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Moby-Dick or, the Whale
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Herman Melville Collection > Moby-Dick: Chpts CIII -End (103 - End) Spoilers

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message 1: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Mar 31, 2017 01:16PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Week 6: Chpts CIII -End spoiler thread

And use this thread for your final thoughts on the book. Spoilers for the entire book are okay in this discussion.


Sandy | 57 comments I admit to this book defeating me. I got about half way through and gave up. Had trouble with the writing style. I read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex last year and is about the how a sperm whale rammed the Esssex. Moby Dick is based on this event. I found In the Heart of the Sea much more readable and a very interesting book.


message 3: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Bob | 4853 comments Mod
I understand, Moby Dick is more about endurance than an enjoyment. I also agree with you about In the Heart of the Sea:, an excellent read. One of the things I think hinders me from liking Moby Dick any better is just before I started it I read The Sea Wolf by Jack London. A much more enjoyable adventure at sea read.


message 4: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Thanks, Bob. I will do the London book soon then. That is if I endure Moby Dick and finish it.


message 5: by MK (last edited Mar 12, 2014 04:59PM) (new) - added it

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I abandoned it when I was pregnant (24 yrs ago). Haven't made it back yet .... :-o

We have it in one of those beautiful leather-bound, golden edged Easton Press editions too. It's so ... tactically gorgeous. And literarily snore inducing ;-). A friend from long ago insisted it was the best book in the world. Maybe someday I'll try it again.


message 6: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Mar 13, 2014 02:38PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bob | 4853 comments Mod
I have finished. I am still thinking it over. will try and review it later. Not going to consider it a waste of time more like a check mark on a bucket list.

when someone asks have you ever read Moby Dick? I can say, Yes, yes I have and I've also had a dentist drill a tooth before the Novocain took effect. How did you like it?


message 7: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Bob
LOL


message 8: by MK (new) - added it

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments ahhhhaahahhaaaahhh! *laughing* that's awesome, Bob. Congrats on the accomplishment! You're one up on me, I haven't made it to the end yet. Maybe some day ...


Maggie | 125 comments Finished reading this yesterday. In the light of current events, the image of the sea swallowing the Pequod probably resembles the way it swallowed MH370... it gives me an immense sense of fatality.

I know most people enjoy the ending but perhaps because I don't like action very much, the most enjoyable parts of the book for me were actually those scenes that displayed the interactions and relationships between various characters. I also enjoyed the descriptions of whales, though I know most of you will disagree with me!

I think the biggest shortcoming of this book is simply that Melville tried to cram so much into it. He wanted to write an epic fit for the immensity of the whale. His book covered vast geographical ground and a multinational crew. He mentioned Alexander, Hannibal, sultans and bible characters, empires, wars and ruins. But these parts didn't form a coherent whole and in the end it felt too over-the-top and messy for me. Still I'm glad I read it, if only because this is one of those books that you have to read at least once!


message 10: by David (last edited Jun 11, 2014 11:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David (davidshockey) | 20 comments Bob wrote: "I have finished. I am still thinking it over. will try and review it later. Not going to consider it a waste of time more like a check mark on a bucket list.

when someone asks have you ever read Moby Dick? I can say, Yes, yes I have and I've also had a dentist drill a tooth before the Novocain took effect. How did you like it?"


I enjoyed Moby Dick, but, I usually forgo the novacaine when I get a filling. The typical response from the dental techs is, "Oh, you are one of those."


message 11: by Pink (last edited Jun 22, 2016 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments So, for those of us buddy reading Moby Dick this time around, what did you think?

