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 77: The Great Heidelburgh Tun

This is one of the chapters that really inspired me to do this blog.

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The casual reader of Moby Dick, which I must assume exists because I was one, would come across this and be utterly confused. What the heck is a Heidelburgh Tun, and why is it being talked about like it’s some sort of famous reference that everyone knows? It’s a question that cries out for answering. This is the one that really got me started in on researching all these obscure 19th century references. Continue reading “Chapter 77: The Great Heidelburgh Tun”

Chapter 75: The Right Whale’s head—Contrasted View

I bet you never could’ve guessed this chapter title. Not in a million years.

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In this chapter, we learn a bit more about the other whale, the one the southern whalers usually spurn, at least these days. And by “these days” I of course mean the 1840s, when this book was written. Nowadays, nobody is out hunting whales, except the Makah of the Washington coast, and the Japanese, probably. Continue reading “Chapter 75: The Right Whale’s head—Contrasted View”

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 68: The Blanket

I hope you are all weathering these quarantine times well, shipmates.

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As for me, things have been busy, and slow at the same times. I’ve been pulled in a million different directions, and yet feel little to no motivation to actually get things done. Thus, my attention has returned to this blog, thinking perhaps the old fashioned folksy ways of Ishmael may ignite some interest in me. And, indeed, this is a pretty fun chapter. Enough preamble, let’s get into it. Continue reading “Chapter 68: The Blanket”

Chapter 67: Cutting In

What do you even do with a whale, once you’ve killed it?

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Much has been said about what a monumental foe the sperm whale is, in this book thus far. So vast and terrible in its strength, such a rare thing to even see one, much less successfully kill it. After all that is accomplished, what do you do? How on earth does an old timey sailing ship accommodate such a massive carcasse? Well, that’s what today’s chapter, and the several following chapters, are about, so settle in! It’s gonna get gross. Continue reading “Chapter 67: Cutting In”

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 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 63: The Crotch

Okay, okay, stop giggling. You know it doesn’t mean that kind of crotch.

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This chapter is another little tiny one, a calm before the storm, so to speak. It’s funny, all around this first real whale hunt, Ishmael has been having these little side-notes informing us about necessary bits and pieces of whaling procedure. And yet, even with all this, the actual moments of whaling feel a bit obscure. It’s such an incredibly complicated and unique procedure, it’s difficult to put all the pieces together. Continue reading “Chapter 63: The Crotch”

Chapter 60: The Line

Oof, it’s been a while, huh? Sorry I haven’t been getting these out as frequently lately, I’ve been busy with school stuff. And also several extremely good videogames that I hope to write about some time.

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Today’s chapter is a nice meaty one. A bit of whaling paraphernalia and trivia leads Ishmael off onto a philosophical reverie, the usual bit. It is an interesting subject, though, and quite worth the space dedicated to it. Continue reading “Chapter 60: The Line”