Mere days after beginning, “The Doubloon, a McMaster 2H06 Contest” has been won. The name of the winner is forthcoming, but I will reveal the answer to the contest question.
The song title/six words from Moby-Dick upon which this contest hinged is “Eat Him by His Own Light,” (from Chapter 65, “The Whale as a Dish”) for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood. The film was directed by PT Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love) and scored by Jonny Greenwood, of the British rock group Radiohead. As it happens, today, November 5th, is Mr. Greenwood’s 40th birthday.
I’ve mentioned There Will Be Blood before. The film stars Daniel Day Lewis as a misanthropic oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview, and if you’ve seen it, or if you should watch it, I’m sure you’d agree his performance (along with his performance in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York) has Captain Ahab written all over it. It’s worth watching for that alone.
But There Will Be Blood isn’t just tied to great American literature by Greenwood’s brilliant score and the haunting words he lifted from Melville. In fact, There Will Be Blood is a screen adaptation of the American writer Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! (1927). (Oil? Do we see further parallels with Moby-Dick here? Are they not immediately obvious?) Sinclair gained massive notoriety for his novel The Jungle (1907) which depicted the difficult lives of Chicago stockyard workers while also exposing Americans to the deplorable conditions under which meat was prepared for human consumption. As a result, The Jungle set in motion a series of events and bureaucratic changes that eventually led to the creation of the United States Food and Drug Administration. The things fiction can do! But I digress.
In Moby-Dick, the words “eat him by his own light” come, as I mentioned, from chapter 65, “The Whale as a Dish.” Stubb, having killed a whale, has a whale steak prepared that he may eat as a kind of victory meal, and which he does eat at a table lit by oil from that same whale. It’s a strange idea: that the very thing he slayed now provides Stubb the light to eat it by, as though adding insult to injury. I don’t doubt this was a common practice, and that among certain whalers it may even be a sacred ritual (I’m thinking here of Inuit traditions), but in the case of the Pequod – with it’s perverse mission and sure fate in mind – Stubb’s activity seems to border on hubris, loaded with the promise of doom, inviting revenge.
Here’s Greenwood’s song, “Eat Him by His Own Light”:
Here’s the trailer for There Will Be Blood:
My thanks to all who participated in the contest.