Chapter 93: The Castaway

Sometimes it’s easy to go skimming along through this book and then be suddenly met with an ugly reminder that it was written before the civil war.

Naturally, this is any time a Black character shows up. It happens again this chapter, and while it’s not as bad as the cook, there are still some off-hand comments and just… general weirdness and discomfort around the portrayal of Black characters in this book. Like I think it’s about as good as you can expect from any white writer in 1850, but still, it’s a bit jarring.

Continue reading “Chapter 93: The Castaway”

Chapter 91: The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud

Okay, okay, I didn’t mean to worry you, I’m still at it!

No, friends, I won’t be disappearing for months on end in between posts anymore, as long as nothing catastrophic happens in my life (knock on wood). I’ve just been busy for the past week gorging myself on the game Pentiment, which really is incredible. There’s a big ol’ post incoming for that one, don’t you worry. Anyway, on to the chapter!

Continue reading “Chapter 91: The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud”

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 81: The Pequod Meets The Virgin

Enough of this reflection and philosophizing, it’s time for more action!

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I do wonder if Melville was a bit self-conscious in writing this book, aware that he was a bit too heavy on the high-minded discourse, when his audience was expecting more of a rollicking action-adventure yarn. After all, his most successful previous books, Typee and Omoo were more in that vein. Thus, the sudden shift in tone here, to a good ol’ fashioned whale hunt. Continue reading “Chapter 81: The Pequod Meets The Virgin”

Chapter 73: Stubb & Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him

Man, what a chapter title.

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After so many chapters titled “The [noun]”, we get an old fashioned summary, like this is a danged penny dreadful or dime novel. Also, apparently hunting a whale is now a single-chapter affair, or half a chapter, as we’ll soon see. The real focus is on the eponymous Talk. Continue reading “Chapter 73: Stubb & Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him”

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 71: The Jeroboam’s Story

Alright, now we are back in it.

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Jeroboam sacrificing to his idol, oil on canvas by Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert, 1641

Today’s chapter is a lengthy one, featuring the tale of another whaling ship that the Pequod comes across on that vast, wild plain of the Pacific Ocean. They hear the story of this ship, another wild tale that happens to be incredibly relevant to their own quest. Let’s listen in, shall we? Continue reading “Chapter 71: The Jeroboam’s Story”

Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish

I’m back again!

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I apologize for these long breaks between posts lately. I’ve been very busy with the college quarter winding down, and also the whole pandemic thing going has been very stressful. But with the quarter finally over, I feel at least part of my burden eased for a time, so I will be able to deliver these snippets of wisdom on a more regular schedule.

Thankfully, today’s chapter makes for a bit lighter reading than last week’s, being mostly concerned with the meal that Stubb was partaking in rather than the social dynamics at play around it. Continue reading “Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish”

Chapter 64: Stubb’s Supper

Okay, I’ve been dragging my feet with this one, but I guess I just have to bite the gamey whale steak and get it over with.

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This chapter is… difficult to talk about, as a person who likes this book and wants to convince other people to read it. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a book from pre-civil war America, so there are certain subjects that are not going to handled as, uh, delicately as you would hope, particularly anything involving black people. I’ve touched on it a couple times already, but this is where it’s really unavoidable, because we have a whole heaping helping of dialog with a black character, who is of course speaking in a dialect that Melville has painstakingly replicated in the text for our… enjoyment. Continue reading “Chapter 64: Stubb’s Supper”

Chapter 62: The Dart

Now, for a short bit of of professional criticism.

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Not from me, mind you, but from one Ishmael, who has noticed a few problems with how this whole whaling operation is being run. Like all insider suggestions, born of hard experience, it is very specific and points to something I noticed before, which was probably just me remembering this specific chapter and blurting it out like it was my idea.

Continue reading “Chapter 62: The Dart”