Who told the whale he could suck it
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Jan. 1 - 7: to Chapter 21, "Going Aboard"
Jan 8 - 17: to Chapter 41, "Midnight - Forecastle"
Jan 18 - 24: to Chapter 65: "The Whale as a Dish"
Jan. 25 - 31: to Chapter 93: "The Castaway"
Feb 1 - Feb. 7: to Chapter 119: "The Candles"
Feb. 8 - Feb 15: The Blubbery Lay Sinks, Fini!
Here are the chapters for the coming week:
Chapter xli - MOBY DICK - More about Ahab than the Whale, there is some interplay here between the legend of the whale and Ahab's past run-in's with him. Remember the Osiris story during some of this.
Chapter xlii - THE WHITENESS OF THE WHALE - "What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he was to me, as yet remains unsaid." This is a lengendary chapter of The Dick, to be savored. The footnote on the Albatross - ah! There is something to inspire DFW!
Chapter xliii - HARK! - A bit of foreboding, half-drama, half-novel.
Chapter xliv - THE CHART - We get deeply into Ahab and his plans here
Chapter xlv - THE AFFIDAVIT - It is time to talk about the book itself; Melville steps directly into the book here
Chapter xlvi - SURMISES - Here we begin getting down to the details of how to catch a whale
Chapter xlvii - THE MAT-MAKER - half of the chapter is on weaving, half of the chapter is on spotting whales, with a surprise at the end
Chapter xlviii - THE FIRST LOWERING - the boats head out for a whale, but grave dangers await!
Chapter xlix - THE HYENA - Ishmael asks if the whole universe is a practical joke.
Chapter l - AHAB'S BOAT AND CREW. FEDALLAH - thinking back on what has happened in the prior chapters.
Chapter li - THE SPIRIT-SPOUT - This chapter begins by marking the boat's progress and giving us its bearings, but, then, perhaps disorienting us
Chapter lii - THE ALBATROSS - We begin to understand the whaling community; this is an important theme throughout
Chapter liii - THE GAM - More of the whaling community; watch nationalities in these meetings; also, pay attention to the personalities of the chaptains and officers
Chapter liv - THE TOWN-HO'S STORY - We have some dramatic foreboding here, and an important story-within-a-story; this is among the long chapters of the book
Chapter lv - OF THE MONSTROUS PICTURES OF WHALES - We now progress to more of the whale build-up; a continuation of the Cetology series of chapters
Chapter lvi - OF THE LESS ERRONEOUS PICTURES OF WHALES, AND TH EPICTURES OF WHALING SCENES - more of the prior chapter's theme
Chapter lvii - OF WHALES IN PAINT; IN TEETH; IN WOOD; IN SHEET; IN STONE; IN MOUNTAINS; IN STARS - again, we are delving into whales looking at in all ways, from all angles here
Chapter lviii - BRIT - Both a Cetology chapter and a bit of a transition
Chapter lix - SQUID - One of the "Mystic" chapters, sheer poetry
Chapter lx - THE LINE - We refocus on seeking The Whale, and come to understand the dangerous teather between preditor and prey
Chapter lxi - STUBB KILLS A WHALE - an important dramatic moment, about half-way through and a whale is taken
Chapter lxii - THE DART - here we have details on the taking of the whale
Chapter lxiii - THE CROTCH - and the details on the taking of the whale gain some practical philosophy
Chapter lxiv - STUBB'S SUPPER - A grand comic chapter, to be contrasted with Father Mapple's Sermon; should we think of this, in any way, as a santified, sacrificial event?
Chapter lxv - THE WHALE AS A DISH - We are what we eat, writ large as a whale
This is a bit of a long week, over 100 pages of book, but several groups of chapters can be discussed together, and hopefully we know see many of the major themes at play, understand a fair bit about Melville's approach to the book, and can really luxuriate in some of the prose and the development of the story.
How are people doing on the book?
A pretty picture from the web page of The New Bedford Whaling Museum, a site everyone should visit! http://www.whalingmuseum.org/learn/research-topics/overview-of-north-american-wh...
There's a way in which this is the toughest part, right in the middle of the book. So much done, but so much to go!
My mother is here for two weeks, so I"m not sure how much time I will have to contribute. I will try to check in regularly. Great discussion so far everyone, and I love that picture!
I am ahead for now, but when I read your posts I find that I must have been skimming in some places so I have to go back and reread. I have a great appreciation for your posts and for those of all the others who know how to analyze and write.
I ran into the same thing with another Victorian author; a chapter filled with tremendous excitement, followed by a few chapters of calm. The pattern is successful, at least for me, with the result that I stay up late reading, knowing something exciting could happen at any time.
Also, while I know this isn't to be discussed for a few days, the comparison chapters are really good, although I thought he was a little hard on the right whale.
But I am surprised that most here seem to be.
I wondered why Ishmael got off lightly. Do chroniclers get a special pass?
I think a lot of people see Ahab in a faustian light, as a flawed tragic hero, while seeing the whale as embodying a likely intelligent evil force.
I don't, I see the whale as embodying a natural force that is at once in separable from the divine and relatively unconcerned with people. But, throughout, very inscrutable. And, hey, we all like nature and plnats and things, right?
And how tragic is Ahab? Doesn't he bring all this on himself?
Yes, that was what I was reacting to. I have not read this book before, but I have certainly heard of it, and that was the impression I had of the Ahab character.
Nor can I see Ahab as a tragic hero--his demoniac/ monomaniac behavior takes him far from such a role IMHO.
