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Moby Dick: All Aboard the Pequod, Chapters 28-54

[ Edited ]
These chapters, 28-54, introduce us to Ahab and expertly foreshadow the doomed mission he and his crew are about to undertake.

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 12-10-200610:56 PM

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Chapter 33: "true princes"

[ Edited ]
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM

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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush

I had also earmarked this passage to quote here pmath:smileyhappy:. It is depressing but, alas, true:smileysad: I also thought that the sentence that follows on from your quote, referring to the Czar, could now apply to George Bush:

'But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization.'

There are, incidentally, numerous references in Moby Dick to the Czar, who Melville probably saw as exercising a malign influence in Europe during this period. At this time Britain and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea. The catalyst for this war were the religious differences between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia over the control of the religioius sites in the Holy Land (Israel). When, during a riot in Turkish controlled Bethlehem, a number of Orthodox monks were killed by the Turks, Czar Nicholas took the opportunity to go to war with Turkey so as to widen his sphere in the Eastern Meditteranean, which alarmed the British and the French. Despite chronic maladminstration by the British army, Britain won the war and came to control the region. Again, there is a parallel to our times. (Incidentally, Tolstoy served during the Crimean War and afterwards wrote the Sebastopol Sketches which then became his inspiration for War and Peace, based on the Napoleonic wars.)

There is also a reference in Chapter 12 comparing the royal Queequeg to Czar Peter the Great who was 'content to toil'). Peter the Great worked in disguise as a common labourer at the Deptford Naval Yard in London to learn the shipbuilder's trade.





pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM




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Chapter 33: "the world's hustings"

[ Edited ]
I'm noting my thoughts here as I read through MD, so I don't forget! Thanks for the very interesting historical background information.


Choisya wrote:
I had also earmarked this passage to quote here pmath:smileyhappy:. It is depressing but, alas, true:smileysad:

pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:
For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.


Message Edited by pmath on 12-21-200611:32 AM

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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush

One can't liken U.S. presidents to despotic kings or dictators in serious conversation. The Founding Fathers, for reasons perfectly described in the Declaration of Independence, ensured that level of Presidental power would be impossible through the Constitution.

It's actually quite comical, anyway, to imagine Americans ever "crouch[ing] abased before the tremendous centralization." For movie and television studios, yes, but for government? ;-)

What I think is true in Melville's writings the notion that "exernal arts" and "entrenchments" give inferior men power and keep "God's true princes" out. U.S. elections typically go to the most charismatic and wealthy of the competitors, and incumbants are highly unlikely to lose.




Choisya wrote:
I had also earmarked this passage to quote here pmath:smileyhappy:. It is depressing but, alas, true:smileysad: I also thought that the sentence that follows on from your quote, referring to the Czar, could now apply to George Bush:

'But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization.'

There are, incidentally, numerous references in Moby Dick to the Czar, who Melville probably saw as exercising a malign influence in Europe during this period. At this time Britain and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea. The catalyst for this war were the religious differences between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia over the control of the religioius sites in the Holy Land (Israel). When, during a riot in Turkish controlled Bethlehem, a number of Orthodox monks were killed by the Turks, Czar Nicholas took the opportunity to go to war with Turkey so as to widen his sphere in the Eastern Meditteranean, which alarmed the British and the French. Despite chronic maladminstration by the British army, Britain won the war and came to control the region. Again, there is a parallel to our times. (Incidentally, Tolstoy served during the Crimean War and afterwards wrote the Sebastopol Sketches which then became his inspiration for War and Peace, based on the Napoleonic wars.)

There is also a reference in Chapter 12 comparing the royal Queequeg to Czar Peter the Great who was 'content to toil'). Peter the Great worked in disguise as a common labourer at the Deptford Naval Yard in London to learn the shipbuilder's trade.





pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM







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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush & allegory

[ Edited ]
Of course one can liken present rulers to those of the past in serious conversation - I am not being literal here but allegorical, as was Melville. Overwhelming power is overwhelming, irrespective of any Constitution and while they are in power Presidents (and other leaders of nations) exercise a lot of it, sometimes in a despotic way. The reference to the 'plebeian herds crouch[ed] abased before the tremendous centralization' can be taken as an allegory of voters taken into the Iraq War, many against their will, for instance, or of any other unpopular legislation enacted by an administration with a large majority. And a world power like the US going against international opinion can be said to be despotic. The same can be said of the UK Prime Minister since the UK population ('plebeian herds') was taken into the war despite overwhelming opposition to it - they too 'crouch[ed] abased' before his huge parliamentary majority ('tremendous centralization'). There are a great many political allegories and metaphors in Melville - he is noted for them. He uses the language of a Jeremiah to alert people to socio-political events and his books have often been used allegorically to draw attention to current political situations - during the Cold War for instance. I expect Fanuzzir could give us some instances.

