Finally we're starting to see a little more action! In my opinion, a lot actually happened in this section, but also not very much happened at all? Moby Dick is making me nuts.
I am liking the way they're setting the tone for this voyage around a Nantucket brotherhood. I love a good brotherhood, tale of men, etc. etc. I also really love Nantucket. There's an author named Elin Hildebrand who maybe I will one day do an author feature on who always sets her books on Nantucket Island and I have been obsessed with it ever since.
I'm noticing more and more that Melville is making Ishmael into this philosophical narrator which I can't tell if I enjoy or not... The bit in chapter eleven about nothing existing independently, and only in contrast to something else, is something I used to think about a lot.
"Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable; and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable anymore. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm," (54).
Meg and I both studied linguistics and this is something we learned about sounds. There was a period of time in school where I was obsessed about thinking of various aspects of my life through this 'lens' and it was awful, so how lovely to be confronted with it again. (On the topic, I believe last section I was growing suspicious of some homosexual stuff going on between Ishmael and Queequeg and I feel almost certain now this is the case... is it obvious and I'm slow or am I nuts?)
|Who else has cute (awful) drawings like these? I believe this is Ishmael (standing) asking Captain Peleg (sitting) to come on the Pequod although I was really picturing Ishmael to be a lot smaller and wussier looking.|
I was humoured and apprehensive to find that Ishmael picked the ship they'd go on based on name and aesthetics alone. I commonly pick sports teams to cheer for based on uniform colours and mascots so this is something I can relate to. It's also not until later in this section that we find out Ishmael has no whaling experience whatsoever. All this talk of being drawn to the sea and needing to return to the sea only to find out he's been on a few merchant sailing trips but never to actually hunt whales. In my head- this is a crazy huge difference, but Ishmael keeps playing it off like it's no biggie.
My favourite part of this section was at the very end of chapter 20, when Ishmael says,
"If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the sea," (97).
Finally he's admitting that maybe it's a bit nuts for him to go out on this crazy long trip without a) having any whaling experience or b) having ever met the captain. Having said that, I empathize with this quote on so many levels. I can't even count the number of times I've already begun something (trips, relationships, meals even...) and thought... "man if I'm being honest with myself maybe I'm not 100% sure about this..." and then just proceeded anyways. We're all guilty of it.
I think the little bit about the relentless amount of sea food they are offered while staying at the inn was the first time I find the book remotely funny. Especially when he suggests that the milk tasted fishy.
These chapters are also when things finally start to get interesting for me. It is also the first time Melville starts talking about Captain Ahab in detail. I'm about half way through the book right now and as it turns out all my favourite passages are about Ahab's lost leg. Chapter 16 was my favourite of the section because it is the first time Ismael starts to get creeped out by this whale. He is shocked to find out that the captain lost his leg to the whale in which they respond, "It was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrous parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!"
This chapter is also interesting because they start to go into a lot more detail about the nature of Nantucketers, specifically how the majority of them are Quakers. Philbrick goes into a lot of detail about their belief system in In the Heart of the Sea ... specifically how they're non-violent. So I loved when Ishmael said "they are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance." Because what's interesting is this weird paradox where they're supposed to be non-violent, but their entire livelihood is based on the slaughter of sperm whales. Philbrick does a great job describing how bloody and disgusting killing whales is. They would essentially go out on these little boats and just stab the whales repeatedly until they died (by chocking on their own blood). Their blow holes just exploded with blood. What an image eh?
I also liked when Ishmael said "it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one." A section I really liked in In the Heart of the Sea is when Philbrick talks about what makes a good captain / leader. And how on the Essex Captain Pollard lacked qualities that could have saved these men weeks at sea ... specifically his indecision and willingness to yield to his first mate.
I also love their general fear of cannibals ... I wish this book had more of them.
I talked about reading Moby Dick with someone at Stefan's (fellow bookclub members) apartment-warming party last night. She said in the end it is worth it ... it's an American classic. I hope to god that is true because right now I am staring at my shelf full of books I could be reading instead .........
I have no pictures in my book :(