REVIEW È Moby Dick; or The Whale

SUMMARY Moby Dick; or The Whale

Ociety The story loosely based on a real whaling shipwreck features the unforgettable vengeful Captain Ahab who obsessively hunts a great Moby Dick MOBI #224 white whale who bit his leg off below the knee. I was that precocious brat who first read the whale esue sized Moby Dick at the age of nine Why I had my reasons and they were twofold 1 I was in the middle of my I love Jacues Cousteau phase and this book had a picture of a whale on the cover2 It was on the bookshelf juuuuust above my reach and so obviously it was good because it was clearly meant to be not for little kids and that made my little but bloated ego very happy So in retrospect were War and Peace and Le P re Goriot and The Great Gatsby In retrospect there may have been an underlying pattern behind my childhood reading choices From what I remember I read this book as a sort of encyclopedia a bunch of short articles about whaling and whale taxonomy and many ways to skin a whale and occasional interruptions from little bits of what as I now see it was the plot It was confusing and yet informative like life itself is to nine year oldsWhat do I think about it now having aged a couple of decades Well now I bow my head to the brilliance of it the unexpectedly beautiful language the captivating and apt metaphors the strangely progressive for its time views the occasional wistfulness interrupted by cheek The first third of it left me spellbound flying through the pages eager for Just look at this bit this unbelievable prose that almost makes me weep yes I m a dork who can get weepy over literature I blame it on my literature teacher mother So there Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth whenever it is a damp drizzly November in my soul whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me that it reuires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people s hats off then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can This is my substitute for pistol and ball With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword I uietly take to the ship Bits like this is what made me stay up at night pouring over the pages I could finally see what my nine year old past self did not care about and appropriately so in the light of literal mindedness and straightforwardness that children possess Melville s constant persistent comparison of whaling to life itself using bits and pieces of whaling beliefs and rituals to illuminate the dark nooks and crannies of human souls to show that deep down inside regardless of our differences we all run on the same desires and motives and undercurrents of spirit Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing When you think it fled it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form The elusive White Whale is what we are all chasing in one form or another different for all of us different in how we see it and approach it and deal with it It s what we all pursue the difference is how Melville gives us one of the extremes the views of a single minded fanatic of one who puts everything aside sacrifices everything and everyone else for the sake of a dream of a desire of a goal the person who is capable of leading others unified in his focused narrow overwhelmingly alluring vision We can call Ahab a madman We can also call him a great leader a visionary of sorts had he only used the charisma and the drive and the single minded obsession to reach a goal less absurd less suicidal less selfish Had he with this monomaniac single mindedness led a crusade for something we think is worthwhile would we still call him a madman or would we wordlessly admire his never altering determination Isn t the true tragedy here in Ahab focusing his will on destruction and blind revenge leading those he s responsible for to destruction in the name of folly and pride Is that where the madness lies For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men Moby Dick the elusive and largely symbolic whale until that is the last haunting three chapters where the chased id e fixe becomes terrifyingly real and refuses to humor Ahab s life goal is a force of nature so beautiful so majestic and breathtaking so lovingly described by Melville over pages and pages even though in all honesty he breaks up the fascination but trying unsuccessfully to persuade the reader that the amazing whale is just a fish Really the idea of a mere human considering it his right his goal to stand up to the majestic nature force armed with a destructive deadly weapon and bring it to the end after a long chase in the ultimate gesture of triumph that idea is chilling in its unremarkability Humans taming and conuering nature bending it to our will and desires the world being our oyster all that stuff It is not new It is what helped drive the industrial expansion of the modern society It is what makes us feel that we are masters of our world that our planet is ours to do whatever we humans please But Moby Dick finally abandoning his run from Ahab and standing up to him with such brutal ease is a reminder of the folly of such thinking and the reminder that there are forces we need to reckon with no matter how full of ourselves we may get Why only three stars you ask when clearly I appreciate the greatness of the classic Because the metaphors and parallels and meandering narration at times would get to be too much because I uite often found my mind and attention easily wandering away in the last two thirds of the book needing a gargantuan effort to refocus This what took of a star and a half resulting in 35 sea stars grudgingly but yet willingly given to this classic of American Romanticism Buoyed up by that coffin for almost one whole day and night I floated on a soft and dirgelike main The unharming sharks they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths the savage sea hawks sailed with sheathed beaks On the second day a sail drew near nearer and picked me up at last It was the devious cruising Rachel that in her retracing search after her missing children only found another orphan


