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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapters 28-54: cpt Ahab



friery wrote:

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?




I found the description of Ahab fascinating. First, his ivory leg could be seen to make him part whale:

"So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw."

And the augur holes drilled into the deck seem to make him him part of the ship:

"I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side of the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizen shrouds, there was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank. His bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship's ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance."

Overall, the image I take from Melville's description of Ahab is that of an Old Testament prophet.


Yes, you're right; his counterpart is Elijah, the mad prophet who christens everyone on the voyage with some kind of holy purpose; Ahab does the same. Melville is clearly dramatizing the start of the Judeo-Christian tradition here and its idea of a chosen people embarking on a quest.

And I'm glad you like the imagery of the whale jaw--Ahab takes the body of his adversary into his own, much as cannibals do.



friery wrote:

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?




I found the description of Ahab fascinating. First, his ivory leg could be seen to make him part whale:

"So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw."

And the augur holes drilled into the deck seem to make him him part of the ship:

"I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side of the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizen shrouds, there was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank. His bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship's ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance."

Overall, the image I take from Melville's description of Ahab is that of an Old Testament prophet.


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Choisya
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Re: Chapters 53: English Whalers

Yes, our Industrial Revolution was powered by coal (which also produced gas) but I thought America had a good coal industry too? Various kinds of oils were used for lighting from early times. The Romans used olive oil and beeswax, sesame oil and nut oil have also been used. Leviticus 24:1 contains a reference to olive oil lamps. A kerosene lamp was invented in 1849 and by 1857 seems to have overtaken the place of whale oil in America.



fanuzzir wrote:
Where did England get the energy for the world's first industrial economy? I think the reason that there were less English whalers than American is that England had a coal industry.



Choisya wrote:
I don't know what the figures are about the number of whales caught respectively by the English and Americans Pmath, although we whaled in different waters - the North Sea and Arctic oceans so that would also account for the lack of meetings on the high seas. Brits are definitely more 'reserved' than the Americans, the more so in times gone by and I would imagine that our superiority, if that was the case, would have been due to the centuries of naval supremacy which the UK had in the world. The British navy is the oldest in the world (and still has the most tonnage) and ruled the seas at this time. This presumably was the reason behind the 'metropolitan superiority' of British seaman. When Melville wrote MD America had not reached the dizzy heights of power and wealth which it has today and the UK still ruled 25 per cent of the world so I guess that Brits did feel superior to these American upstarts, and most other nations too. The times they have a-changed:smileyhappy:




pmath wrote:
Choisya, what do you think of this passage?

Nor would difference of country make any very essential difference; that is, so long as both parties speak one language, as is the case with Americans and English. Though, to be sure, from the small number of English whalers, such meetings do not very often occur, and when they do occur there is too apt to be a sort of shyness between them; for your Englishman is rather reserved, and your Yankee, he does not fancy that sort of thing in anybody but himself. Besides, the English whalers sometimes affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the American whalers; regarding the long, lean Nantucketer, with his nondescript provincialisms, as a sort of sea-peasant. But where this superiority in the English whalemen does really consist, it would be hard to say, seeing that the Yankees in one day, collectively, kill more whales than all the English, collectively, in ten years. But this is a harmless little foible in the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer does not take much to heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few foibles himself.









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Re: Ishmael and Bildungsroman...

Not sure, I am not the lit. expert but as far as I heard the bildungsroman was covering a smaller spectra. Any hero has to undergo a change, otherwise no book. If it costs him life, the better, the drama thrives.

I will keep it in mind. So far I didn't get any direct sense of Ishmael's development.

ziki
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fanuzzir
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Re: I miss Ishmael



ziki wrote:
Not sure, I am not the lit. expert but as far as I heard the bildungsroman was covering a smaller spectra. Any hero has to undergo a change, otherwise no book. If it costs him life, the better, the drama thrives.

I will keep it in mind. So far I didn't get any direct sense of Ishmael's development.

ziki




That last line is key here, as Melville goes far from his initial plan into something more collaborative and also more obsessive. These chapters seems to be more about putting us inside Ahab's head, getting us to sympathize with his quest, and to schooling us in the lore of the whale in order to enlist us as a kind of crew. That's a darker impulse than he let on in the first part of the book.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: All Aboard the Pequod, Chapters 28-54

As we close out this section of the book does anyone want to have a go at the Town-Ho's story? (Chapter 54) Melville put that story there as a corrective or warning, I think.
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Choisya
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Re: Moby Dick: All Aboard the Pequod, Chapters 28-54 : Chap 54 Mutiny

[ Edited ]
As I was reading this chapter three other tales came into mind - Odysseus, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1789) but I concluded that the latter contained the 'warning' that Fanuzzir feels Melville had in mind. However, the chapter was written as a dialogue, similar to Odysseus and there were references to the pecularities of numerous other lands, as with the Odyssey. The tale also had similarities to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as Melville/Ishmael, the survivor, told the tale to three young men whilst on land.

