What is so foreboding about the forging of the harpoon? Why do you think Ahab asks his men to "baptize" the harpoon in their own blood?
Answers 3Add Yours
I love this explanation of the harpoon;
Next he wants a harpoon made -- a special, voodoo-like harpoon for Moby Dick. The magical materials are in the leathern bag that Ahab carries. They include horse-shoe nails from race horses for the shank [shaft], and razors for the head of the harpoon.
"Quick! forge me the harpoon. And forge me first, twelve rods for its shank [twelve disciples? twelve signs of the zodiac? symbolic twelve!]; hammer these twelve together like the yarns and strands of a tow-line. Quick! I'll blow the fire." The Parsee, Fedallah, makes an appeareance. As a fire worshipper, he can do no less than bless the rites.
Next for the pointed head, Ahab's razors. "Take them man, I have no need for them; for I now neither shave, sup, nor pray till -- but here -- to work!" When the blacksmith had forged the head and welded it to the shank to complete the harpoon, he called for water to quench and temper the red-hot iron -- but Ahab said no.
"'No, no -- no water for that; I want it of the true death-temper. Ahoy, there! Tashtego, Queequeg, Daggoo! What say, ye, pagans! Will ye give me as much blood as will cover this barb?' A cluster of dark nods replied, 'Yes.'" [Arrogant old man!] Quenching the hot iron in blood, Ahab howled deliriously, "I baptize thee not in the name of the Father but in the name of the devil." [Blasphemous old man!]
Ahab added a pole of hickory wood and a tow-line of new rope. "This done, pole, iron, and rope -- like the Three Fates -- remained inseparable, and Ahab moodily stalked away with the weapon. But ere he entered his cabin, an unnatural, most piteous sound was heard. Oh! Pip, thy wretched laugh blended with the black tragedy of the melancholy ship and mocked it!"
We see the influence of Gothic novels of unearthly horror working here.
The forging of the harpoon foreshadows the meeting with Moby.
Thanks Jill for answering my question.