Tristin Lowe's Mocha Dick
Re: Ahab and Faust
Nancy Sanders's Faust and Ahab: two characters between the demonic and divine
and an anecdote, there seems to be at least one person named Melville Faust living (or having lived) in Louisiana.
In the 'Town Ho' chapter we get a clue to an important structuring device on which the whole architecture of the book is based. Ishmael says to his interlocutors:
I will tell you what our Canallers are, for such information may throw sidelight upon my story.
the novel is built on two different styles and perspective: 1) the fictional story, and 2) the non-fictional, expository, informational chapters, which Mellville includes in the hope that they will 'throw sidelight upon the story'.
I love the Spirit-Spout. Feels very haunting.
You know, others have argued a sort of "two-book" appraoch to Moby, but I tend to see more than that in the structuring - every time I try to separate non-fictional and fictional, parts of them merge and most of them seem in-between. It all gets me back to the weaving metaphors, with warp strands going one way and woof or weft strands going the other, building a pattern between them. Yet the strands are of a similar type, they're yarns, even if they may differ in size or color or fabric.
Ishmael/Melville gives us a big clue at the start of that chapter.
But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught.
I have at last caught up with the group, I have just finished "The Town-Ho's story" It was nice to get back to reading a novel again be it only a novel within a novel, but I assume totally relevant.
I found myself happily lost in the whiteness chapter, but I also found it difficult to hold on to. It's mostly slipped away already.
Town-Ho reminds me of many of Melville's short stories.
I think Murr really has the feel for Alter without having read it, and for the diction type comments. I've reread his comparison a couple times, and it's really interesting.
Will you be explaining the importance of the rope chapter?
I'll have to take a look at ropes. I'll at least give you some thoughts here.
This is the painting (aquatint) by Garneray (in my text Melville has misspelled the name as Garnery) that Melville is so taken with in the chapter "Off the less erroneous pictures of whales, and the true picture of whaling scenes.
It seems at times that Melville is intent in including the whole history of the whale in his Moby Dick.
Interesting painting; very directly engaged struggle with the whale pretty far out of the water.
#40 - I've somehow always been comparing this book to oil exploration. First because this whaling was a search for oil. Second because the same morality applies - destroy to get the oil, and societal justification - that the need demands the means. The third because the mentality is comparable for the crews on the boats/rigs. I think that if Melville were alive today, he would be writing about Macondo. The vast ocean would be replaced by the vastness of time.
(#36 - RG - I actually loved all those chapters...still thinking about the rope in whale boats flying away around the crews.)
My partner, an avid reader of Slate, passed this on to me knowing I am reading this book. Enjoy.
Who only made love in a bucket.
One day he set sail
In search of a whale
But the whale looked at him and said suck it.
I like the image of the two whale heads secured on either side of the boat likened to philosophical talk:
by the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may well believe, So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over the way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight, Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right.
Bas, I absolutely adore that image, and keep coming back to it; yes, we might sail straighter and faster without Locke and Kant and their "big heads" weighing us down, yet we can sail straight and slow with both of them. Of course, it stinks a bit....
Isn't the Castaway the greaest chapter? In December, I began a blog post on Pip, when I was writing one on each of the major characters, and I just can't finish it; there is too much there. He begins with his tambourine entertaining the sailors, he sees God, he goes mad, he becomes to Ahab as Queequeg is to Ishmael in some ways.... I keep feeling like one of the deepest "keys" to Moby Dick that I can't fully fathom is Pip, and then I think that, perhaps is what the book is all about, the unfathomable....
Mr. Durick, such pessimism.
I think of 20th Century American writers, and religious references are overwhelmingly gospel/New Testament - Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Nathaniel West. All crucifixtion/redemption allusions. There are plenty of opportunities for such references in Moby Dick, but Melville prefers Jonah and Job.
This chapter cracked me up, great stuff.
This turns out to be a chapter that celebrates the triumph of young America over devious and tired old Europe. However once the prize is won it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Once again there is so much to read into this story within a story. The whale is no monster here, it is a pitiful thing.
Of course, I don't know if this will change when we actually encounter Moby Dick. My opinion at this point is that Melville thought whales were amazing animals.
Today I read "The Pequod meets the Rose-bud" In this chapter Melville has great delight in taking the piss out of the French. He had done a similar thing to the German's in "The Pequod meets the Virgin"
Thinking back over my reading so far and I am finding much of this book to be hilarious. Right from the start we had the comedy of Ishmael sharing a bed with the cannibal and then breaking down the door when queequeg was meditating. There are so many funny incidents along the way. The captains table for instance and Tashtego falling inside the sperm whale head.
Every time Stubbs appears I am getting ready to laugh, he has got to be one of the funniest characters in 19th century literature.
Barry, Stubb is indeed hilarious. I think I too often just meld he and Starbucks and Flask together when I'm just remembering the book.
I will be posting blogs in somewhat disjointed order from here on, as I get them done.
Lisa, I think in some of the chapters like The Grand Armada we really see how much Melville actually likes whales; I think he is, in many ways, much fonder of nature than of people.
"Hermann, this'll blow your mind..."
By the way, that footnote about whale milk going well with strawberries--welcome to hell-fire, H. M.!
Is it possible to milk whales, I wonder? I'm afraid they'd have to be unconscious...
I'm not sure that's the same as being great with kids. Who wants to be great with kids anyway--leave it to the whales.
I detect plenty of warp in me, but where's the waft?