There are quite a few similar elements in the story of the Bounty: Bligh, like Ahab, was a bad tempered captain who treated his men unfairly, Steelkit was a ringleader similar to that of Christian Fletcher, as was the journey in longboats to Tahiti, although in the Bounty's case it was Captain Bligh who was set adrift - Melville perhaps indicating that the tables can easily be turned in such circumstances. The men involved in both ships were also volunteers who could legally leave the ship at the first port and it is unwise to treat volunteers as if they were enlisted men (as both Bligh & Ahab do.):-

'Look ye, now,' cried the Lakeman, flinging out his arm towards him, 'there are a few of us here (and I am one of them) who have shipped for the cruise, d'ye see; now as you well know, sir, we can claim our discharge as soon as the anchor is down; so we don't want a row; it's not our interest; we want to be peaceable; we are ready to work, but we won't be flogged.'

Flogging was also a major issue in the Mutiny of the Bounty, as on the Pequod. Perhaps Melville's warning was both against a captain or officer's (Radney) harsh unfair punishment whilst at sea and against mutiny itself, which is a pretty risky undertaking when you are at sea and can be cast adrift. It is also against trusting your fellow-crewmen in these circumstances for they are likely to betray you, as the men betrayed their leader Steelkit. The swearing on the Bible/Evangelists as to the truth of the story at the end indicates that the story told by Melville/Ishmael was a true one, just as the story of the Bounty was.

http://www.lareau.org/sagaintro.htm



fanuzzir wrote:
As we close out this section of the book does anyone want to have a go at the Town-Ho's story? (Chapter 54) Melville put that story there as a corrective or warning, I think.

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-18-200701:00 PM

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

I am really enjoying this book, but it's incredibly deep. (No pun intended!) I am literally having to read it in fits and starts, because after I read a bit, have to stop and let everything sink in, think on it. There's a lot going on in this book, at so many levels. It's not something I would have read on my own, but that's a good thing. This book club is moving me outside my "comfort zone", so to speak.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: All Aboard the Pequod, Chapters 28-54 : Chap 54 Mutiny

Mutiny was one of Melville's favorite themes. It gave him his political interest in sea faring stories and an abiding interest in the compulsion of human beings to submit. "White Jacket" and "Billy Budd" both have unforgettable investigations of mutinies.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: All Aboard the Pequod, Chapters 28-54

Hey Booknut, I certainly identify. The long section on whaling and whale dismemberment does finally give way to the last chase, so you would not be the first reader to skim those chapters. I posted some of my favorites in another post, if you wanted a guide.
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donyskiw
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Re: Pasteboard masks

I think Starbuck is right. I can justify killing the whale for hunting but not for plain vengeance. The whale was just defending himself.

Denise
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donyskiw
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Re: help -end of Chapter 33

Melville talks a lot more about these external arts (particularly naval customs) and whether the greatest men are in power or whether some captains are incompetent and some naval customs (like flogging, for instance) need to be eliminated in White-Jacket.

Denise
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donyskiw
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Re: Comparing chapters 36 and 42

Asking whose quest is more pure and more moral is assuming the reader some kind of right to make that decision, like we stand on some higher moral ground. I can say Ishmael's quest is more moral because I don't agree with Ahab's quest for vengeance. Dr. Phil may say that Ahab's quest for vengeance is unhealthy. Or Dr. Phil may pronounce both Ahab and Ishmael both unhealthy.

Denise
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donyskiw
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Re: The first lowering


fanuzzir wrote:
This is such a wonderful reading and selection of a pivotal character and plot point. It seems, as Choisya finds, that Ahab himself is not too immersed in his own quest to neglect the mundane aspects of maritime operations, chief of which is pacification. I know that Melville was both fascinated and horrified throughout his career how easy it was to produce consent in subjugated peoples (sailors), which is why he stuck with the naval theme for so long. Here he's putting Ahab's own romanticism in a new light: when he uses that word himself to refer to the crew's (and by extension, Ishmael's) manufactured motivation, then does he have a sincere one himself?


I think the quote Philomath posted earlier about Ahab's insane quest for vengeance being feline in nature and being able to hide is evident in the way he keeps control of the ship by keeping in the forefront of both the crew and the investors the need to turn a profit. When they killed the first whale, I half expected Ahab to interfere and call them off the hunt or to abandon the body because it was keeping them from hunting the White Whale. But he knew he had to keep everyone hunting up money, too.

