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Choisya
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Re: (Possible spoiler) 'Splicing' religions and beliefs

[ Edited ]

fanuzzir wrote:

A purified, better self lies out there in the deep, says Melville. So maybe Ishmael the unredeemed has the deeper soul by another kind of religious measure. I do think all of Melville's factual whaling lore, the whaling mythology, and the philosophical mysticism is an attempt to create a deeply textured literary-secular "religion." What do you all think?



There are many references to splicing in the novel and I see the references to all the strands of whaling lore, mythology, philosophy, different religions as being Melville's attempt to 'splice' these all together so as to make one strong rope for mankind. (Splicing is to join ropes by interweaving them together.) The first reference is in Chapter 3 when the landlord of the Spouter Inn is trying to persuade Ishmael to sleep in the same bed as Queequeg: '...'it's a nice bed: Sal and me slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced [married]...it's an almighty big bed that.' The later homo-social splicing of Ishmael & Queequeg in that bed is a meeting of two races, colours, cultures and religions - there is room for all in the world's bed, implies Melville.

When in Chapter 18 Bildad queries Queegueg's religion Ishmael defends him by saying: 'I mean, sir, [he belongs to] the same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some queer crotchets noways touching the grand belief; in that we all join hands. "Splice, thou mean'st splice hands," cried Peleg, drawing nearer. "Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a fore-mast hand; I never heard a better sermon."'

Later, a parody of this religious drawing together by splicing is performed by Ahab (Chapter 36) when he performs a pagan ritual with the crew, swearing them to join him in hunting down MD to satisfy his desire for revenge. 'I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for men - will ye splice hands on it now?' He nails a prize of gold to the mast and has the harpooners make drinking cups out of the sockets of their harpoons to pledge their allegiance to his crazy scheme. Starbuck alone sees the madness of this and says that vengeance on a dumb brute is 'blasphemous'.

And a wayward eye-splice plays a crucial part at the end of the novel....

BTW there are some lovely animated examples of how to splice a rope on this website:-

http://www.animatedknots.com/splice/index.php

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-28-200607:12 AM

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ELee
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Re: (Possible spoiler) 'Splicing' religions and beliefs

Great post, Choisya, thanks! As I'm reading over the observations made in multiple threads, it occurs to me that this book could take a VERY long time to completely "chew and swallow"...wondering if I'm in over my head!
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Choisya
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Re: (Possible spoiler) 'Splicing' religions and beliefs

[ Edited ]
There is indeed a lot to swallow E Lee - we must perforce become like Leviathans ourselves to gain full nourishment from what we consume here:smileyvery-happy:




ELee wrote:
Great post, Choisya, thanks! As I'm reading over the observations made in multiple threads, it occurs to me that this book could take a VERY long time to completely "chew and swallow"...wondering if I'm in over my head!

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-28-200611:05 AM

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Choisya
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Re: Inns

You don't do too badly in the erudition and eloquence departments yourself Laurel:smileyvery-happy:




Laurel wrote:


fanuzzir wrote:
"The name of the innkeeper at The Spouter is Peter Coffin, no doubt a portent of things to come...The descriptions of the Spouter Inn are full of violent, whale hunting imagery, also foreshadowing things to come."

And speaking of portends, in a corner of the common room of the Spouter-Inn is a "dark-looking den-the bar" shaped roughly like a right whale's head and surrounded by the wide, arched bone of a whales jaw, which the seamen must approach to purchase "deliriums and death" in deceitful tumblers of cheating proportions.

ELee and Choisya, great work in peeling back the layers of these settings. There's more than dark humor at work in these descriptions: there is allegory, which takes flight once the men actually board their ship and face the monsters of the deep. The cameraderie of the inn, an exclusively male preserve, has some role in their fate as well.




I'll second that. I'm sitting here in wonder at the eloquence and erudition of all three of you. Then when Bucky drops in, we've really got an awesome group. (Others, too, but my memory for names isn't very long.)


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PaulK
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Ch. 27

I have been reading Spark Notes along with the novel and an interesting point was made about the pairings of the commanders and harpooners in each of the three small harpoon boats. Spark Notes cites the critic Heimert who observed that in boat 1 Starbuck represents New England which depends on South Sea trade represented by Queegueg. In boat 2 Stubb represents the American West which depends on the repression of native Americans represented by Tashtego. In boat 3 Flask represents the South which depends on Africans represented by Daggoo.

