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Moby-Dick or, the Whale
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Herman Melville Collection > Moby Dick: Author, Background, & Entire Book -Spoilers

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message 1: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Feb 24, 2014 08:00PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Herman Melville



Herman Melville was an American author born on August 1, 1819 in New York, New York. The author penned many books and later in life wrote poetry. Best known for his novel Moby Dick, Melville was only heralded as one of America’s greatest writers after his death on September 28, 1891. The Library of Congress honored him as its first writer to collect and publish.

Early Life

Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819, to Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melvill (Maria added the "e" to the family name following her husband's death in 1832). In the mid-1820s, young Herman fell ill to scarlet fever, and though he regained his health not long after, his vision was left permanently impaired by the illness. Melville's family had enjoyed a prosperous life for many years due to Allan Melvill's success as a high-end importer and merchant. However, when Allan made a failed attempt to branch into the fur trade in 1830, the family's fortune took a big hit. When Allan died suddenly soon after, in 1832, finances dwindled significantly.

Allan's oldest son, Gansevoort, took control of the family's fur and cap business in New York following his father's death. Melville later joined his brother as a business partner, followed by some of his other siblings (there were eight children in all). Around the same time, in the mid-1830s, Melville enrolled at the Albany Classical School, where he studied classic literature and began taking part in student debates. He had also begun writing by this time—including poems, essays and short stories. He left Albany for a teaching job in Massachusetts, but soon found the work to be unfulfilling and left the position after only three months, returning to New York.

Sea Voyages and Early Novels

In 1837, Gansevoort's fur and cap business folded, putting Melville's family back into a dire financial situation. The family relocated to Lansingburgh soon after, and many of Melville's siblings took odd jobs; Melville enrolled at Lansingburgh Academy, where he studied surveying in hopes of gaining employment with the newly initiated Erie Canal project.

He never received that position, however, and in 1839, Gansevoort arranged for Melville to work as a crew member of a merchant ship called the St. Lawrence, which was scheduled to travel from New York City to Liverpool. Melville, always interested in sea travel, gladly accepted the position and his subsequent stint on the St. Lawrence—his first sea voyage—would prove valuable to his later literary work: Redburn: His First Voyage, written several years after the St. Lawrence voyage, is said to be largely based on Melville's life as a crew member of the vessel. Redburn, an embellished, romanticized version of Melville's real-life experiences—much like his other novels—was published in 1849.

In 1841, Melville embarked on his second sea voyage: He was hired to work aboard the Acushnet, a whaling ship. His subsequent journey would last nearly three years and spur the creation of his first novel, Typee.

According to the book, in 1842, the Acushnet arrived at the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia, where Melville and a crewmate deserted the ship and, soon after, were captured by local cannibals. The two spent nearly four months as captives before escaping and boarding another whaling ship, the Lucy Ann, working as part of its crew, according to Melville's literary account.

Moby Dick

It was much later in life that Melville wrote his most popular work, Moby-Dick (initially titled The Whale), which was first published in 1851. Moby-Dick, categorized as American Romanticism, is based on both Melville's years of experience aboard whaleships and the real-life sinking of the Essex whaleship: Traveling from Nantucket, Massachusetts, to South America—a two-and-a-half-year journey at the time—the Essex reportedly met its doom in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in November 1820, when a sperm whale turned on the ship, attacking it and causing it to sink. The ship's crew, adrift in their small whaleboats, faced storms, thirst, illness and starvation, and were even reduced to cannibalism for survival. However, succeeding in one of the great open-boat journeys of all time, the few survivors were picked up off South America. Their story, spread widely in America in the 19th century, eventually provided inspiration for Melville's Moby-Dick.

Moby-Dick has received commercial and critical acclaim for nearly a century. However, Melville didn't live to witness that success. In fact, the book didn't bring him any wealth or respect during his lifetime. Early critics were unimpressed by the novel; an 1851 article in the Illustrated London News called it "Herman Melville's last and best and most wildly imaginative story," and a testament to his "reckless imaginative power." The article went on to note Melville's "great aptitude for quaint and original philosophical speculation, degenerating, however, too often into rhapsody and purposeless extravagance."