I'm surprised by how different the story was, to what I was expecting. I think in my mind I imagined more of Jonah and the whale and certainly more whaling action. Instead I got a sea adventure, but with some in depth relationships and look at whales. I really enjoyed the story, even the parts that others seem to find boring. All the descriptions of whales by classification, in art, etc. were really fascinating to me. I was also pleasantly surprised by the ending. As the action increased I became fearful that Moby Dick was going to meet a rather grisly end, whereas in fact it was the sailors who perished and I quite liked that!


message 12: by Steve (last edited Jun 29, 2016 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Okay, I propose a discussion: What does Ahab honestly believe he stands to gain by risking his life, his crew, his ship--everything--to run down and kill Moby Dick? Is he driven solely by hatred and rage over the taking of his leg, or is there more going on? He's conflicted, that's for sure. "What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me?" But doesn't he have a choice to seize control and turn away before it's too late? Or in the end is he really just a puppet of the Fates, as he claims? Carl Jung believed, as did Thomas Mann (The Magic Mountain), that the soul decrees it's own fate. Could this be what happened to Ahab? But then what about the souls of all those others killed in this doomed hunt? And, finally, why did Ishmael survive? Blind chance or some inner/outer providence?


message 13: by Pink (last edited Jun 30, 2016 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments I've been giving Ahab a bit of thought this week, trying to work out my own opinion of him and also look deeper into his purpose in Moby Dick. Initially while reading, I thought he was simply crazed and losing his mind, hell bent on revenge for the loss of his leg, no matter the cost. Then I started to think he was being used more as a puppet, not really in control of his own destiny and there to show the darker side of mankind, although he doesn't exactly fit the evil character stereotype, he's more complex than that. I was reading elsewhere this week, how Melville along with Poe and Hawthorne took a different direction in romanticism, with Dark Romance. Unlike the transcendentalist belief of inner goodness, they thought that people were susceptible to sin and self-destruction. I'm not sure that I found Ahab exactly sinful, but he was certainly a self-destructive force. I've questioned whether his battle was solely against Moby Dick, or about an inner turmoil, railing against God, but I'm not sure.

As to why Ishmael alone survives, I don't think it can be blind chance, as Melville was too clever for that. Initially I thought Ishmael and Ahab were portrayed as inherently good and evil, opposed to one another, but again this is too simplistic, though I think it's at the core of things. I suppose someone had to escape to tell the tale, but that doesn't explain why everyone else has to die. Perhaps this is a reflection of The Pequod symbolising America as a whole. I've read there was an American Indian tribe with a similar name that was virtually wiped out, so the wiping out of the crew and their various races could reflect this, with a sole white man surviving into the new era.


message 14: by Steve (last edited Jun 30, 2016 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Great thought-provoking comments, Pink! You've given me a couple of new angles to consider, so I won't respond right away. Also I'm finishing up my re-read this holiday weekend (got more out of it this time that the two previous reads, that's for sure). In the meantime, I hope a few more MD readers jump in on this discussion.


message 15: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments I'll comment on the other thread to drum up some more interest for those that have read it :)


message 16: by Bat-Cat (last edited Jul 03, 2016 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bat-Cat | 1300 comments Hey Guys, it is nice for me to finally have a spare few moments (TGI July 4th Weekend!) to comment on this thread.

Steve and Pink, I really like some of your thoughts and questions surrounding the purpose of both the book and Ahab/Ishmael. I wrote a review a little ways back https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... that goes a fair amount into explaining what I believe the ultimate meaning of Moby Dick is and who Ahab and Ishmael are. In pursuing my contemplations of the book, I have had a couple more insights that help to support my thoughts expressed in my review. The first one, the name Ishmael seems to have a couple different meanings; Word of God, God listens, the one of whom God listens and similar variations on the same theme. Having sat with this for awhile I finally came to the realization that, assuming Ahab and Ishmael are the same person as I do, the book Moby Dick is a retelling of the life/voyage of Ahab from the perspective of his enlightened self Ishmael. Ishmael can no longer identify with Ahab who survived the battle, has heard the Word of God and is now an enlightened being viewing the world and its events from an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent point of view. Since he is no longer Ahab, he has left that name behind and assumed the name Ishmael (one who hears/listens to the Word of God). This entire book, in my view, is the story of Ahab's monomaniacal search for and attainment of enlightenment. I think that Ishmael's purpose in telling this tale is to precisely portray what the journey to self realization looks like and to show that it is available to anyone and everyone.

