums up the situation. But not Ishmael. He knows he’s gone over all this material before, but it’s just not enough, kids. “The leading matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood, and moreover to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural verity of the main points of the affair.”

The Classics Slacker is beyond willing to stipulate all affair points, be they main or minor. Couldn’t we just skip ’em and move on to the main story? Assuming there is a story. Because, thus far—more than 200 pages into the book—nothing of any consequence has happened beyond the bromance of Queequeg and Ishmael.

Apparently Ishmael believes there are alleged doubters out there among the readers who have managed to hang in there this far, the ones he refers to as “some minds.” And it is for them that our narrator drones on and on (and on), proffering many mind-numbing citations from scientific whale people.

This chapter is called, appropriately enough, “The Affidavit.” In it, Ishmael swears—as if before an unhappy jury desperate to break for lunch—that sperm whales really are big (“uncommon large”), and that they really are nasty (“judiciously malicious”). Some are even so infamously dickish as to have earned “ocean-wide renown” complete with celebrity nicknames. (Think Son of Sam, the Unabomber, John Malkovich, etc.) There’s Moby Dick, natch, but also Timor Tom, New Zealand Jack, Morquan, and Don Miguel (a mucho macho pescado).

There’s more, much more, sworn testimony from Ishmael, none of which you need to know, trust me. For the Classics Slacker, right hand raised to the Creator, do solemnly swears to have read every last word of chapter 45, and she tells you now, you’re not missing anything. Swear.