Readers weren't enamored either, according to book sales: Only about 500 copies of Moby-Dick were reportedly sold in the United Kingdom following its release—nearly 25 percent less than Melville's Typee.

Death & Legacy

On September 28, 1891, Melville died of a heart attack in New York City. Several years after his death, many of his books were reprinted, including Moby-Dick, and his name began slowly gaining traction in the literary world. By the early 1920s, Melville had become a well-known figure among readers and critics alike. Today, Herman Melville is regarded as one of America's greatest writers, and Moby-Dick is considered not only a classic American novel, but a literary masterpiece.

(Source: http://www.biography.com/people/herma...)


message 2: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Project Gutenberg's Moby Dick
Read online for free:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2...


message 3: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Feb 24, 2014 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 1 star


message 4: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick is an excellent history of the voyage of the Essex. It details the sinking of the ship by an enraged Sperm Whale and the crews survival voyage in an open boat. Melville was well aware of this story and it surely provided some inspiration.


message 5: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Bob wrote: "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick is an excellent history of the voyage of the Essex. It details the sinking of the ship..."

I have that on my TBR list for March to go along with Moby Dick. Great addition to the thread!


message 6: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
I am about halfway through In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. It is an interesting book and easy to read. Actually I think a really nice background read for the upcoming Moby-Dick; or, The Whale


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

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Sperm Whale



The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), or cachalot, is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator. It is the only living member of genus Physeter, and one of three extant species in the sperm whale family, along with the pygmy sperm whale and dwarf sperm whale of the genus Kogia.

Mature males average at 16 metres (52 ft) in length but some may reach 20.5 metres (67 ft), with the head representing up to one-third of the animal's length. The sperm whale feeds primarily on squid. Plunging to 3 kilometres (9,800 ft) for prey, it is the deepest diving mammal. Its clicking vocalization, a form of echolocation and communication, may be as loud as 230 decibels (re 1 µPa at 1 m) underwater,[3] making it the loudest sound produced by any animal. It has the largest brain of any animal on Earth, more than five times heavier than a human's. Sperm whales can live for more than 60 years.

The sperm whale can be found anywhere in the open ocean. Females and young males live together in groups while mature males live solitary lives outside of the mating season. The females cooperate to protect and nurse their young. Females give birth every four to twenty years, and care for the calves for more than a decade. A mature sperm whale has few natural predators. Calves and weakened adults are taken by pods of orcas.

From the early eighteenth century through the late 20th the species was a prime target of whalers. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps, and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from its digestive system, is still used as a fixative in perfumes. Occasionally the sperm whale's great size allowed it to defend itself effectively against whalers. The species is now protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sperm_whale)


message 8: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Feb 27, 2014 10:07PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Sperm Whaling



The head of the sperm whale is filled with a waxy liquid called spermaceti. This liquid can be refined into spermaceti wax and sperm oil. These were much sought after by 18th, 19th and 20th century whalers. These substances found a variety of commercial applications, such as candles, soap, cosmetics, machine oil, other specialized lubricants, lamp oil, pencils, crayons, leather waterproofing, rust-proofing materials and many pharmaceutical compounds. Ambergris, a solid, waxy, flammable substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, was also sought as a fixative in perfumery.