I realize that these views may seem a bit out there but, for me, when viewed in this light the story makes perfect sense with no dangling, unsolved, unexplained mysteries - other than, of course, what it actually feels like to be an enlightened being. Melville was brilliant with the way he wrote this book. It is circular in its form and starts to feel metafictional to me at times. I really want to reread it again soon so that I can look at the book from the perspective of these ideas - I think it will be even more amazing and magical.

So, any thoughts?


message 17: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Oh very interesting Bat-cat! I hadn't considered they could be viewed as the same person, but I can see how that could be argued and gives a lot to think about. I don't really agree personally, as I definitely saw them as 2 different people, with their own paths during the book. I liked the initial chapters before Ishmael met Ahab, when he was considering what sort of a character he might be, then his first thoughts when they met. I don't think they're relationship was really explored further in the book, at least not so much their interactions with one another. Rather we got Ishmeal's account, then Ahab's and finally we heard from Ishmael again. Though I guess this could support your theory of them being the same person!


Bat-Cat | 1300 comments Pink wrote: "Oh very interesting Bat-cat! I hadn't considered they could be viewed as the same person, but I can see how that could be argued and gives a lot to think about. I don't really agree personally, as ..."

Really good points Pink! I need to give some thought to those scenes of the book you mentioned and see where that takes me. It seems the more I delve into it the more it feels almost psychedelic and trippy - the weaving in and out of Ahab's and Ishmael's points of view. They seem to gradually merge toward the end of the book - Ahab starts to become more like Ishmael and vice versa.


message 19: by Steve (last edited Jul 06, 2016 08:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Steve Finegan | 129 comments Great stuff, Pink and Bat-Cat!

Bat-Cat, I agree with you to a point about Ishmael and Ahab being one character. I think it could be argued that Melville, laboring at the “occult” (his word) forge of his creative process, twists and hammers the glowing rods of these two conflicting natures, Ishmael and Ahab, into what might be considered one being, with balanced but opposing poles: the down-going Ahab, a toweringly inflated ego hell bent on his own destruction and the destruction of his ship and crew, if necessary, to satisfy his need for vengeance on demonic nature; and the up-rising Ishmael, an alienated ego outward and inward bound on a spiritual quest in search of "the ungraspable phantom of life."

These two trajectories, upward and downward, cross and diverge at the point where Ishmael makes Ahab’s mission his own following Ahab’s quarterdeck ceremony that welds his crew to his cause. But while Ahab remains stuck in his self-erected prison, the “wall” of which is Moby Dick, Ishmael, in seeking to clarify what it is about “the whiteness of the whale” that is so appalling and worthy of destruction, finds in the tangled labyrinth of his meditations, ruminations, and lived experiences aboard the Pequod (which make all the apparent digressions and myriad details necessary) the Ariadne thread that leads him through and out with his soul and spirit transformed by atonement with the dual aspect of nature — life and death, white and black, good and evil, fate and destiny, etc.

Ishmael’s revelation, which begins with his reveries on the masthead whale watch, hits as a full broadside epiphany when he sees the breaching Moby Dick on the second day of the Chase. But we only get a sense of this, because in these late chapters Ishmael has nearly vanished from his own narrative. But we do learn (in Chapter 102: “A Bower in the Arsacides”) that sometime after the destruction of the Pequod and all its crew but one, Ishmael, tattooed with the mysteries of the whale, has earned the (Jonah) freedom to move in and out of the whale’s belly at will in a living bower, ever dying yet ever renewed by the “weaver-god” — eternal. Death is, but the inner nature and reality is indestructible. The wall that Ahab fears and hates is no wall at all but a doorway leading beyond the dual aspects of this world to the sacred and creative heart of the matter.