In addition the officers are American born while much of the crew is not. Leadership is by Americans while the hard labor is by non-Americans. These observations remind me of current events in the US debates about immigration. Immigration of Latin Americans is often thought to be necessary to provide manual laborers while Americans hold management and technical positions.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Ch. 27

This is very astute post and a great way of summarizing the racial politics on board the Pequod. You learn about the multiracial composition of the crew from the chapters 27-30, so this may be a good time to segue to the next message thread. But here is a point worth reiterating about the setup for the voyage in the first twenty or so chapters: that this voyage is indeed about the course of America, its past, present, and future. And that in all its exploitation of natural resources (whales) it actually shows the "wages" of American prosperity. Now throw in the "immigrant" laborers, and you have a dark and perfect commentary about the story of America, originating in New England, no less, where it all started.

The "illegal immigrant" reference is also very appropro--then, as now, the American economy gets the most out of non-white laborers while supposedly telling the world the success story of whites.
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Choisya
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Re: Ch. 27

Thanks for a very interesting post PaulK. A similar analysis could be made about British immigration, which was for centuries similarly dependent upon non-white labour from our former colonies and is still largely dependent upon non-white immigrant labour, although more white immigrants are now coming in from Eastern Europe.




PaulK wrote:
I have been reading Spark Notes along with the novel and an interesting point was made about the pairings of the commanders and harpooners in each of the three small harpoon boats. Spark Notes cites the critic Heimert who observed that in boat 1 Starbuck represents New England which depends on South Sea trade represented by Queegueg. In boat 2 Stubb represents the American West which depends on the repression of native Americans represented by Tashtego. In boat 3 Flask represents the South which depends on Africans represented by Daggoo.

In addition the officers are American born while much of the crew is not. Leadership is by Americans while the hard labor is by non-Americans. These observations remind me of current events in the US debates about immigration. Immigration of Latin Americans is often thought to be necessary to provide manual laborers while Americans hold management and technical positions.


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chad
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Re: Inns

And the sailors were compared to shepherds and the baby jesus could be the black idol the whole inn is compared to a ship and I think the last name of Peter is Coffin.... any guesses as to why?

Chad
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chad
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Re: Inns and religion, well I can continue...

I don't want to say Christianity is the religion of the working class, but the characters of a working class seem to be replaying events of "the bible story", albeit a little strangely due to the character's idiosyncracies, in part.

Chad
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friery
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land, Chapters 1-27

One phrase in Chapter One is hilarious. Page 31, line 2 (B&N edition): "The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable affliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us."

I assume he means Adam and Eve by "the two orchard thieves." (The phrase, however, also has an uncomfortable ring of the two thieves hanged with Christ.)




fanuzzir wrote:
These chapters, 1-27, are some of the most comic and richly observed social tableaus in the entire novel. If he had just kept his novel to these opening scenes on land, he still would have had a masterpiece. The meeting with Queequeg, the minister's sermon, the introduction to the characters; all are priceless pieces of wry, satirical prose.

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 12-10-200610:55 PM



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chad
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Re: Inns

I think the Inn is something ominous and possibly foreshadows events, but Moby Dick is also about "connections" I think, and quite possibly, about things, both animate and inaminate, turning into each other. More basically, the entire inn would be a ship if it had bunch of sailors that booked it for the night or the bar would be the the whale, both the centers of the sailor's emotions and conversations.

Best,
Chad
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Katelyn
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Re: Inns

[ Edited ]
I found the inn interesting too. I also found it interesting the way that Melville uses references to darkness, cold, and solitude. As our narrator is looking for a place to stay for the night, he goes past well-lighted establishments in part because such places are costly, but it also indicates that he is going to take the less traveled path because it is his nature to be individualistic and collect experiences (even at the expense of comfort) as evidenced by his desire to sign up for the whaling expedition in the first place.

As he moves away from the more well-traveled streets, he enters a blackness that is only punctuated by a few solitary lights, that are remote signs of civilization (rather than indications of immediate participation in it), as he is traveling into his own solitude. His sense of solitude is shared by his fellow lodgers at the inn; at first there is very little conversation at the dining table as these men also have their own solitude.

The church he later visits is dark & the men and women who sit in the pews sit far apart from each other also indicating their sense of solitude as they look up at the silent tablets on the wall that that are tributes to other voyagers who perished at sea. The church is dark and cold. We see a wild assortment of people that populate the town's streets; the ice on their fur hats indicate this is a cold & not entirely hospitable place and those who've made this town their home and not only survived here but flourished (as evidence by the large house and elaborate gardens) invite our curiosity.Collectively, I find these references to dark, cold and solitude very powerful and moving. What type of person ventures into the dark, cold, & solitude; what is it that they hope to find, what will they ultimately gain, and what price will they have to pay for it?