Moby Dick; or The Whale

Widely considered one of the great American or The PDF #199 novels Herman Melville’s masterpiece went largely unread during his lifetime and was out of print at the time of his death in Called the great. LISA Dad you can t take revenge on an animal That s the whole point of Moby DickHOMER Oh Lisa the point of Moby Dick is be yourself The Simpsons Season 15 Episode 5 The Fat and the Furriest Ahoy Matey Thar be spoilers aheadThere there Stop your crying You didn t like Herman Melville s Moby Dick You didn t even finish it I m here to tell you that s okay You re still a good person You will still be invited to Thanksgiving dinner You won t be arrested incarcerated or exiled You will not be shunned except by English majors they will shun you Your family and friends will still love you or at least stand you Your dog will still be loyal your cat though will remain indifferent Moby Dick can be a humbling experience Even if you get through it you may be desperately asking yourself things like why didn t I like this or am I totally missing something or how long have I been sleeping See Moby Dick is the most famous novel in American history It might be the great American novel But in many ways it s like 3 D movies or Mount Rush it s tough to figure out why it s such a big deal I suppose any discussion about Moby Dick must start with thematic considerations It is after all classic literature and must be experienced on multiple levels if at all So what s the point of Moby Dick Is it about obsession The things that drive each of us in our ambitions whether they be wealth hate prejudice or love Is it a deconstruction of Puritan culture in colonial America Is it a Joseph Campbell style hero s journey Is it a good ol yarn of men against the sea Is it all of these thingsPerhapsIs it a colossal boreDecidedly Now I hate to use that word the b word Boring It means so little It means nothing It is the ultimate grade school criticism subjective vague and expressing annoyance at having been forced to experience the thing at all To say something is boring implies that nothing happens when in fact something is always happening Whether or not that happening is exciting is another uestion Having said all that I found Moby Dick boring in the purest sense of the word On just about every page I felt a distinct lack of interest And this is not a response to the subject matter I love sea stories I enjoyed Nathaniel Philbrick s In the Heart of the Sea and Steven Spielberg s adaptation of Jaws Normally a novel about an obsessed man trying to harpoon a terrifying monster would be right in my wheelhouse What was the problem More specifically what was my problem Because despite what I say most people are going to blame me rather than Melville It all comes down to density I ve never actually harpooned a whale or anything for that matter but I can only assume that it is slightly easier than finishing this turgid mammoth work of literature I found it almost impenetrable Like reading Hawthorne except it doesn t end ever I tried reading it three different times and failed In a meta turn of events the novel became like my white whale elusive and cagey an arch opponent I would get through the first few chapters all right The dinner at the Spouter Inn The homo erotically charged night two men share in bed Melville s exuisitely detailed description of his breakfast companions You could plainly tell how long each one had been ashore This young fellow s healthy cheek is like a sun toasted pear in hue and would seem to smell almost as musky he cannot have been three days landed from his Indian voyage That man next to him looks a few shades lighter you might say a touch of satin wood is in him In the complexion of a third still lingers a tropic yawn but slightly bleached withal he doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore But who could show a cheek like ueeueg which barred with various tints seemed like the Andes western slope to show forth in one array contrasting climates zone by zone Somewhere in the neighborhood of the fortieth page when Father Mapple starts to give his sermon I d start to get a little restless A few pages into his fire and brimstone screed my mind would wander By the end of the chapter I d realize that instead of paying attention to the text I d actually started to amuse myself by trying to calculate my income taxes in my head And then I d uit During one of my periodic bouts of self improvement which I regularly intersperse with bouts of day drinking I decided to finish this damn thing once and for all To do this I hit upon a plan I brought it to work and forced myself to read twenty pages a day at lunch No surfing the internet or listening to podcasts No chatting with coworkers Until I finished I would dedicate the hour to 20 pages of Melville As a result I 1 finished the book and 2 grew to hate lunch which is really uite a sad turn of events What did I learn Not too much Moby Dick is about a miluetoast named Ishmael who sets out on a whaling ship called the Peuod Like many literary heroes he is a bit of an outcast Also following in the tradition of Charles Dickens tedious first person narrators he is a bit of a cipher Ishmael doesn t do much except offer endless exegeses on every aspect of whaling as well as stultifying digressions on topics too numerous to count don t miss the chapter about how the color white can be evil Ishmael s pedagogic ramblings will soon have you pleading for the whale or a suid or an eel or a berserk seagull to eat him and eat him uickly but painfully so the book will end The Peuod is commanded by Captain Ahab the one legged nut who is obsessed with finding the whale that ate his now absent limb He s sort of the 19th century version of the psycho ex