Unlike Ishmael, for whom this has been a voyage of spiritual growth and individuation (classic comedy), Ahab willfully ignores all of the signs and portents that would have him turn away from his misbegotten adventure at the last, open the door to his imaginary prison, and walk as free as Ishmael (he has it in him to do it). But in spite of his second thoughts, he gives himself up to his obsession and to fate and faithfully follows his shadow Fedallah down to death, along with his crew (classic tragedy).

It’s hard not to entertain the notion that the events of this story were stage-managed by the gods for the sole benefit of one man. If so, he does not disappoint.

Thoughts?


message 20: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 627 comments Bat-Cat wrote: "Hey Guys, it is nice for me to finally have a spare few moments (TGI July 4th Weekend!) to comment on this thread.

Steve and Pink, I really like some of your thoughts and questions surrounding th..."


Bat-Cat, I love your interpretation. It might have some holes in it, like Pink pointed out, but there's definitely something up with the way Ishmael fades out when Ahab fades in.

My wife just asked me if I liked the book. I replied, "Every page was interesting, many were amazing, but I don't know what they mean all piled together like that. On one hand, I understood every part of it, and on the other hand I totally missed the point. I love the mystery of that."

My wife's review, "I'm glad everyone died but Ishmael. It made more sense that he was in the beginning of the book if he's the one that made it. But what happened to Queequeg? He just kind of vanished from the story."


message 21: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Phil wrote: "On one hand, I understood every part of it, and on the other hand I totally missed the point. I love the mystery of that.".."

That sounds like a pretty accurate description to me!


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Okay, I just joined this group (my first group on Goodreads!), so it's going to take me a while to get the hang of everything, and especially to read all of the undoubtedly interesting comments you guys have on Melville's masterpiece (and I do firmly believe it's a masterpiece, although it's unwieldy as hell, meandering, and intellectually straining).

I just want to say that I love that groups like this exist on Goodreads! Prior to this, my only real online portal to conversations about literature, and especially the classics (which I've embarked on reading or rereading after college--even though I was an English major, I didn't take the reading very seriously in college or HS), was a literary forum that was very lightly trafficked (in comparison to other message boards I've gone to, from the golden days of Rotten Tomatoes to Letsrun to zillions of others). So I love that there are so many of you guys on here, and everyone jumps in with their own opinions.

Since I'm such a slow reader (this is my greatest curse, since I want to read so much!), I doubt I'll ever be able to keep up with group readings or challenges or the like, although I've not really fully researched them on here yet, but I definitely want to come and comment on stuff I've already read, like Moby-Dick, Homer, and a few others.

Just a few opening comments about M-D (I'm a nerd and would write "M-D" in my book or notebook when talking about the novel, which does have the hyphen in it, and "MD" when talking about the whale himself, who doesn't have the hyphen attached to his name...why that is, no clue!): I started reading this while living in Nantucket (worked for a season there at two hotels right by the harbor), so that was fun, as the book has such a Nantucket spirit to it (I've read that Melville had yet to even visit Nantucket when he wrote the book, but he obviously did plenty of research into its history). I also had already read In the Heart of the Sea twice over the years, about the event which inspired the sinking of the Pequod at the end of the book, plus I had gone to the Whaling Museum in Nantucket, so I had a pretty good background about the subject prior to reading this. Especially going to that museum a month or so before reading this, and seeing demonstrations there about the actual whale hunts, this really helped me in terms of understanding the more mundane/action aspects of the book. Although there are some clunkers in there, I mostly loved what I termed the non-narrative ("NN" in my abbreviation) chapters of the book, especially when Melville/Ishmael would talk about the whale itself, or the nitty-gritty details of cutting it up. This book is many things--social commentary about America of the time, incredibly metaphysical and symbolic, and also a sea adventure--but my favorite aspect of it, besides the absolutely breathtaking prose of Melville and the astonishing character of Ahab, was how utterly PHYSICAL--corporeal--it is. There are so many grimy, beautiful, jaw-dropping, and often gross descriptions throughout the entire book. Maybe this is the horror movie fan in me, but I LOVED that stuff!

