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January 04, 2014
When I read Chapter 54 of Moby-DickI was initially under the impression that its plot and characters were a reflection of the larger plot happening in the novel; by the end my impressions of "The Town Ho's Story" were both strengthened and weakened all the same. By this I mean that there was no longer any doubt that the chapter was meant to be a compressed version/allegory of the novel or a Moby-Dickin miniature - at the same time however the relation between the characters of "The Town Ho's Story" and the crew members of the Pequodbecame less concrete.
One of the main things I realise is that the novel is in a constant battle with ambiguity; one of Ishmael's key struggles during his voyage on board the Pequodis his desire to understand and define what cannot be easily understood or defined. (Look, for example, at the chapter in which Ishmael struggles with how to define the symbolism that surrounds the whiteness of the whale, and the almost incessant desire to recount every possible cetelogical detail which nevertheless leaves him more in doubt over what can be/is known about whales.) It's easy to declare that the Town-Ho's leak connects it to the Pequod's leak as well, or how Radney is the foil to Ahab while Steelkit is Moby-Dick - but it is also possible to see how Radney's crooked jaw bears resemblance to the whale, or how Steelkit is both Starbuck and Ishmael as well. The fact that the Town-Hosurvives while the Pequoddoes not is ironic as well, making it more unable to clearly delinieate any allegorical connection (or key, for the matter) between "The Town Ho's Story" and the novel.