Historically, whaling took a heavy toll on sperm whale populations. Prior to the early 18th century, very little hunting of sperm whales took place, mostly by indigenous people of Indonesia. Legend has it that sometime in the early 18th century, supposed to be not far from 1712, Captain Christopher Hussey, while cruising for Right Whales near shore, was blown offshore by a northerly wind, where he encountered a school of sperm whales and killed one. It is not clear whether this story is apocryphal, since no Christopher Hussey would have been the proper age in 1712. However, another member of the Hussey family, possibly Bachelor (Bachelder) or Sylvanus Hussey, may have been the actual person referred to in the story. Although the story may not be true, sperm whales were indeed soon exploited by American whalemen, as Judge Paul Dudley, in his Essay upon the Natural History of Whales (1725), states that one Atkins, ten or twelve years in the trade, was among the first to catch sperm whales sometime around 1720.

Only a few sperm whales were recorded to have been caught during the first few decades (1709–1730s) of offshore whaling, as sloops concentrated on Nantucket Shoals where they would have taken Right Whales or were sent to the Davis Strait region to catch Bowhead Whales. By the early 1740s, with the advent of spermaceti candles (before 1743), American vessels appear to have begun to take sperm whales in earnest. The diary of Benjamin Bangs (1721–1769) shows that, along with the bumpkin sloop he was in, he found three other sloops with sperm whales being flensed alongside off the coast of North Carolina in late May 1743. On returning to Nantucket in the summer 1744 on a subsequent sperm whaling voyage he noted that "45 spermacetes are brought in here this day," another indication that American sperm whaling was in full swing.

American sperm whaling soon spread from the east coast of the American colonies to the Gulf Stream, the Grand Banks, West Africa (1763), the Azores (1765) and the South Atlantic (1770s). From 1770 to 1775 Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island ports produced 45,000 barrels of sperm oil annually, compared to 8,500 of whale oil.[8] In the same decade the British began sperm whaling, employing American ships and personnel. By the following decade the French had entered the trade, also employing American expertise.[ Sperm whaling increased until the mid-19th century, as spermaceti oil was important in public lighting (for example, in lighthouses, where it was used in the United States until 1862, when it was replaced by lard oil, which was quickly replaced by petroleum) and for lubricating the machines (such as those used in cotton mills) of the Industrial Revolution. Sperm whaling declined in the second half of the 19th century, as petroleum and other products began to replace spermaceti.

Sperm whaling in the 18th century began with small sloops carrying only a pair of whaleboats (sometimes only one). As the scope and size of the fleet increased so did the rig of the vessels change, as brigs, schooners, and finally ships and barks were introduced. In the 19th century stubby, square-rigged ships (and later barks) dominated the fleet, being sent to the Pacific (the first being the British whaleship Emilia, in 1788), the Indian Ocean (1780s), and as far away as the Japan grounds (1820) and the coast of Arabia (1820s), as well as Australia (1790s) and New Zealand (1790s).

Sperm whaling involved the above-named ships searching for sperm whales on certain "grounds," or areas where sperm whales were likely to be found, such as the "Western" Ground in the mid-North Atlantic or the "Offshore" Ground in the latitudes of 5–10 degrees south and 105–125 degrees west longitude. The whales were spotted from one of the several look-outs stationed at the mast-heads. When a whale was found, whaleboats would be lowered and a harpoon attached to a long line would be thrown into it. The whale would then drag the boats until it was too tired to resist, at which point the crew would lance it to death.

Hunting for sperm whales during this period was a notoriously dangerous affair for the crews of the whaleboats. Although a properly harpooned sperm whale generally exhibited a fairly consistent pattern of attempting to flee underwater to the point of exhaustion (at which point it would surface and offer no further resistance), it was not uncommon for bull whales to become enraged and turn to attack pursuing whaleboats on the surface, particularly if it had already been wounded by repeated harpooning attempts. A commonly reported tactic was for the whale to invert itself and violently thrash the surface of the water with its fluke, flipping and crushing nearby boats.

