Chapter 84: Pitchpoling

Ah, after a couple of chapters of non-narrative philosophizing, we get back to a bit of whale hunting.

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This one is kind of tricky, I’m not sure if I’m really going to be able to wring a lot of philosophical meaning out of it, but there is a mystery to be solved. Namely: what the heck is pitchpoling, actually? Let’s get into it. Continue reading “Chapter 84: Pitchpoling”

Chapter 78: Cistern and Buckets

Ah, here we go, back to action!

Yes, after a few chapters in a row of straight philosophizing, Ishmael has deigned to give us some more Things That Actually Happened on his fateful whaling voyage. I often wonder how much of the initial poor reception of this book would have been mitigated if Melville mixed these two modes of writing together more evenly. I remember hearing that it went narrative and non-narrative every other chapter, but that’s obviously not true.

Continue reading “Chapter 78: Cistern and Buckets”

Chapter 72: The Monkey-Rope

Let’s keep this train rollin’.

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Today’s chapter is back in more grounded territory, after the high-minded philosophy of the last few. Just some good ol’ fashioned whale butchering shenanigans with Ishmael and Queequeg. Remember them? The ostensible deuteragonists of this book? They’re back! Continue reading “Chapter 72: The Monkey-Rope”

Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre

I know what the title sounds like, but this is not that kind of shark massacre. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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This is another nice little short chapter, only a few pages in my edition, but very memorable. One of those nice little facts about whaling that you will carry around in your head forever afterwards, ready to spring it in the middle of a conversation if it somehow happens to come up. Moby Dick is full of such gems, and they tend to crop up in non-narrative chapters like this. Continue reading “Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre”

Chapter 49: The Hyena

Today we’ve got another nice little short chapter, to bookend the lengthy one from last time.

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We’re going to zoom in on Ishmael, which is something that’s been more and more rare since the launch of the final voyage of the Pequod. Early on, he was the focus of every chapter, our point of view into this new world of whaling, but in the grand scheme of the story being told, he’s not particularly relevant. Continue reading “Chapter 49: The Hyena”

Chapter 48: The First Lowering

Here we go! Time to go kill a god damned sea monster!

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Or, make an attempt, at any rate. It’s really a very difficult thing, taking down such a large and powerful creature. Of course, we humans have made our bones on taking down things much larger and more powerful than ourselves. Perhaps the whale itself is not always the biggest obstacle, though. Continue reading “Chapter 48: The First Lowering”

Chapter 47: The Mat-Maker

Ah, what a perfect time of year to read this chapter, in particular.

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The weather has been much like that described in this chapter, lately. As it is the Pacific Northwest, we have a certain reputation to keep up with regards to sunshine and a lack thereof, but it is still very pleasant in the summer. When the temperature hovers in the low to mid 70s (fahrenheit, of course), and it gets just a little humid, it is just the most seductive and perfect weather imaginable. Continue reading “Chapter 47: The Mat-Maker”

Chapter 43: Hark!

Okay, so this is embarrassing.

I totally forgot to do this chapter! It is super short, again, and doesn’t have any thematic or philosophical business to speak of. Let’s make this quick, for once!

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SUMMARY: As they are refilling the scuttlebutt one night, a Spanish sailor hears something in the forward hold and tells his friend Archy, who heard nothing and doesn’t believe him. Continue reading “Chapter 43: Hark!”

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. Not all of his secrets, mind you, just the deepest ones. Continue reading “Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck”

Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table

Ah, and here we pull back a bit from grand philosophy and sociology.

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This chapter touches merely on the domestic arrangements of the Pequod, in particular the culinary. Also, it’s just more of a fun read, and less of a confusing slog. Compared to the last chapter, this one will zip right by in a flash. Continue reading “Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table”