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Unread 03-05-2012, 03:00 PM
 
5,185 posts, read 4,225,573 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
You know, despite Father Mapple's stern and settled invocations of God I think Melville's posing more questions here. There's a fatalism at work. I think the telling phrase is "...to obey God we must disobey ourselves." Joseph Campbell talked about the Jonah allegory, about letting "the sea" swallow you, losing consciousness of the self. It's a specifically Buddhist idea, but a common human one and as a Catholic I understand it. It can cleave many ways, from universalism to proto-atheist redefinitions. I'm trying to figure out which way Melville is actually going with it, and I'd say we're right to revisit this. I think it's a sign-post chapter.

So...I went on a lark and looked at Melville's astrological make-up online, for an August 1 birthdate: "Leos born on August 1 have a somewhat haughty personality but are lovable people. They need the validation of others, yet they are not likely to sacrifice their true self to that aim. These people set themselves a goal and go after it with little thought of how much time or effort it will require." Sounds like our first person narrator Ismelville.

When I first read Moby Dick it was probably the prose style that made me think it was so dour. Now I see the lightness, the humor, and the adventurous good will. And good grief, whatever his cultural ignorance this man from the 19th century was way better travelled than I am!
From page one we see how mankind, and Ishmael in particular, is drawn to the sea - like a magnetic pull. I do see the fatalism and I can also see how the preceding chapters lead into the Jonah sermon.

I think I'm going to take a little time and reread the Jonah bible story tonight. Maybe that will help me to pick up on some of the references being made in this chapter.

As far as the astrological take goes - yes, that does sound like our narrator - lol.

When I first read Moby Dick at the age of 12, most of the humor must have flown right over my head. While I remember getting immersed in the tale, I remember it being quite *serious*. But this time around the humor was the first thing that I saw.

Last edited by springfieldva; 03-05-2012 at 03:30 PM..
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Unread 03-05-2012, 10:15 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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I have been very busy since I bought a copy, and just started reading this morning.
I totally missed the humor when I read it before, but it sure hit me today.

One bit in the first chapter has Ishmael musing about Fate's grand stage program, and where he would fit in it. He decides that the interlude card, the big card that was used to announce the evening's events in the show, would read:

"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States"

"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."

"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."

I couldn't help thinking this was written 160 years ago. Some things never change...

Then I got a kick out of his stumbling around in New Bedford, looking for a tavern to have some company in the middle of a dark night, kicking over an ash bucket in the doorway, and discovering he's in a a black church, mistaken for a bar. It was the kind of comedy we see today on TV.

I'm really looking forward to some serious time with the book tomorrow!
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Unread 03-06-2012, 07:02 AM
 
5,185 posts, read 4,225,573 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
I have been very busy since I bought a copy, and just started reading this morning.
I totally missed the humor when I read it before, but it sure hit me today.

One bit in the first chapter has Ishmael musing about Fate's grand stage program, and where he would fit in it. He decides that the interlude card, the big card that was used to announce the evening's events in the show, would read:

"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States"

"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."

"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."

I couldn't help thinking this was written 160 years ago. Some things never change...

Then I got a kick out of his stumbling around in New Bedford, looking for a tavern to have some company in the middle of a dark night, kicking over an ash bucket in the doorway, and discovering he's in a a black church, mistaken for a bar. It was the kind of comedy we see today on TV.

I'm really looking forward to some serious time with the book tomorrow!
It's true. Some of the scenes in the book are as slapstick as a present day sitcom.
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Unread 03-06-2012, 10:43 AM
 
1,974 posts, read 746,957 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States"
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."
I couldn't help thinking this was written 160 years ago. Some things never change...
Yes! I'm so glad that struck you, too! Gave me the heebie jeebies.

I read the first 10 chapters last night, trying to pay special attention to The Sermon as you guys recommend.

So here's some of my messy thoughts:

First, boo, - I'm so very and completely sick of religion in general - but trying to figure it all out is such an important aspect of human life, and it's maybe THE primary theme of of MD.