Particularly massive sperm whale specimens have also proven willing (on rare occasions) to attack comparably sized whaleships. In the most famous example, on November 20, 1820 a huge bull sperm whale (purportedly 85-ft in length) rammed the 87-ft Nantucket whaleship Essex twice, staving in the hull under the waterline and forcing the crew to abandon ship. After months adrift in lifeboats, the crew was eventually forced to resort to cannibalism, with only 8 out of the 20 sailors surviving until rescue; a 21st sailer had jumped ship in South America before the attack. The bull was unwounded and unprovoked at the time of the attack, but the crew of the Essex was in the process of hunting several smaller females from a nearby pod. Recent analysis suggests that the commotion and the bull's possible extreme size may have caused it to falsely identify the similarly-sized Essex as an intruding competitive male. Bull sperm whales (especially older, solitary bulls) are known to battle amongst themselves for dominance by ramming each other, with the heavy, spermaceti-filled head spaces providing the biological equivalent of a weighted boxing glove. Another proposed factor was the vibrations from repeated sledgehammer blows as the ship's hull was being repaired prior to the attack, which scientists suggest might have carried into the water and unintentionally mimicked the echolocation "clicks" that sperm whales generate to identify and communicate with each other.

The other recorded case of a sperm whale attacking a large ship was that of the New Bedford whaleship Ann Alexander which was rammed and sunk by a wounded and enraged bull off the Galapagos Islands whaling grounds in 1851, just miles from the spot where the Essex had been sunk 31 years prior. The large and unusually aggressive bull had already attacked and chewed to pieces two pursuing whaleboats before eventually turning on the Ann Alexander itself and ramming it just above the keel at an estimated speed of 15 knots. The crew were forced to abandon ship, but unlike the Essex all were recovered safely within days. The bull (whose unusual aggressiveness was eventually blamed on old age and pain from disease) was later discovered floating on the surface, mortally injured and "full of wooden splinters" from the attack. American writer Herman Melville was inspired by the account of the Essex, and used some facts from the story, as well as his own eighteen-month experience as a sailor aboard a commercial whaler, to write his epic 1851 novel on the oil whaling industry, Moby Dick.

Whaling activity declined from the 1880s until 1946, but picked up again after World War II. Modern whaling was more efficient than open-boat whaling, using steam powered ships and exploding harpoons. Initially, modern whaling activity focused on large baleen whales, but as these populations were decimated, sperm whaling increased. Cosmetics, soap and machine oil formed the major uses of sperm whale products during this time. After sperm whale populations declined significantly, the species was given full protection by the International Whaling Commission in 1985. Hunting of sperm whales by Japan in the northern Pacific Ocean continued until 1988.

It is estimated that the historic worldwide sperm whale population numbered 1,100,000 before commercial sperm whaling began in the early 18th century. By 1880 it had declined an estimated 29 per cent. From that date until 1946 the population appears to have recovered somewhat as whaling pressure lessened, but after the Second World War, with the industry's focus again on sperm whales, the population declined even further to only 33 per cent. It has been estimated that in the 19th century between 184,000 and 236,000 sperm whales were killed by the various whaling nations, while in the modern era, at least 770,000 were taken, the majority between 1946 and 1980.

Remaining sperm whale populations are large enough so that the species' conservation status is vulnerable, rather than endangered. However, the recovery from the whaling years is a slow process, particularly in the South Pacific, where the toll on males of a breeding age was severe.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sperm_wh...)


message 9: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
This research discounts the idea that Moby-Dick; or, The Whale was not well received when first published. An interesting article:

http://reaper64.scc-net.rutgers.edu/j...


message 10: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Where are you now in the book? Best part so far for you?


message 11: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
This is a quiet thread. How are we all doing with reading Moby-Dick; or, The Whale?

It has been a mixed bag for me this time around. I am now further in the book than I have ever made it in reading before -- so I am in new territory in a way. At times I have found it funny, interesting, and boring. A little bit of everything. Perhaps having read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex last year has helped me in relating a bit better to the story this time around.


message 12: by Carlo (last edited Apr 11, 2017 02:40PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Carlo | 206 comments I'm about 20% through and enjoying it more than I expected. My favourite chapter was the Advocate, where he argues why whaling is such a worthwhile profession and why whalers should be respected. I also liked the little bits concerning the history of whaling in various countries.