I am not sure about 'God's true princes' because the Kings and Queens of the UK supposedly ruled by 'divine right' until the beheading of Charles II and many of them were very despotic indeed - Henry VIII and Bloody Mary for instance. I suspect we wouldn't know a 'true prince' if we saw one, just as we are very unlikely to recognise a Messiah in our now multi-national world.:smileyhappy:




matthieu_78741 wrote:
One can't liken U.S. presidents to despotic kings or dictators in serious conversation. The Founding Fathers, for reasons perfectly described in the Declaration of Independence, ensured that level of Presidental power would be impossible through the Constitution.

It's actually quite comical, anyway, to imagine Americans ever "crouch[ing] abased before the tremendous centralization." For movie and television studios, yes, but for government? ;-)

What I think is true in Melville's writings the notion that "exernal arts" and "entrenchments" give inferior men power and keep "God's true princes" out. U.S. elections typically go to the most charismatic and wealthy of the competitors, and incumbants are highly unlikely to lose.

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-21-200603:12 PM

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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush



Choisya wrote:
I had also earmarked this passage to quote here pmath:smileyhappy:. It is depressing but, alas, true:smileysad: I also thought that the sentence that follows on from your quote, referring to the Czar, could now apply to George Bush:

'But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization.'

There are, incidentally, numerous references in Moby Dick to the Czar, who Melville probably saw as exercising a malign influence in Europe during this period. At this time Britain and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea. The catalyst for this war were the religious differences between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia over the control of the religioius sites in the Holy Land (Israel). When, during a riot in Turkish controlled Bethlehem, a number of Orthodox monks were killed by the Turks, Czar Nicholas took the opportunity to go to war with Turkey so as to widen his sphere in the Eastern Meditteranean, which alarmed the British and the French. Despite chronic maladminstration by the British army, Britain won the war and came to control the region. Again, there is a parallel to our times. (Incidentally, Tolstoy served during the Crimean War and afterwards wrote the Sebastopol Sketches which then became his inspiration for War and Peace, based on the Napoleonic wars.)

There is also a reference in Chapter 12 comparing the royal Queequeg to Czar Peter the Great who was 'content to toil'). Peter the Great worked in disguise as a common labourer at the Deptford Naval Yard in London to learn the shipbuilder's trade.





pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM







Interesting parallel. I'm not familiar with the Russian parallel to Melville's idea of tyranny. You have no idea how many times the operative term is "Turk," though in both Melville and many other's poltical writings.
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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush

This is an extremely interesting discussion on the possibility of whether the US could ever spawn or represent despotic power on the order that Melville describes. (Russia, as Choisya said, Turkey (Ottomans), Austria and Spain (united by the Hapsburg dynasty) were the most popular incarnations of tyranny in nineteenth century fiction.)
Of course, Mathieu refers to the divided sovereignty that made the US Constitution a world model, but other commentator of the nineteenth century, like Tocqueville, also realized that decentralization of power could coexist with centralization through the ways that a voting citizenry craves security and regularity while they go about their business. For him, it lead to a "tyranny of the majority." Remember also that foreign commentators routinely looked at American slaveholding as a democratic kind of tyranny.

When I first read that quote, it seemed to me a shot at Emerson, who had famously lionized the intellectual, "man thinking," as the true leader, even emporer of a democratic nation. Melville, on the other hand, for all his writing life was obsessed by the impersonal structures of power in naval law and punishment that flicked away this supposed power; Billy Budd, Moby Dick, and White Jacket are all about such structures at work despite the wishes of the thinking, sensitive souls on board. That's what he meant by "external arts: the imbalance between a despotic US state and a thinker as represented by captain and crew. Now put that on board a ship and you have a ship of state on the prowl throughout the world (he already saw the US as expansionist, not a constitutional republic). And now combine the "external arts" of the law with the power of a true thinker (Ahab) and you've got something truly alarming.
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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush

Thank goodness then that the 'ship of state on the prowl throughout the world' today does not have 'the power of the true thinker' at the helm:smileyhappy:




fanuzzir wrote:
Melville, on the other hand, for all his writing life was obsessed by the impersonal structures of power in naval law and punishment that flicked away this supposed power; Billy Budd, Moby Dick, and White Jacket are all about such structures at work despite the wishes of the thinking, sensitive souls on board. That's what he meant by "external arts: the imbalance between a despotic US state and a thinker as represented by captain and crew. Now put that on board a ship and you have a ship of state on the prowl throughout the world (he already saw the US as expansionist, not a constitutional republic). And now combine the "external arts" of the law with the power of a true thinker (Ahab) and you've got something truly alarming.


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Re: Chapter 33: "true princes" & Bush

I thought the same thing as I was writing that. Thank goodness for small favors. Bush's predecessor by this measure was James Polk, a dunderhead and charmless fellow who nonetheless managed to wage and win the Mexican War, expand slave territory, bring the north to heal over the fugitive slave law, and set up his successor. He still rates as one of the most effective chief executives this country has ever had, regardless of political prediliction. He is also the president that scandalized Melville, his term falling within the magical period of 1848 that energized so many liberals in this country, Melville included, with dreams of national liberation in Europe and quickening liberal reform in the US. The turning point that failed to turn, as Marx would call it, was no doubt instrumental in Melville pouring his heart into an epic of sinister, futile but well-managed imperial venture, the writing of Moby Dick. Again, I recommend to all Subversive Geneologies, a biographical account of Melville's political agonies and ecstasies. (He felt deeply about national and international movements for liberation).
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Re: Chapter 33: "the world's hustings"

"For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base."

For a dissenting opinion I would like to point to Ayn Rand, who in her classic books, always points out that "external arts and entrenchments" are not "paltry and base". They are what give meaning and purpose to our lives, even to those of politicians!
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the reasons behind everything

chapter 36 all visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. but in
each event, in the living act, the undoubted deed, there, some unknown but
still reasoning thing put forth the mouldings of its features from behind
the unreasoning mask.

Who has had experiences they can share where some object or event which
at first seemed to have no reason turned out to be really important to
you? So much so that it seemed more than just coincidence?
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Re: Chapter 33: "the world's hustings"

I do not know Ayn Rand. What are the 'external arts and entrenchments' which are 'paltry and base'?



georgie wrote:
"For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base."

For a dissenting opinion I would like to point to Ayn Rand, who in her classic books, always points out that "external arts and entrenchments" are not "paltry and base". They are what give meaning and purpose to our lives, even to those of politicians!


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help -end of Chapter 33



pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM






i would actually need some help with the whole end part of that chapter 33. The sentences are so convoluted that I read it three times and I get lost midways. I can't make a sense out of it.
...consequently I do not stand a fair chance to become depressed because of it...not yet... ;-)

ziki
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Re: the reasons behind everything



georgie wrote:smileyembarrassed:Who has had experiences they can share where some object or event which
at first seemed to have no reason turned out to be really important to
you? So much so that it seemed more than just coincidence?




It happens all the time, in small and big...actually when life flows as it wants to and the ego doesn't interfere, it works only that way.
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Ayn Rand



georgie wrote:
"For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base."

For a dissenting opinion I would like to point to Ayn Rand, who in her classic books, always points out that "external arts and entrenchments" are not "paltry and base". They are what give meaning and purpose to our lives, even to those of politicians!




Oh, my head is too small for Ayn Rand right now. I must say I'd also appreciate some extrapolations from you, using your own questions as a starting point.

ziki
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Chapters 28-54: cpt Ahab

[ Edited ]
To me it was disapointing to read about Ahab as he finally appeared on the planks.
To start with, by making him invisible and introducing Elijah, Melville swept Ahab into mystery but now when he needs to live up to that expectation, it is very meak and unconvincing.

The book looses focus. What happens with POV? How does Ishmael see Ahab in practice? When he's on watch? Is he on watch? Why doesn't Melville show the life on board instead?

We are served some futile description about Ahab having some white scar and the worst Ahab does is to call a mate dog. At least he should threaten Ishmael directly and call him a miserable stinking rat or something and blow an unholy breath directly into his face .....but maybe that would be out of character.