In Chapter 3 - the painting seemed important. Ishmael studies and studies it trying to figure out what it's about. It seems messy and hard to see and to understand. "It was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose . . .you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant."

Does the ocean represent eternity? Is the ocean (eternity) full of everything - or is it a vast emptiness? What happens after death - eternity, or nothingness?

Philbrook says that this was a lifelong question Melville struggled with - Is there eternity - Heaven - an afterlife? Or is there nothingness after we are dead? Does the soul live on after death?

p.57 (in my book) - the last paragraph in Chapter 7, defines the essential Ishmaelness as he is at the beginning of this book. He accepts that yes, he might die - but he believes that his SOUL is his self, and nothing can ever end the existence of his soul (or, can it?)

I don't know. I think that Melville read the bible, and he's trying to figure out what it meant in writing this book. Is the Jonah story (Jonah repents but leaves whether he is delivered or not up to God) Melville's belief? Or is Melville just writing about what others believed? Or is examining it a part of his trying to figure out what happens after death?

Actually, the difficulty with reading something that is considered Great Litracha is that it's possible to read signs and symbols into everything even when the author may have just been being literal. For example, if I hadn't read The Art of Fielding and Philbrook I don't think I would have noticed any homoeroticism. But now I do - that section about Ishmael sharing a bed with Queequeg, and how comfortable and good it is, but Ishmael says there's "the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial a style . . . " Do we read this as humor? As a comment about how good the closeness of fellow humans is? Or as part of Melville's (possible) struggle with homosexuality?

Jeez - sometimes a book's just a book.
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Unread 03-06-2012, 12:14 PM
 
2,471 posts, read 2,197,476 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Yes! I'm so glad that struck you, too! Gave me the heebie jeebies.

I read the first 10 chapters last night, trying to pay special attention to The Sermon as you guys recommend.

So here's some of my messy thoughts:

First, boo, - I'm so very and completely sick of religion in general - but trying to figure it all out is such an important aspect of human life, and it's maybe THE primary theme of of MD.

In Chapter 3 - the painting seemed important. Ishmael studies and studies it trying to figure out what it's about. It seems messy and hard to see and to understand. "It was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose . . .you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant."

Does the ocean represent eternity? Is the ocean (eternity) full of everything - or is it a vast emptiness? What happens after death - eternity, or nothingness?

Philbrook says that this was a lifelong question Melville struggled with - Is there eternity - Heaven - an afterlife? Or is there nothingness after we are dead? Does the soul live on after death?

p.57 (in my book) - the last paragraph in Chapter 7, defines the essential Ishmaelness as he is at the beginning of this book. He accepts that yes, he might die - but he believes that his SOUL is his self, and nothing can ever end the existence of his soul (or, can it?)

I don't know. I think that Melville read the bible, and he's trying to figure out what it meant in writing this book. Is the Jonah story (Jonah repents but leaves whether he is delivered or not up to God) Melville's belief? Or is Melville just writing about what others believed? Or is examining it a part of his trying to figure out what happens after death?

Actually, the difficulty with reading something that is considered Great Litracha is that it's possible to read signs and symbols into everything even when the author may have just been being literal. For example, if I hadn't read The Art of Fielding and Philbrook I don't think I would have noticed any homoeroticism. But now I do - that section about Ishmael sharing a bed with Queequeg, and how comfortable and good it is, but Ishmael says there's "the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial a style . . . " Do we read this as humor? As a comment about how good the closeness of fellow humans is? Or as part of Melville's (possible) struggle with homosexuality?

Jeez - sometimes a book's just a book.
I've come to think Melville was "sick of religion" too and was tackling the alternate perspective. I just finished chapter 54, "The Town-Ho's Story" (name--hah!) and it seems sort of a companion to "The Sermon". Throughout I've been trying to reconcile the "...obey God...disobey oneself" quote, and throughout the narratives it all comes to nihilism. He prefigures Nietzsche by three decades, so I'd be interested in studying the historical evolution. I do certainly think the tragedy of slavery informs him.