Kate

Message Edited by Katelyn on 12-30-200608:44 PM

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Katelyn
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Re: Reading Questions

[ Edited ]

Laurel wrote:
Here are some reading questions, for people who like such things.

http://www.wsu.edu/%7Ecampbelld/amlit/mddq.htm


Laurel, thanks for the reading questions. I am reading very slowly (one chapter a day) as I am over committed, but I am finding the questions stimulating...
Kate

Message Edited by Katelyn on 12-30-200608:46 PM

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finally meeting Queequeg



fanuzzir wrote:
I hope I can enlist you all in an extended discussion of the most striking chapters of this first section, the comic encounter of Ishmael with his new roommate. It is funny, it is self-mocking, it is profoundly reflective on the white imagination, and it is not half as erotic as I thought it to be. The most delicate subjects and wrenching encounters are pulled off with such a jaunty tone. What are your favorite moments? I like Queequeg and his harpoon.



--------
I found this whole chapter absolutely hillarious. The dilema of Ishmael sets up the whole scene. He needs a place to sleep, it is cold outside (even inside), he has no money to afford another lodging and yet he has such considerable troubles with his thoughts. he's caught in his own trap.

It's so obvious that the troubles are really within his own mind.
Then after the long ouverture of the whole evening he sleeps really soundly and is hugged by Queequeg upon awakening..... (he couldn't tell the arm from the quilt...hehehe). The scene showsindirectly that there's actually nothing wrong with anything.

But as the mind kicks slowly into gear again and starts to function (Melville describes that so precisely) it returns immediately to the habitual and the 'unintentional-peace-brother-hug' is again not entirely OK with Ishmael.

Ishmael is in such a mental mess but he can't really get hold of himself and that makes it all so funny.

The timing is really great in this chapter. I.e. the confusion inthe dark when Qeequeg discoveres that someone else is in his bed and probably gets scared himself...and the fact they need a third part to calm them....so typical.

ziki
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Ishmael meets Queequeg - homo-eroticism.

But isn't this a bit typical even today men being afraid of any close physical contact? As I said this whole chapter is such a splendid mirror of the conditioned mind.

ziki
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land



fanuzzir wrote:
My first impressions of the first six chapters: the narrative voice is so immediate and vivid; it pulls you in and takes you on a personal tour. Everything, even the philosophy of the first chapter, seems like the chatty talk of a self-taught drifter who's eager to show you what he knows. That means he shows you the ropes and lets you in on his secrets while letting you have a laugh at his inter-racial encounter. I guess I found everything Melville said couched in the character of Ishmael, whom I'm really beginning to like as a knock around friend, not a portentious philosopher. Anyone else?




I like the tempo....i.e. when he enters into inn, an unknown place...his mind takes a detour into the painting. Everything stops and we are transported into 'another land' then oh,.... and he continues with the business of his outer life, the original mission.

It is so very typical, we all function like that perhaps even more so in new surroundings;
a detail captures our attention fully and for a short moment we loose everything else from consciousness....then we come back to it and 'return to the task at hand'...(it is not even a reverie).

It's also so typical how he 'talks to himself' what he should do, that inner dialog with himself...

And it's brilliant when he comes into the 'black church'...a short moment..surprise..mistake and onward. I can identify with the outer situations he sketches here but 'inwardly'. I am not quite sure how to describe that sensation.

ziki
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fanuzzir
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Re: Inns

whole inn is compared to a ship and I think the last name of Peter is Coffin.... any guesses as to why?

I think you answered your own question. It's a dead end, he's saying. And that's also true of the Pequod's voyage.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Inns and religion, well I can continue...

Chad, you are right again--I like that Christianity is intertwined with the whalers' labor and enterprise--it's not just an allegory for their voyage but how they pump up their vocation. They heard Reverend Maple compare them to Jonah in the Bible.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Moby Dick: On Dry Land, Chapters 1-27

One phrase in Chapter One is hilarious. Page 31, line 2 (B&N edition): "The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable affliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us."

I like this too. Melville is making it so clear that all our working lives are really an expression of our mortality, if not our sinfulness. He finds the depths of religion in our most mundane activities.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Inns

Melville coined the term "isolotoe" to explain his character. I see this as well, but I can't square that with jovial convivality he enjoys with Queequeg, who, significantly, is "other" by definition. Why is this person his only friend?
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