Denise
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donyskiw
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Re: The first lowering



fanuzzir wrote:
You draw great attention to Ishmael's stake in Ahab's quest. What is Ishmael's journey so far to everyone else?


Ishmael's journey is mentioned at the beginning of the book: every so often, he must go to the sea and take a voyage. It is some calling he has. He doesn't do this for a living, and he doesn't have some insane quest like Ahab.

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

I think this story is intended to fill the reader in on the delicate nature of ship's discipline. It's hard for us to get that idea since we don't know what it's like not being in that environment.

Denise



fanuzzir wrote:
As we close out this section of the book does anyone want to have a go at the Town-Ho's story? (Chapter 54) Melville put that story there as a corrective or warning, I think.


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Choisya
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Re: Comparing chapters 36 and 42

[ Edited ]
I don't know who Dr Phil is but is vengeance ever thought to be healthy by gods and/or philosophers? Havent's people been taught for centuries that vengeance belongs to gods, that only they have such 'rights'? And psychologically speaking isn't the act of vengeance thought to destroy the perpetrator? Starbuck took the side of the gods/philosophers here.




donyskiw wrote:
Asking whose quest is more pure and more moral is assuming the reader some kind of right to make that decision, like we stand on some higher moral ground. I can say Ishmael's quest is more moral because I don't agree with Ahab's quest for vengeance. Dr. Phil may say that Ahab's quest for vengeance is unhealthy. Or Dr. Phil may pronounce both Ahab and Ishmael both unhealthy.

Denise

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-22-200701:56 PM

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Choisya
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Re: Ishmael's journey

Ishmael's Bildungsroman/journey is not just the voyage he undertakes on the sea. It is a voyage about life, about his soul. He (and we) learn about many things on this voyage and (if we have not finished the book) we have yet to learn what his nemesis will be and to judge whether or not it is justified.




donyskiw wrote:


fanuzzir wrote:
You draw great attention to Ishmael's stake in Ahab's quest. What is Ishmael's journey so far to everyone else?


Ishmael's journey is mentioned at the beginning of the book: every so often, he must go to the sea and take a voyage. It is some calling he has. He doesn't do this for a living, and he doesn't have some insane quest like Ahab.

Denise


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fanuzzir
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Re: Comparing chapters 36 and 42



donyskiw wrote:
Asking whose quest is more pure and more moral is assuming the reader some kind of right to make that decision, like we stand on some higher moral ground. I can say Ishmael's quest is more moral because I don't agree with Ahab's quest for vengeance. Dr. Phil may say that Ahab's quest for vengeance is unhealthy. Or Dr. Phil may pronounce both Ahab and Ishmael both unhealthy.

Denise




Point taken. So Ishmael and Ahab are morally equal?
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Laurel
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Re: Comparing chapters 36 and 42



fanuzzir wrote:


donyskiw wrote:
Asking whose quest is more pure and more moral is assuming the reader some kind of right to make that decision, like we stand on some higher moral ground. I can say Ishmael's quest is more moral because I don't agree with Ahab's quest for vengeance. Dr. Phil may say that Ahab's quest for vengeance is unhealthy. Or Dr. Phil may pronounce both Ahab and Ishmael both unhealthy.

Denise




Point taken. So Ishmael and Ahab are morally equal?




Hardly!
"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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donyskiw
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Re: Comparing chapters 36 and 42

No. I wouldn't call them morally equal. I think Ahab is unhealthy and immoral and I think Ishmael is coming from a much more higher moral ground. But the question must always be answered by first looking at our own moral ground. We also have to take into consideration the time period in which a book is written. We may want to condemn Ishmael for even considering something so barbaric as a whalehunt. But that is clearly a late twentieth/early twenty-first century perspective. From Melville's point of view, however, whales were not endangered species, and were part of the livlihood of many people. He didn't consider a whalehunt in general to be barbaric. But he did consider a hunt of vengeance of a dumb brute, to use Starbuck's words, to be immoral.

Denise



fanuzzir wrote:


donyskiw wrote:
Asking whose quest is more pure and more moral is assuming the reader some kind of right to make that decision, like we stand on some higher moral ground. I can say Ishmael's quest is more moral because I don't agree with Ahab's quest for vengeance. Dr. Phil may say that Ahab's quest for vengeance is unhealthy. Or Dr. Phil may pronounce both Ahab and Ishmael both unhealthy.

Denise




Point taken. So Ishmael and Ahab are morally equal?


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