boyfriend who just can t seem to let go the past Ahab is an interesting character in the abstract Profoundly almost suicidally driven The obvious progenitor of Robert Shaw s captivating performance as uint in Spielberg s Jaws However in the context of the book s thees and thous and utterly excessive verbiage and arcane sentence structure the sheen wears off mighty uick It s one of those instances in which I d much prefer someone to tell me about Ahab rather than read about him myself In other words I need an interpreter to translate from Ye Olde English to English The challenging language permeates Moby Dick Melville writes in a overly verbose grandilouent style His book is packed with symbols and metaphors and allusions and nautical terms There were very few pages in which I didn t have to stop reading and flip to the back of the book to read the explanatory notes or consult the glossary There are digressions and solilouies and even at certain points stage directions It is also a primer on whaling in case you wanted to learn The Peuod s whale being decapitated and the body stripped the head was hoisted against the ship s side about half way out of the sea so that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native element And there with the strained craft steeply leaning over it by reason of the enormous downward drag from the lower mast head and every yard arm on that side projecting like a crane over the waves there that blood dripping head hung to the Peuod s waist like the giant Holofernes s from the girdle of JudithMaybe you are familiar with the giant Holfernes and Judith s girdle Maybe you want to be familiar with them If so by all means proceed Melville s other notable character is ueeueg the South Seas cannibal with whom Ishmael shares a bed at the Spouter Inn a scene that has launched a thousand dissertations Ishmael s best friend on the Peuod ueeueg expresses the duality of man outwardly a tattooed savage he is also purveyor of what might be termed Christian ethics he gets along with people he turns the other cheek and he s willing to jump into the ocean to save a stranger s life The rest of the cast is too large to get into Besides they all run together in my mind For example I can t tell you off the top of my head whether Starbuck or Stubb was the first mate Frankly I don t really care They all end up in the same place Hint think Jonah Melville really harps on this Biblical allusion as he harps on everything None of this is to say that Moby Dick lacks any charms There are passages of great beauty For instance there is a moment when Pip the black cabin boycourt jester falls out of one of the longboats and is left in the ocean Upon being rescued Pip is changed The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up but drowned the infinite of his soul Not drowned entirely though Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes and the miser merman Wisdom revealed his hoarded heaps and among the joyous heartless ever juvenile eternities Pip saw the multitudinous God omnipresent coral insects that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs He saw God s foot upon the treadle of the loom and spoke it and therefore his shipmate s called him mad I m not going to lie and say I have the slightest idea of what that all means but it sure is pretty I suppose that was part of the allure that Moby Dick held for me Even though I often wanted to uit every once in awhile a passage would jump out at me and smack me across the face with its classicalness Unfortunately you have to wade through so much the mind becomes numb Moby Dick is uite simply a slog It is tedious Detail laden Attention demanding Then after 56 billion pages the climax comes in an instant and in a matter of a few pages everything you learned about the ship the knots that held the sails the crewmembers Ahab everything is for naught because it s all gone and the sea rolls on as it has for a thousand years In a way it s kind of cool to do it that way I mean that s life You don t always get a great death scene But on the other hand what a gypI realize my tone is preemptively defensive After all I consider myself a high functioning individual Like you I assume I don t like being told You just don t get it Oh no I get it At least I tried very hard to get it I just didn t like it And I ll admit I didn t like having to try so hard This complaint is not simply a function of having my brain rotted by soda pop candy and first person shooter video games Rather there is an important argument to be made for clarity Some say Melville s stylized prose is elegant I think it s tortured Some find his allusions illuminating I find them hopelessly outdated Some discover a higher pleasure in unpacking each complex theme I just wanted to push Ishmael over the gunwale or hang him from the yardarm Melville can gussy things up as much as he wants He can toss off references to 19th century prizefighters Schiller s poetry and the Bible he can discourse on civilization and savagery on man and God he can teach you every knot needed to sail a whaler and he can draw out enough metaphors to keep SparksNotes in business for the next hundred years Melville can do all these things but he can t hide the fact that this is a story about some guys going fishing That s it That simple story is the vessel for Melville s explorations Upon this he heaps his complications Whether Melville s techniue is effective or not or whether Melville has convinced you that it s effective is an open uestion Well not to me I think I ve answered the uestion In short I would rather be harpooned fall off my ship get eaten by a great white shark and then have the great white shark swallowed by a whale then read this book ever again I can t get any clearer than that