As I hinted to above, I wrote tons of stuff in my "commonplace book" while reading M-D. I actually got this idea from Beowulf on the Beach, which was really my impetus into tackling the whole read-the-classics project that I started on after college. At the time, I was trying to get over a drug addiction, and despite the fact that I had been an English literature major in college, I had BSed my way through all of the readings there and in high school. But there was a part of me that always loved to read and write since I was a kid, so as a way of trying to dig out some meaning in my life, that book inspired me to start reading through the Canon. Anyways (sorry about the digression, and I know this is a long and pointless post, but it's basically my first!), what I did for M-D in the notebook was write notes on each chapter after each reading session. Since there were 135 chapters--I think the most I've encountered in any novel I can remember--I thought this strategy would help me out in terms of understanding the gargantuan structure of the book. This proved to be a useful way to tackle the book, though, and if anyone else likes taking notes, I would definitely recommend a similar method. I totally filled up my notebook, as well as writing all over my Norton Critical Edition copy. Messy, but I felt it helped me get more out of this often-difficult book.

It definitely took me a couple months to read this guy, but as I mentioned, I'm a slow reader. I think I started in October and finished in early January. Not too bad, since there were a few times where I took a week or two breaks at a time. This was definitely due to personal issues, instead of being intentional. The book almost entirely held my interest, although a few of the NN chapters could be boring. But mostly, as a kind of detail-oriented, nonfiction, OCD-type person, I loved the encyclopedic strategy Melville used with M-D. I'm told that the old term for this is writing an "anatomy" of a subject. I believe the author of Beowulf on the Beach put it best: "Melville, by compiling everything there is to know about whales...gave us a near infinity of analogies with which to understand the bulk of human experience. We arrive at the general by a complete understanding of the particular. Each entity in this world reflects the entirety of the universe of which it is part. And thus Melville helps us see that to know one thing truly is to know all things." God, I wish I wrote like that, much less some of Melville's grander passages in the book (I'm thinking of Ahab's speech to Starbuck about masks, among many other passages of the book).

One last random thing. I read Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick, patron scholar of Nantucket and writer of In the Heart of the Sea. I read it after M-D, because I figured it might kind of spoil the novel, and I would advise anyone else thinking about reading this short (120 pages or so) book to also read it after Moby-Dick itself. The most important thing I got out of Philbrick's book was M-D's link to the historical moment of mid-nineteenth century America, which I hadn't really fully grasped when reading the novel. It does almost completely ruin the novel, though, not just in terms of narrative, but also in terms of it being about 50% actual quotes from Moby-Dick, so in that sense if I read it before the novel, it would really just feel like re-reading large parts of the novel.


message 23: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Edward thank you for your thoughts. Not a pointless post at all. I have read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, now I need to look up Why Read Moby-Dick?.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Maggie wrote: "Finished reading this yesterday. In the light of current events, the image of the sea swallowing the Pequod probably resembles the way it swallowed MH370... it gives me an immense sense of fatality..."

Maggie mentions the vast amount of cultural, literary, scientific, and historical allusions in M-D. This made me think of an observation I had while reading this vast, "messy" novel, as you term it, Maggie. Melville felt, to me, like a 19th century version of Thomas Pynchon, who absolutely loads his books with all sorts of crazy technical scientific, mathematical, historical, and philosophical references. I've only fully read The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon, but I've read parts of V and his other books. I actually loved Lot 49, although I probably only understand a quarter or less of the references. I mentioned in my previous post that I was a drug addict in my past, and there were some incredibly specific drug references (heroin, in this case) in Lot 49 that I can imagine only people with really specific knowledge of the subject would grasp. I don't think Pynchon was necessarily a drug addict, but just that he did deep dives into various subjects, as this must have been his personality (and Melville's as well), and then this stuff swirled around his brain and inevitably went into his works.

