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.
Yes, it’s time for another of Old Ishmael’s little musings, but it’s just a short aside this time, not a whole tangent with its own thematic arc. A little explanation, for those of you who are not fans of the old and oft-rebooted cartoon series Futurama.
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!
The more I reread this book, the more I find that old advice about skipping every other chapter baffling.
The idea was that the book switched back and forth between narrative and non-narrative chapters, so if you want a “normal” book you could just skip them, but as we’ve seen that is not at all the case. Instead, what happens is that Ishmael will give us a chunk of the story, and then go off on a bunch of tangents related to that narrative, and then those tangents themselves. Moby Dick is a weird book, and you just kinda have to deal with it.
Alright, enough about space whales, let’s get back to good ol’ fashioned domestic Earth whales.
We’ve got a real barn burner of a chapter today. One of those ones that feels like it was written specifically for me, or at least the 21st century audience. This is just a beautiful bit of philosophical writing that really gets across an idea in a very neat and tidy way. Sure, there are a few rough edges to it, I won’t ignore those, but we’ve certainly gotten used to them by this point, haven’t we?
We’re finally out of the non-narrative chapters! Enough about whale anatomy, lets get back to story, shall we? Or, at any rate, some interesting disconnected incidents which the Pequod had while sailing about the ocean.
This one is pretty lengthy, and pretty thrilling. It’s one that never makes it into the filmed adaptations, which is a shame because it’s so very dramatic. Then again, there hasn’t been one since the advent of CG, you could really do it justice now. Of course, Moby Dick is probably unfilmable, or would require more of a broad TV approach to really do justice.
Ah, after a couple of chapters of non-narrative philosophizing, we get back to a bit of whale hunting.
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”→
Ah, sometimes this book can get a bit repetitive. But it can be hard to tell if that’s the book’s fault, or mine for reading it so many times. I would say that Moby Dick is a kind of… mixed masterpiece. It is not a sort of perfect clockwork thing, where every spring and cog fits together in some flawless and immaculate design. No, it’s more of a great pile of ideas, rudely shaped into something transcendent. Here is another piece, for your perusal. Continue reading “Chapter 82: The Honor and Glory of Whaling”→
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.
This is one of the chapters that really inspired me to do this blog.
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”→