Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale

Now that I’ve gotten a bit philosophical, it’s Ishmael’s turn.

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What’s fun, at least to me, about this book is that it takes its own turn at explaining the symbolism and themes. You get a sort of inside perspective on things. I can see why it would be attractive to teachers who want to impart these concepts, but the language is just too challenging for it to really work. A book that is about symbols is going to end up being too convoluted to analyze at a high school level. Continue reading “Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale”

Chapter 41: Moby Dick

So, now that we know what Ahab, Starbuck, Stubb, and the crew in general think of the events of The Quarter-Deck, who could possibly be left to weight in? Is there some important character who has been neglected?

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Oh yes, there is that novice whaleman, named himself after some biblical figure, obviously not his real name, what was it again? Isaiah? Ezekiel? Ishmael! That was it, let’s hear what good ol’ Ishmael has to say about all this. Continue reading “Chapter 41: Moby Dick”

Chapter 40: Midnight, Forecastle

So, now that we’ve checked in on the officer class of the ship (minus Flask, who barely counts), it’s time to see how theĀ rest of the crew is reacting. Since so few of them are actual, established, important characters, they don’t get whole individual chapters, not even the harpooneers.

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But, what they do get is a fun format change! This chapter is written entirely in the style of a stage play. I’ve never heard of it being staged, but I wouldn’t doubt that some high school or college that was particularly arts-oriented has done it once or twice. Continue reading “Chapter 40: Midnight, Forecastle”

Some Dark and Heavy Summer Reading

Every summer, I turn my eye to old Victorian-era literature. Basically anything from like the 19th or early 20th centuries.

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In the past, I’ve read basically every book by Wilkie Collins, J. Sheridan le Fanu, Bram Stoker, the Brontes, and a smattering of other novels from other authors of the period. A couple years ago, I tried to read Les Miserables, but couldn’t get into it, though I did enjoy Toilers of the Sea, also by Victor Hugo. Continue reading “Some Dark and Heavy Summer Reading”

Chapter 37: Sunset

So, now we’re past the big fiery chapter, and will linger a while in the afterglow. Ahab revealed his true intentions, and the world didn’t end. He has set a flame in the hearts of his men, kindled from his own, and now everyone has to deal with the fallout.

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The next few chapters are pretty short, but that gives me a good opportunity to dig into some themes. That last chapter was so dense and important, there’s a lot of stuff that necessarily fell by the wayside. You could probably write entire books untangling all the various strands of meaning in that pasteboard masks speech. Continue reading “Chapter 37: Sunset”

Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck

Hoo boy, this is a big one. Not in terms of length, it doesn’t compare to Cetology, but in terms of importance and… depth of meaning?

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This is one of the most famous scenes in the book. If you know two scenes, it’s probably the ending and this one. Ahab is gonna play his hand, give a big speech, and reveal his innermost secrets. NotĀ all of his secrets, mind you, just the deepest ones. Continue reading “Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck”

Chapter 35: The Mast-Head

Sorry for the break in updates there, I had a very busy week and then a cold. Still just barely getting over the later, but I had an urge to do some bloggin’.

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So, today’s chapter returns us squarely to non-narrative status, with what amounts to a bunch of whaling trivia, at first glance. It is, in fact, very revealing about the character of both young and old Ishmael. It’s one of the more evocative chapters, getting us back to some of that fun prose we had very early on. Continue reading “Chapter 35: The Mast-Head”

Chapter 33: The Specksnyder

So, now that we’ve gotten past that monumental chapter about every kind of whale that exists, it should be smooth sailing, right?

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Well, maybe not. This chapter can be challenging in a different way. It uses a lot of winks and nods and glancing references. It’s very easy to, as I did the first time, just sort of let your eyes scan over the page and not take much in from it. Continue reading “Chapter 33: The Specksnyder”

Chapter 29: Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb

This book is going to continue being a bit strange, playing with the form of the novel in some interesting ways. Just recently we had chapter titles repeating, and here we have one that’s a set of stage directions.

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It brings to mind the way that some books have a little summary of what happens in the chapter in the table of contents. “In which such and such does so and so and meets with what’s-her-name”, you know the type. Continue reading “Chapter 29: Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb”

Chapter 18: His Mark

Now that Queequeg’s religious obligations have been dealt with, we can get back to the business at hand: going on a whaling voyage! Or at least preparing for one.

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This is a nice little chapter, we get some more of Peleg and Bildad, and see the contrast of how they treat Ishmael and his bosom pal. We’ve got some real forward narrative momentum at this point, I don’t think there’s another fully non-narrative chapter until they’re off on the voyage proper. Continue reading “Chapter 18: His Mark”