Like you mention, there are all kinds of references in Moby-Dick outside of just whaling stuff. Ishmael is constantly mentioning his love of various philosophers, and comparing other characters to the ethoses (alright, not a word, but no clue what the plural of "ethos" is) of said philosophers. There is also pretty up-to-date historical and scientific references throughout the book. Honestly, reading the Norton Critical Edition helped me a ton in understanding a lot of these. I wouldn't glance at every note, as I feel that somewhat takes away from the experience, but when I needed them, they were there. I highly recommend it. I also noted (after the fact, but this helped quell my OCD that I had in fact read a "good" version of the novel) that Harold Bloom recommends this version as well in one of his more recent books about American writers. To anyone struggling with all of the crazy allusions and references throughout the book, I definitely recommend the Norton!

Speaking of literary history, I've read that Melville was most in-debt to Shakespeare, specifically his tragedies, in Moby-Dick. Honestly, I can't really comment on this, because I'm a complete n00b and haven't really close-read Shakespeare's work. That's one of my goals for this year! Apparently Melville bought a copy of Shakespeare the year before writing Moby-Dick, and basically immersed himself in it. That makes me feel better that Melville really didn't get into the Bard until his mid-to-late-20s, as that's what I'm going to be doing (probably will finish in my 30s, though).

For me, the work which I most associated with the novel, specifically Ahab, was Paradise Lost. I've read portions of it in college, and reading this in full is another one of my goals for 2017. Ahab in his rebelliousness, his pride, his anger at God and the "condition" of the universe, and also in his terrible eloquence, is a son of Satan from Milton's great epic. I'm sure Ahab is like plenty of Shakespearean characters, too, but there were so many references to hell-fire, to abysses, to wounded majesty, and especially to a cosmic struggle against heaven, that it immediately reminded me of Paradise Lost. Anyone else feel this way?

Plenty of biblical references in there as well, of course. I have read the King James Old Testament, but not the New Testament yet (that might be my next major read). Since the book is so often apocalyptic, often almost-nihilistic, it has more in common with the wilder Old Testament than the more-hopeful New Testament. Most of the references definitely seemed to be from the Hebrew part of the Bible, instead of the Christian one.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Pink wrote: "So, for those of us buddy reading Moby Dick this time around, what did you think?

I'm surprised by how different the story was, to what I was expecting. I think in my mind I imagined more of Jona..."


Pink, I'm glad that you, like me, liked all of the "miscellaneous" sections of the book, from the anatomy of the whale to the history of the profession to the literary and religious ancestors of whale-men.

I was also happy with the ending. For it to end any other way would feel...just wrong. The tragedy was such an essential element. Plus, the White Whale HAD to be overpowering, to be unassailable. He was the Leviathan of the Book of Job, and essentially Yahweh himself from the Old Testament. Unknowable. And omnipotent. Because Ahab had such a metaphysical quest, it really wouldn't make sense for him to actually kill the whale. For him to kill the whale would be, in a sense, to answer the unanswerable questions of the universe, although perhaps in an even more modern book, Ahab would kill the whale and then realize his life STILL had no real meaning or purpose, and that, in fact, now it had even less meaning. Kind of like the movie The Graduate, with its famous ending shot. But no, Moby-Dick was akin to Shakespearean and especially ancient Greek tragedy.

Speaking of Greeks, Pink, I notice that you've read Homer from the other posts on this board. Maybe it's just me, but towards the end Ahab really started to remind me of Achilles. Especially in the exquisite chapter "The Symphony," right before the three-day chase, Ahab really mourns his own mortality, and throughout the book mourns the sense that Fate controls our destinies more than our own wills do. I see that, in a larger context, his goal of the entire novel was for his own will to defeat God/Fate/whatever you want to call it--i.e., the outside universe and anything else outside of the self. Whenever Ahab was talking about fate or his mortality, it reminded me of Achilles pouting (or soliloquizing, haha, whichever you want to call it) by the sea, wishing that he could somehow defeat the gods and defeat his own fate that he would die. Both of these characters, Ahab and Achilles, seemed unhappy with their own position in the universe. In fact, you could say this fact defined both of these characters more than anything else, at least to me. Their main issues were metaphysical. They both used violent actions to fight back against this, but both were doomed to fail in their fights, since they were ultimately unwinnable.