Queequeg is an fascinating character and I'm looking forward to meeting Captain Ahab soon!

It's definitely worth researching a bit about the symbolism and metaphors used in the book because it's not always obvious when you first read it. It makes it more rewarding.


message 13: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Glad to hear that you are liking the book Carlo.


message 14: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Several of you have pointed out a Shakespeare flavor in Moby Dick -- I found this online:

"Melville's Great American Novel draws on both Biblical and Shakespearean myths. Captain Ahab is "a grand, ungodly, god-like man … above the common" whose pursuit of the great white whale is a fable about obsession and over-reaching. Just as Macbeth and Lear subvert the natural order of things, Ahab takes on Nature in his determination to kill his prey – and his hubristic quest is doomed from the start."

Reference: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


Milena | 257 comments Katy wrote: "Several of you have pointed out a Shakespeare flavor in Moby Dick -- I found this online:

"Melville's Great American Novel draws on both Biblical and Shakespearean myths. Captain Ahab is "a grand,..."


Thanks Katy! That was a very informative article. I enjoyed it


Cynda | 2766 comments Katy wrote: "Several of you have pointed out a Shakespeare flavor in Moby Dick -- I found this online:

"Melville's Great American Novel draws on both Biblical and Shakespearean myths. Captain Ahab is "a grand,..."


I am so glad you said that Katy.
As you know from another post elsewhere that after reading Moby-Dick; or, The Whale that I am now reading Why Read Moby-Dick?. Which like this you mention discusses such connections.
I am glad that you gave us a link to that article as I have read a number of Shakespearean plays to pieces and would like to read other books like, continuations of, backgrounds of the plays.
Thanx!


message 17: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
You are both welcome. I did think it was a good article. Can't wait to read along with you, Cynda with the other book too.


message 18: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 173 comments Thank you to whoever added chapter numbers in addition to roman numerals. I doubt many of us can do roman past 20 or so.


message 19: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Myst wrote: "Thank you to whoever added chapter numbers in addition to roman numerals. I doubt many of us can do roman past 20 or so."

You are welcome! I thought it might be helpful as my own copy is not in Roman Numerals.


message 20: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 173 comments I was googling the roman numerals as my copy is numbers also.

Somewhere over 50% done! (I haven't done the math recently as my copy only has locations.)


message 21: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
I'm currently reading Why Read Moby-Dick? along with the group read. In one of the chapters Nathaniel Philbrick reminds the reader of when Moby-Dick or, The Whale was written -- just before the USA Civil War and that the book does show us the racial struggles of the country at that time. Putting Moby-Dick or, The Whale back into its time period is making it a better read for me. It does give a glimpse of USA at that time period -- and not just the whaling industry.


Carlo | 206 comments Katy wrote: "I'm currently reading Why Read Moby-Dick? along with the group read.

Sounds interesting to put it into context. I'm enjoying the book, but goodness me was Melville getting paid by the semi-colon?! There are just so many that it ruins the sentence structure and makes it unnecessarily difficult to read. It's hard to find a rhythm or flow, for me at least.


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

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Carlo, I am not loving this book, but am more than halfway so I will finish.


message 24: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 173 comments Is anyone getting a hint that Melville may have been gay? The bed scene at the beginning with QueeQuee (sp), the extensive talking about the spermacetti (sp). I'm somewhere around chapter 90 and there's talk about massaging the sperm and everyone's hands so slick/smooth and whoever is the lead of this chapter is massaging some other dude's hand not realizing it was a hand and not whale parts.


message 25: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Myst wrote: "Is anyone getting a hint that Melville may have been gay? The bed scene at the beginning with QueeQuee (sp), the extensive talking about the spermacetti (sp). I'm somewhere around chapter 90 and th..."

You might read this article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


message 26: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 173 comments The beast is complete!