Herman Melville Í 1 REVIEW

Est book about the sea ever written by DH Lawrence Moby Dick features detailed descriptions of whale hunting and whale oil extraction as well as beautiful incisive writing on race class religion art and s. So Herman Melville s Moby Dick is supposed by many to be the greatest Engligh language novel ever written especially among those written in the Romantic tradition MehIt s not that I don t get that there s a TON of complexity subtlety and depth to this book about a mad captain s uest for revenge against a great white whale And on the surface it s even a pretty darn good adventure story And honestly Melville s prose is flowing elegant and as beautiful as any writing can possibly be It s magnificent actuallyIt s just that any enjoyment or satisfaction I got out of the book was overshadowed by the tedious largely pointless stretches of encylopedic descriptions about the whaling industry Melville strikes me as one of those people who would corner you at a party and talk incessantly about whaling whaling ships whales whale diet whale etymology whale zoology whale blubber whale delacies whale migration whale oil whale biology whale ecology whale meat whale skinning and every other possible topic about whales so that you d finally have to pretend to have to go to the bathroom just to get away from the crazy old man Only he d FOLLOW YOU INTO THE BATHROOM and keep talking to you about whales while peering over the side of the stall and trying to make eye contact with you the whole timeLook it s not that I don t get it Or at least some of it I get for example that Ishmael s description of the absurdities of whale classification systems provide a backdrop against which to project the recurring theme of mankind s doomed uest for complete understanding of truths that are ineffable and forever hidden sometimes literally under the surface I get that I just wish the guy didn t feel like he had to take it to such absurd lengths I do not need twenty pages about how to properly coil a harpoon line I can see why most people don t make it through this book without judicious skimmingStill I feel like I accomplished something and that I can now nod sagely the next time someone makes an obliue reference to Captain Ahab mentions the Peuod or refers to something as that person s Great White And chances are they skimmed than I did anyway

10 thoughts on “Moby Dick; or The Whale

  1. says:

    LISA Dad you can't take revenge on an animal That's the whole point of Moby DickHOMER Oh Lisa the point of Moby Di

  2. says:

    “Where the White Whale yo?”Ah my first DBR And possibly my last as this could be a complete shit show Approaching a review of Moby Dick in a state of sobriety just wasn’t cutting it though So let’s raise our glasses to Option B yeah?I fucking love this book It took me eight hundred years to read it but it was so so worth it Melville’s writing is impeccable The parallels he draws even when he’s seemingly pulling them ou

  3. says:

    I re read Moby Dick following my research trips to the whaling museums of New Bedford and Nantucket whaling museums The particular edition I read from University of California Press is HIGHLY recommended as the typeface is extremely agreeable to the eyes and the illustrations are subtle and instructive without ever interf

  4. says:

    So Herman Melville's Moby Dick is supposed by many to be the greatest Engligh language novel ever written especially among those written in the Romantic tradition MehIt's not that I don't get that there's a TON of complexity subtlety and depth to this book about a mad captain's uest for revenge against a great white whale And on the surface it's even a pretty darn good adventure story And honestly Melville's prose is flowing elegant and as

  5. says:

    i triedBoth ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an eye splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the tub and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything This arrangement of th

  6. says:

    I hate this book so much It is impossible to ignore the literary merit of this work though; it is after all a piece of innovative literature Melville broke narrative expectations when he shed the narrator Ishmael and burst through with his infinite knowledge of all things whale It was most creative but then he pounded the reader with his knowledge of the whaling industry that could uite literally fill several textbooks This made t

  7. says:

    896 Moby Dick The Whale Herman MelvilleMoby Dick; or The Whale is a novel by American writer Herman Melville published in 1851 during the period of the American Renaissance Sailor Ishmael tells the story of the obsessive uest of Ahab captain of the whaler Peuod for revenge on Moby Dick the white whale that on the previous whaling voyage bi

  8. says:

    There once was a grouchy alpha whale named Moby Dick who rather than being agreeably shorn of his blubber and having lumpy sperm scooped out of his cranium like cottage cheese chose life Unlike so many shiftless layabout sea mammals of his generation Moby Dick did not go gentle into that good night This whale in short was not a back of the bus rider He assailed a shallow consumerist society which objectified

  9. says:

    I was that precocious brat who first read the whale esue sized Moby Dick at the age of nine Why? I had my reasons and they were twofold 1 I was

  10. says:

    So I just finished it a couple of days ago and pretty much everything else pales in comparison About three hundred pages in it was already in my top ten favorite novels of all time and it didn't disappoint muchas I continued reading I actually