Kind of random, but I also have a book called The Epic by Harold Bloom. He talks about all of the usual suspects--Homer, the Aeneid, Dante, Paradise Lost, etc.--but he also has a few novels grouped in there. Moby-Dick was one of them. I can definitely see aspects it shares in common with the literary epics of the past. Ever since I was a young boy, I was always obsessed with the word "epic." I loved epic movies, that sort of thing. Still do. Didn't know for a long time that the word came from a literary genre of the past. The first epics I ever properly read all the way through were the Iliad and the Odyssey, so it was kind of interesting to read Moby-Dick as an American version of an epic, and I definitely saw at least some sort of relationship between Achilles and Ahab (although Ahab really doesn't have any relationship to Odysseus; maybe the survivor Ishmael has more in common with him).


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Kathy wrote: "Edward thank you for your thoughts. Not a pointless post at all. I have read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, now I nee..."

It's not nearly as good as In the Heart of the Sea, of course, but it's a quick read, and could probably be read in one sitting by a fast reader (not me, as you learned, haha!). It's got some good insights.

I need to read more of Philbrick's books. My dad has basically read them all and loves them all. He was upset that I never saw Philbrick speak when I lived in Nantucket. I probably should have. He really is kind of the patron saint of that island, especially given his book about the history of the island.


message 27: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Edward, yes I loved the digressions, I can't imagine reading an abridged version with these sections missing as some people prefer to do.

I agree Ahab was on his own epic voyage reminiscent of the Greeks. I've only read The Odyssey so far, not The Iliad, so I'll have to see if I notice the parallels with Achilles when I read it this year.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments My mistake, Pink! One thing Moby does have in common with the Odyssey is, of course, the main setting being on the water. Odysseus is trying to get home, though, whereas Ahab basically avoids home (he says something like he's spent fewer than 3 years out of the last 40 at home). That being said, Odysseus is away from home for 20 years, so they both have that in common. It would suck to be their family either way! Anyone read Ahab's Wife? I'd read it definitely how after having read M-D.

And ugh, I'm definitely a completist, so I already have a hard time dealing with abridgements, but, as you said, half the fun of Moby is in the random, often very funny chapters.


message 29: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments I haven't read or heard of Ahab's wife.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments It's a novel that came out not too long ago. I think it did fairly successfully. My mom said it was good. Maybe more oriented towards women than men, but I definitely want to read, because of the obvious Moby-Dick connection and because I'm assuming it takes place largely on Nantucket. Maybe it's romantic? Don't know much about the plot.


message 31: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments I'll have to look it up, I quite like retellings or books that are inspired by others, as long as they are done well.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments If you ever do read it, let me know! I'm curious.


message 33: by Pink (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pink | 6556 comments You too!


Robin P | 90 comments Wow! I am really impressed with all the great interpretations and comments here. I avoided reading Moby Dick for many decades but then an in-person book group I was in chose it. I was blown away by it! I agree with those who mentioned Shakespeare. Just like Shakespeare, Melville veers from comedy to history to tragedy, sometimes in one chapter. I had no idea there was humor in the book (Ishmael's introduction to Queequeg, for instance). And there are some sections that are just soliloquies. There is one chapter that, while written in prose, has sentences that rhyme. It's not obvious, just a kind of "Easter Egg" for us to find. I admit I skimmed over some of the lists of whale parts, etc.

The book mentioned above is Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer. It contains a version of the Essex story, as well as the Ahab story, and like Moby Dick, it crams in multiple styles and episodes, but with a very feminist viewpoint.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Ahab's Wife sounds like a fun read.

