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Thread: Herman Melville's Moby Dick

  1. #1
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    Mar 2012

    Herman Melville's Moby Dick

    Hey there everyone, i just finished reading Moby Dick. I found it interesting but very difficult to read, because my native language is not english... I just wanted to ask you, what have you experienced reading Moby Dick...and what are your oppinions about the perspective as a real experience shaper?

  2. #2
    Registered User Prince Smiles's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Château d'If
    Firstly, big congratulations on finishing the book!

    I read it a couple of summers back. The book starts off reading like a great adventure yarn and I was wondering what all the fuss was about in terms of the hard going and then the whale terminology sets in and the seas get choppy.

    The first sentence, "Call me Ishmael." is just exquisite, and I was stoked
    for the challenge.

    Ishmael's first meeting with Queequeg in The Spouter Inn is brilliantly written.

    The Pequod sets out and things are all ship shape.

    Then the whaling terminology starts......

    It seems as though Melville had second thoughts about the content of the novel and changed his intitial plans from a pure adventure yarn to an allegory, laden with whale folk lore and biblical references, et cetera.

    My penguin classic edition says that the book can be read as Melville's meditation on America; a elegy to democracy threaten by the spirit of utilitarianism. If you say so...

    I read the book alone and feel it really needs to be read in a group with a marine biologist, (Jacques Cousteau)and a priest in attendance,then discussed, analyzed and pondered.

    Yes, the book is a masterpiece and I am glad I have read it; however I wholeheartedly intend to never read it again, AMEN!
    Last edited by Prince Smiles; 03-20-2012 at 08:40 PM.

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    Oct 2008
    that is a nice summary PS!

  4. #4
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    My penguin classic edition says that the book can be read as Melville's meditation on America; a elegy to democracy threaten by the spirit of utilitarianism. If you say so...

    I agree with that assessment.

    Ishmael = the man, meaning he stands for EveryMan. His experience is mine and is yours as well. Indeed, his life is a microcosm of what the world is all about. "Who ain't a slave?'' he asks. A slave to the insufferable human condition. But at the same time, one who has access to life's solutions to those problems.

    He had been contemplating suicide but thought better of it and decided to venture out to sea. He goes into the Spouter Inn where he (a White man) befriends and forms a brotherhood pact with a Black man. Later he walks the streets where he sees every manner of humanity. As he walks he has a meditation about death. Thence he enters into a church presided over by a highly respected clergyman named Father Mapple. The parishioners respect him so much that they acknowledge he was one of them. However what is lost to the modern audience is the description of this preacher: he was described as having a "swarthy" forehead and "large brown hands". In other words, Father Mapple was a Black man preaching in a White church. Again, this was highly unusual in those days. He then makes a sermon about one's acceptance of divinely ordained fate and calls each of the people there "shipmates" and "brethren" - that all people whether Black or White or Brown were the children of god.

    This may not sound peculiar today. But in the 1830s when the story took place and in 1850 when the book was written these words were revolutionary! The idea that a Black man and a White man could be brothers for life, the idea of a Black preacher calling White parishioners his family, the idea that the Gospel was intended for all people regardless of skin color was considered utterly stupid, blasphemous, and so counter to the teaching of Christianity by a great many people, especially White southerners who thought the Bible was their justification for maintaining slavery. Then, instead of the color black being symbolic of evil as so many Christians believed, Melville says it is the color white that is evil in Chapter 42 ''The Whiteness of the Whale'' where it is shown to be the color of evil and death.

    At the end of the book, Ishmael lives because his Black brother died for him and his coffin served as his lifeboat when he was rescued days later.

    Melville like a great many scholars of that era knew the USA was going to have a Civil War. It was inevitable because people refused to believe humans are all one and the same deep down inside. It was their prejudices and racial hate that caused that war. "States rights" and other such nonsense was only an excuse, a sidetrack, nothing more. Perhaps Melville was saying to the public was, set aside all your hate and your prejudices - live together as Brethren. This will bring about peace and reconciliation.

    The book was hated by Melville's critics and did not become popular until about 70 years after it was written. But it influenced people like Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King because they also saw it as a plea for brotherhood and peace. Again, today the book is not viewed as such. Instead, it is only viewed as an adventure novel. Ishmael suffered but he lived because of his brotherhood pact with a Black man. Ghandi and King felt this was the key message to the book. Consider the points I made above and ask yourself whether there is a possibility that they were correct.
    “... by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord ... I am now, as before, a Catholic and will always remain so.”

    --- Adolf Hitler

  5. #5
    archivist extraordinaire AlysonofBathe's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    From hell's heart, I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.

    I was introduced to Moby Dick via Star Trek. Seriously, Wrath of Khan is full of allusions to it. I haven't read it in while, but I recall being somewhat bored, as well as confused by all of the jargon. Still, the inner struggle Ahab is very classic.

    Happy reading,
    Alyson of Bathe's feeble attempt at completing the 1001 books challenge. You would think a former English major would have a better start than this. For the Reading.

  6. #6
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    trapped in a prologue.
    Blog Entries
    This book has a special place for me because it was in essence my introduction to the classics - an odd one to start with I know. I loved it when I was young and had an appreciation for the ideas that I couldn't fully grasp. I read it again several years later and found much more in it.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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