All I can really say is it was a long book. The last 40% seemed to go by a *heck* of a lot faster than the first 60% though.


message 27: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Myst wrote: "The beast is complete!."

Awesome job on getting this one finished, Myst -- good for you. I will say that the first 60% has been a slog for me.


message 28: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 627 comments Myst wrote: "Is anyone getting a hint that Melville may have been gay? The bed scene at the beginning with QueeQuee (sp), the extensive talking about the spermacetti (sp). I'm somewhere around chapter 90 and th..."

I got that vibe in the parts you mentioned as well as the Monkey Rope chapter. I also remember a passage from Billy Budd, Sailor that, if I recall correctly, described sailors with buttocks as hard as coiled rope.

Since the book is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, a fan theory is that much of it is a coded love letter to him.


message 29: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Map of Melville’s voyages and the voyage of the Pequod taken from the Norton Critical edition of Moby-Dick, ed. by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford




message 30: by Milena (last edited Jun 04, 2017 11:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Milena | 257 comments Katy wrote: "Map of Melville’s voyages and the voyage of the Pequod taken from the Norton Critical edition of Moby-Dick, ed. by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford

"


Thanks for the great map Katy! 😊

Yesterday I posted a comment/quote of Clarel, a book which I recently bought and was helpful. I wasn't sure whether to post it in the 42-57 thread or here. There's a note in the book which refers to chapter 45 (The Affidavit) and that determined my choice. Besides, I've read till chapter 66.

Please, let me know if you think that here would be better. I move the post here.


message 31: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
I'm sure the other thread is a perfect place for the quote. I'll go and check it out.


Milena | 257 comments Katy wrote: "I'm sure the other thread is a perfect place for the quote. I'll go and check it out."

Thanks :)


George P. | 537 comments Add my name to the finishers- from what I hear, that's less than half of those who start it (kind of like a Bachelor's degree). It took some determination to keep going at times, but the overall rewards of this remarkable "novel" are worth it, in my opinion. Once you get to the last third, it's more entertaining and easier to stick with.


message 34: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 1 star

Katy (kathy_h) | 9435 comments Mod
Good for you George.


message 35: by Wend (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wend (wends) | 74 comments I'm a finisher, but I can't say it was a book I enjoyed.


Lotte | 196 comments Katy wrote: "Myst wrote: "Is anyone getting a hint that Melville may have been gay? The bed scene at the beginning with QueeQuee (sp), the extensive talking about the spermacetti (sp). I'm somewhere around chap..."

Thank you for the article! Interesting :)

There were so many inuendos in the book that I even thought the friendship between Ahab and Pip homoerotic in the end

Now, then, Pip, we’ll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from thee! Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds must empty into thee!”

On another note, this is considered a Great American Classic. In what way does it capture an essential American spirit?


Laurie | 1633 comments Lotte, that's an interesting question. I think the American spirit I see in MD is that of perseverance in the face of great odds. Ahab didn't have a good chance of beating Moby Dick as evidenced by the spectacular failure of all the ships that had ever tried to kill it. Even finding the whale in the vastness of the world's oceans was unlikely. But Ahab was determined to find and kill Moby Dick or die trying.

This is the kind of attitude of perseverance that many explorers had when journeying to the wild west. They faced terrible odds of making it to the west coast alive, but they went anyway. Similarly the people who chose to settle as homesteaders in the sparse, treeless, mostly dry plains were people of perseverance. It was rather foolhardy much of the time since many didn't know what they were doing or getting themselves into, but they went and tried anyway.

I don't think this is a uniquely American spirit, but it the one that I see most epitomized by Ahab and his perpetual quest.


Lotte | 196 comments Laurie wrote: "Lotte, that's an interesting question. I think the American spirit I see in MD is that of perseverance in the face of great odds. Ahab didn't have a good chance of beating Moby Dick as evidenced by..."

I hadn't thought about it this way, thank you for the new insight!


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