(..but the move from being called a dog into the dream was elegant) :-)

Melville looses it a bit here, methinks. After a strong opening on land the plot goes overboard.
What happens with Queequeg? He just disappears in the bowels of the ship. There are no other men-characters introduced. Instead Melville moves into centology and theory.That is not wrong in itself but it isn't quite smoothe. To explain the life on ship would be more captivating in a context of a living plot and with help of some characters.

aye shipmates, thumb down for this...

I keep on reading
(The middle parts in books are often the most difficult for a writer to balance well and they are often ailing. Melville is not an exception to the rule.)

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-02-200701:19 PM

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Re: help -end of Chapter 33

This passage was addressed at the beginning of our discussion Ziki. A re-reading of Fanuzzir's comments (and mine perhaps) might be helpful.




ziki wrote:


pmath wrote:
This passage is depressing:

For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

Message Edited by pmath on 12-20-200609:21 PM






i would actually need some help with the whole end part of that chapter 33. The sentences are so convoluted that I read it three times and I get lost midways. I can't make a sense out of it.
...consequently I do not stand a fair chance to become depressed because of it...not yet... ;-)

ziki


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Re: Chapters 28-54: cpt Ahab

[ Edited ]
At the beginning Ahab is cloaked in mystery, as the God he thinks himself to be. He is then called a Sultan when he entertains the other officers - 'Emirs' - in 'The Cabin', thus reinforcing his perceived godlike status. When he initiates a pagan ritual with the men and is pouring rum into their harpoon sockets he is showing a more satanic side and encouraging their worship of him, or this could be taken as a parody of a church Communion. We take our reading of Ahab from Father Mapple's sermon about Jonah and it is a tale along the lines of a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. Ahab's is the sin of pride - hubris - which will no doubt result in hamartia and it is likely to take us, via bathos, through to either anagnorisis or nemesis, with the Greek Chorus of the crew looking on and being introduced to us gradually, like characters in a play.

(hubris = exaggerated self confidence
hamartia = tragic mistake or flaw
bathos = unintended humour
anagnorisis = recognition or insight
nemesis = divine retribution)




ziki wrote:
To me it was disapointing to read about Ahab as he finally appeared on the planks.
To start with, by making him invisible and introducing Elijah, Melville swept Ahab into mystery but now when he needs to live up to that expectation, it is very meak and unconvincing.

The book looses focus. What happens with POV? How does Ishmael see Ahab in practice? When he's on watch? Is he on watch? Why doesn't Melville show the life on board instead?

We are served some futile description about Ahab having some white scar and the worst Ahab does is to call a mate dog. At least he should threaten Ishmael directly and call him a miserable stinking rat or something and blow an unholy breath directly into his face .....but maybe that would be out of character.

(..but the move from being called a dog into the dream was elegant) :-)

Melville looses it a bit here, methinks. After a strong opening on land the plot goes overboard.
What happens with Queequeg? He just disappears in the bowels of the ship. There are no other men-characters introduced. Instead Melville moves into centology and theory.That is not wrong in itself but it isn't quite smoothe. To explain the life on ship would be more captivating in a context of a living plot and with help of some characters.

aye shipmates, thumb down for this...

I keep on reading
(The middle parts in books are often the most difficult for a writer to balance well and they are often ailing. Melville is not an exception to the rule.)

ziki

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-02-200701:39 PM

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Laurel
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Re: Chapters 28-54: cpt Ahab

Excellent analysis, Choisya. Thanks!



Choisya wrote:
At the beginning Ahab is cloaked in mystery, as the God he thinks himself to be. He is then called a Sultan when he entertains the other officers - 'Emirs' - in 'The Cabin', thus reinforcing his perceived godlike status. When he initiates a pagan ritual with the men and is pouring rum into their harpoon sockets he is showing a more satanic side and encouraging their worship of him, or this could be taken as a parody of a church Communion. We take our reading of Ahab from Father Mapple's sermon about Jonah and it is a tale along the lines of a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. Ahab's is the sin of pride - hubris - which will no doubt result in hamartia and it is likely to take us, via bathos, through to either anagnorisis or nemesis, with the Greek Chorus of the crew looking on and being introduced to us gradually, like characters in a play.

(hubris = exaggerated self confidence
hamartia = tragic mistake or flaw
bathos = unintended humour
anagnorisis = recognition or insight
nemesis = divine retribution)




"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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