601, when you mentioned the whale is meant to be real it helped me; I think that's the big trick Melville's playing, on the reader too. Ahab invests too much in an abstract notion of the whale to the point of self-defeat. My sense right now is he's saying religious abstraction about life...is the whale. For my part, it's an incomplete philosophy, but this is art and not philosophy, and doesn't need to assemble thorough logic constructs. It's very clever.

With preceding clues--like a chapter on the nature of the color white, which mentions the city Lima, where the Town-Ho's Story is told--Melville does seem to have been very thoughtful about assembling his novel. There's what I think is a kind of feint he does when he intentionally goes on discursely, conversationally, to mask what would otherwise be a pretty heavy-handed metaphor.

BTW, chapter 54 is the longest so far. Even then it's the length of any standard chapter in another book. I'm loving the shortness of these chapters. Makes the book easy to manage into the daily routine. This is a great book group book that way!
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Unread 03-06-2012, 02:01 PM
 
5,185 posts, read 4,225,573 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post

In Chapter 3 - the painting seemed important. Ishmael studies and studies it trying to figure out what it's about. It seems messy and hard to see and to understand. "It was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose . . .you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant."


Actually, the difficulty with reading something that is considered Great Litracha is that it's possible to read signs and symbols into everything even when the author may have just been being literal. For example, if I hadn't read The Art of Fielding and Philbrook I don't think I would have noticed any homoeroticism. But now I do - that section about Ishmael sharing a bed with Queequeg, and how comfortable and good it is, but Ishmael says there's "the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial a style . . . " Do we read this as humor? As a comment about how good the closeness of fellow humans is? Or as part of Melville's (possible) struggle with homosexuality?

Jeez - sometimes a book's just a book.
After studying the painting for a while, Ishmael guesses that the painting seems to depict a whale jumping out of the ocean and impaling itself on a ship. But it's messy, fuzzy and hard to see so who knows for sure. Is the painting important? How can we possibly know if we can't tell what has been drawn on the canvas?

In much the same way, the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg is a little fuzzy to the reader. After The Sermon we find out that the two of them have a deep, mutual love for each other. Is this just a good friendship or something more? But how can we possibly know the answer to that when it seems that some details may (?) have been left out. Like the painting, the picture is a bit fuzzy.

From a religious standpoint, I wonder if Melville is using the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg as a way to poke some fun at Father Mapple's hypocritical Christians.

Last edited by springfieldva; 03-06-2012 at 02:15 PM..
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Unread 03-07-2012, 07:56 AM
 
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I finished The Ship and a couple of other chapters last night. Ishmael has visited the Pequod and has been hired by the ship's main owners. Ishmael learns a little bit about the ship's captain, Ahab, whose very name appears to be an ominous foreshadowing...

I'm now going to stop and read up a little on the evil King Ahab.
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Unread 03-07-2012, 09:34 AM
 
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You guys are getting ahead of me. I took a break yesterday as this month's Vanity Fair arrived in the mail. It's important to have priorities!
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Unread 03-07-2012, 12:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
You guys are getting ahead of me. I took a break yesterday as this month's Vanity Fair arrived in the mail. It's important to have priorities!
Well, mine's a library book. 25 cents a day late fines--priorities!

Actually, I want a few days to read the reviews and critical analyses afterwards. I'm particularly interested in reviews of the book by Melville's contemporaries, then 50 then 100 years later. This volume includes that, so I can see how analysis of Moby Dick might have evolved.

From some of the annotations I can more clearly see the little imperfections of this work. That helps me not to regard every word as sacrosanct, which I think intimidates people when they read "classics". I'm finding that, yes, it is a masterpiece. But I can feel at ease reading it.
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Unread 03-07-2012, 12:55 PM
 
Location: Matthews, NC
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Love their kabobs.

Welcome to Moby Dick House of Kabob!!!
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