J. Rosemary Moss J. Rosemary's Comments (member since Nov 14, 2011)

J. Rosemary's comments from the Moby-Dick group.

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Lee Side Chatter (598 new)
Nov 15, 2011 08:13PM

54797 Ooh, another thanks for the Harper Collins link, Jennifer!
Nov 14, 2011 06:47PM

54797 Stephanie--Interesting, I like that interpretation, but I didn't take Ishmael's words that way. When he begs his step-mother to relent in the punishment of grounding, he says, "But she was the best and most conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room." I took that "best and most conscientious" as tongue-in-cheek. :P
Nov 14, 2011 04:58PM

54797 Fair enough, Bill!

Meanwhile, on another topic this thread addressed: was the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg just an intense bromance or were they sexually involved?

Just my two cents, but given all the marriage comparisons and the entwining of legs together and what not--well, they're more than BFF's. They should immediately move to New York or Massachusetts and start picking out china patterns.

And the fact that I'm a lesbian myself has nothing to do with that opinion. NOTHING!

(Well, ok, maybe a little . . .)
Nov 14, 2011 04:26PM

54797 Bill--Hmmmm. I think only the sense Ishmael had, when he woke up, of a supernatural hand in his was possibly a dream and not real. I think the difficult step-mother who "was all the time whipping me or sending me to bed supperless" was real.

As for step-mother versus mother--in Ishmael's case (unlike in Yishmael's) he most likely wouldn't have had a step-mother and a mother at the same time. There's was no legal polygamy, and divorce was rare, so if he had a step-mother, his birth mother was likely dead. It wouldn't be unheard of, in that case, for him to refer to his step-mother as his mother.

Jennifer--Your welcome! In the Torah it's clear that Isaac (or Yitzhak, if I want to be consistent about using Hebrew names, lol) mourned his mother Sarah--he comforted himself with his wife Rifkah--but not so clear how he felt about the death of Avraham. I imagine his feelings were more complicated!

There's a Jewish commentary or story (a midrash) that speculates that Yitzhak was not just blind in his old age--that he went blind younger, as a psychological reaction to seeing his father hold a knife to him.

More to the point here, there's another midrash that sees Avraham asking G-d which son G-d is demanding that he sacrifice: there's the horrific implication that he might have chosen to give up one son over the other; namely, Yishmael over Yitzhak. Edit: "On the other hand, Avraham might have pointed out that he has two sons in an effort to buy time . . . hmmmm. I'll have to think on this!)

I don't know how familiar Melville was with Judaism, but I'm guessing not familiar enough to have ever heard that midrash. But it comes to my mind anyway. There's also nothing in the midrash to say that Yishmael knew about that--but it's still amazing that he was there to bury his father with Yitzhak when he had plenty of reasons to stay away from the family.
Nov 14, 2011 01:59PM

54797 Aw, thanks!

(*Rosemary blushes*)

I read Philbrick's Why Read Moby Dick? on a long train ride home yesterday. And then today the History Channel told my inbox that Moby Dick was published on 'this day in history.' Both seemed like a sign to finally read the whole thing (instead of reading it piecemeal as I've done in the past.)

When I got to that quote, it seemed to sum up exactly how that book seems equally sublime and frustrating, and why it has such a hold on me!
Nov 14, 2011 01:38PM

54797 Forgive me for coming so late to this discussion; I just wanted to add something to Petra's excellent post.

I've been thinking about the biblical Ishmael--I'll use his Hebrew name, Yishmael, to distingusish him from the Moby Dick character--quite a bit lately, because this is the time of year, in Judaism, that we read the sections of the Torah that deal with him.

(The Torah is the first five books of what Christians call the 'Old Testament;' all synagogues read the same sections of the Torah each week.)

Two things I noticed: like Yishmael, Ishmael apparently had a difficult step-mother. Granted, she probably wasn't as tough as our matriarch Sarah, who actually demanded that Avraham expel Yishmael and his mother, abandoning them in the wilderness. But Ishmael's step-mother also seems to have made life unpleasant.

Secondly, in the Torah Yishmael has an interesting role right after a devastating time for Avraham and family. Some time after Avraham expels Hagar and Yishmael comes the troubling story of the binding of Isaac: G-d demands that Avraham sacrifice Isaac. Avraham appears, at least, willing to comply. G-d stops him at the last minute.

(As someone mentioned, in the Islamic version of the story Yishmael is the one that Avraham nearly sacrifices. In both cases, the idea is that he must sacrifice his favorite son--the one he's pinning all his future hopes on.)

We don't see Sarah ever speaking to Avraham again after the binding. In fact, right after the binding the Torah tells of her death, and we're left to wonder if she knew about the ordeal and if the shock of it killed her.

Heck, we don't even see Isaac walking back down the mountain with his father immediately after the binding; Avraham returns alone.

Hence there's a lot of speculation, in Judaism, about how broken the family was after what happened. Yet, when Avraham died, Yishmael--who had plenty of reasons of his own to despise his father--showed up and helped Isaac bury him. (See Genesis 25:9) Despite everything, he was there for his father and his half-brother.

It's a poignant moment in the Torah: Yishmael, the outcast son, returns and does his duty by his deceased father--and there's no mention of jealousy or resentment on his part.

I'm not sure how that fits in with the character of Ishmael, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Apologies if someone has already brought all this up--I'm still catching up on this thread!

Petra wrote: "I posted this in the pre-sail thread by mistake:

I quickly wiki'd the biblical Ishmael:

- Ishmael is a figure in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an and was Abraham's first born child. Ishmael w..."

Nov 14, 2011 12:37PM

54797 Like Newengland, I'm partial to this quote about the oil painting in the Spouter-Inn--in fact, it sums up how I feel about Moby Dick as a whole:

A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet there was a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant.

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