Hmm...I never noticed that rhyming chapter. Do you remember which one it is?


message 36: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
2017 2nd Quarter Long Read -- feel free to use this thread for spoilers and thoughts on the entire book.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments As I just finished the book a few months back, I can't wait to hear some other people commenting on it! I'll try to keep up.


message 38: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Excellent. Nice to have it fresh in your mind.


message 39: by Melanti (last edited Apr 11, 2017 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melanti | 2386 comments Edward wrote: "Apparently Melville bought a copy of Shakespeare the year before writing Moby-Dick, and basically immersed himself in it...."

This makes so much sense! Several chapters towards the end sound exactly what you'd expect to hear in a soliloquy from a Shakespearean tragedy.

Even that back and forth with Starbuck trying to talk sense into Ahab sounds like something out of Shakespeare.


Melanti | 2386 comments So, going more with the Shakespeare thing (which seems appropriate since there's so much play structure in the novel), you can think of Ahab as one of Shakespeare's mad characters. Hamlet seems appropriate. (There's even a Ophelia=Pip case you could make.)

Which, I suppose, would make Ishmael akin to Horatio? The living witness to the final tragic showdown?


Just got through reading all the comments again and I love that this has so many different interpretations.


message 41: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Nice connections -- it really does help to have others to read along with on this one for me. I'm not terribly interested in the story, but then reading your connections and thoughts help me to see some interesting parts to it.


Edward Chamberlin (sophisticatedliterati) | 22 comments Moby is definitely an example of the writing being better than the story itself. I mean, it's a fairly simple chase narrative driven out to hundreds upon hundreds of pages, but it's like a Homeric epic in that it uses a simple narrative structure to flesh out such deep themes as obsession and man's concept of the Eternal.


message 43: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Edward wrote: "Moby is definitely an example of the writing being better than the story itself. ..."

Exactly! Thank you Edward -- the words themselves sound wonderful, but the story .. meh.


Melanti | 2386 comments Kathy wrote: "Nice connections -- it really does help to have others to read along with on this one for me. I'm not terribly interested in the story, but then reading your connections and thoughts help me to see..."

The short chapters helped a lot for me since I knew most every chapter wraps up with a joke or some sort of non-whaling philosophical point, etc. So even when there was a less interesting bit, I knew that he'd soon come to the point and move onto something different.

Edward wrote: "Moby is definitely an example of the writing being better than the story itself. I mean, it's a fairly simple chase narrative driven out to hundreds upon hundreds of pages, but it's like a Homeric ..."

Yep. For most of the book, the plot's more or less an afterthought.


message 45: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Set this one down while I was traveling and now I'm not finding the motivation to pick it up again. I can do this.


Melanti | 2386 comments How far are you now, Katy?

The last quarter or so of it just flew by for me. He packs a lot of action into the last 100 pages or so.

You can make it! Just a chapter a day!


message 47: by Luffy (new) - rated it 1 star

Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) | 75 comments Katy wrote: "Set this one down while I was traveling and now I'm not finding the motivation to pick it up again. I can do this."

I wouldn't pick it up either. I need to muster some courage, but for now I'm reading one of my favorite authors, David Baldacci.


message 48: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Bob | 4853 comments Mod
Katy, I sympathize, I found out early that this was not a book I was going to enjoy. At that point I treated it like a bucket list read, a must finish just to be able to say I’ve read it. In the books defense, it does contain some of the best passages ever written, but not enough to get me over the seemingly endless pages of boring dialog. If half to two-thirds of this book had been edited out and dropped in the waste basket it would be one of the best action stories ever.

I don’t know where you stopped reading, but Melanti is right, the last quarter of the book is the best, lots of action.


message 49: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9339 comments Mod
Bob wrote: "Katy, I sympathize, I found out early that this was not a book I was going to enjoy. At that point I treated it like a bucket list read, a must finish just to be able to say I’ve read it. In the bo..."

That is where it is for me. I am almost at 40%


Melanti | 2386 comments I"m sorry you're having trouble. It's a really long book for something you're not enjoying.

You could look at that 40% as being about half done with the plot-light portion?


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