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Moby-Dick - Reread > Chapter 11 through 21

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message 1: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 11. Nightgown
More practical wisdom from Ishmael.
. . .because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.
It seems the night itself the gown he wears that fulfills these conditions of true warmth? Doesn't the part that is cold sometimes become too much to bear, even if it is a small part?

Chapter 12. Biographical
Here Ishmael inquires and we learn of QueQueg's background story. It seems Ishmael and Queequeg were attracted to each other because they are both outsiders in their own way. Additinally Ishmael was impressed by Queequeg's savage nobility, civility, and integrity, and Queequeg was impressed with Ishmael because Ishmael was an exception to:
. . .the practices of whalemen soon convinced [Queequeg] that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.
In short, two outsiders found each other to be good and as such were exceptions to each other's bias and preconceptions. They decide to align their plans and become shipmates on a whaling voyage out of Nantucket.


message 2: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 13. Wheelbarrow
Queequeg tells two stories of cultural awkwardness. Do you think Queequeg's people laughed at the captain who washed his hands in the punchbowl?

As they leave down the river Ishmael seems to summon Sisyphus as a muse:
that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.
Onboard the ship, cultural ignorance results in Queequeg physically "correcting" a man who was mocking him, and then moments later during an accident automatically saves the same man when he is knocked overboard. While Queequeg sits and smokes calmly after the incident, Ishmael imagines his thoughts:
"It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians."
Chapter 14. Nantucket
Would we want to live there at this time, or not?

Chapter 15. Chowder
Ishmael sums up the evil portents thus far:

. . .this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows. . . .yes, TWO of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It's ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the whalemen's chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?
However, they find lodging and good clam and cod chowder and Ishmael seems to forget these signs.


message 3: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 16. The Ship
Where Ishmael and Queequeg continue to get along like two peas in a Pequod.

Queequeg's indicates that his wooden idol, Yojo, has made it known that Ishmael is to decide alone what ship they will sail on. It seems part determinism, because the little god has decreed that Ishmael must make the decision and free will that he gets his choice of ships.

The Pequod is described as a worldly ship which shares the name of a nearly extinct tribe of Massachusetts Indians almost wiped out completely by the Puritans. The ship described by comparison to so many locations from around the world: French grenadiers fighting in Egypt and Siberia, masts cut in Japan, kings of Cologne, Canterbury Cathedral: a complete little globe going out to sea.

Ishmael meets the two primary owners of the ship. Old Captain Peleg, who seems to have never met a merchant seaman he likes and tries to dispel Ishmael's romantic notions of seeing the world, and Capt. Bildad. We also meet Captain Bildad, who Ishmael wonders how he reconciles his Quaker instinct for non-violence with all the violence he had committed against whales and concludes that a man's religion is one thing and this practical world is another. Is that hypocritical at all? The two captains argue sternly over what lay they are to offer Ishmael and after deciding this, Ishmael inquires of Captain Ahab and is warned never to bring up his biblical namesake. We are also told Ahab is an ungodly, god-like man. What does this seeming contradiction mean? Ishmael is also told it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one. Besides, they are told, Ahab has a wife and child; his humanities.


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 17. The Ramadan
How does the first statement fit with the next?

. . .I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious obligations, never mind how comical. . .

I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.
Chapter 18. His Mark
Here we see a display of employment discrimination against Queequeg for being an unconverted cannibal, until he demonstrates his skill. Then he is given a share of the profits 3 times larger than Ishmael's. What do we think of his signature? The name is wrong and he signs with a symbol similar to a tattoo he has. Do you think he or any family would be able to collect on that if something would happen to him? Is the name wrong on purpose? Compare this record to the carefully recorded records of the slave trade - http://www.slavevoyages.org/


message 5: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 19. The Prophet
After learning about Ahab, the captain of the Pequod, we meet his biblical nemesis, Elijah. What is the meaning behind Elijah's statement about their souls:
"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly. "No matter though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,—good luck to 'em; and they are all the better off for it. A soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."
Is there anything real here, or is Elijah just being creepy?

Chapter 20. All Astir
Ishmael and Queequeg are told to stow their belongings on the ship as it would be sailing soon. We are then told of considerable time it took to load all of the items needed for a successful 3 year long whaling cruise. Captain Bildad's sister, the aptly named Charity - Aunt Charity, works hard to provide some of the smaller touches that promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board. . .

Ishmael gives us an ominous observation in hindsight:
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 open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.



message 6: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Chapter 21. Going AboardGoing to board the ship in the early morning Ishmael thinks he sees some sailors running to board the ship. Elijah finds them again and asks, "Did ye see anything looking like men going towards that ship a while ago?" "Like" men? What else could they be? Does this one question about something Ishmael saw that he believes to be true lend more weight to the "hundred shadowy things" that Elijah's "gibberish" brings to Ishmael's mind.

Queequeg sits on a sleeping man while smoking his tomahawk pipe explaining his custom of sitting on servants and that he waives the tomahawk end if his pipe over the sleeping man's head because explaining he is a very easy kill.

The sleeping man wakes up and before running off to assist the chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, a good and pious man, we learn that Captain Ahab boarded the ship last night, and for Ishmael, remains mysteriously unseen in his cabin.


message 7: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Cphe wrote, but where is Ahab? - they've met the owners but not the captain and almost 20% into proceedings......I'm getting impatient.

But what if the book is about Ishmael? I didn't read it that way when I read it a few years ago... but now I wonder.



Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Wow--so much here in these 10 chapters. If it wouldn't take six months, I almost think we'd be better off doing a chapter a day.

Chapter 11--I'm all for Ishmael's and Queequeg's friendship, but the lying in bed with "Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over mine," is a bit much.

I thought this was an interesting statement--"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 any more." I'm still trying to decide if I believe that or not.

Here's another (the book is full of them) "No man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part." I take this to mean Ishmael is stating that the body is not our self; that what we are is not our senses as we perceive ourselves. How this factors into the rest of the book I'll have to wait for.

Just after this revelation of 'feeling his identity', Ishmael wakes up and feels revulsion. I see this as a revulsion at being returned to the world of the senses, but I don't know why. It makes me think of chapter 1, when Ishmael talks about his discontent and thinking that a voyage at sea is the only cure. The vastness of the ocean (the deep) being, perhaps, a close parallel with eyes closed and separated from the sensory world.


message 9: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Bryan wrote: "I thought this was an interesting statement--"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 any more." I'm still trying to decide if I believe that or not..."

Had a similar reaction, Bryan. Was reminded of the (Buddhist) views about the inevitability of suffering in life.


message 10: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Jul 19, 2018 07:42AM) (new)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments I went back to look at a couple of highlights I made on chapter 13 (Evidently I'm an indifferent highlighter, because I've only made a few marks and I know I've been struck by several passages. Comes from a lack of higher education, I guess)

The very first sentence of 13 is a hoot--"Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber, for a block..."

My footnote has, for block: A form on which to keep a wig. Wow! what would you think if you went into a barber's shop and there was an embalmed head displaying the wigs?! I don't know if this was intentional humor by Melville, or just something to indicate times are different, but just think of how much more accustomed to the frailty of human life the common man must have been than we are.

The other note I highlighted was the same passage David picked out, which ends with "Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort." It's like history--it's just one damn thing after another.


message 11: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (catjackson) Lily wrote: "Bryan wrote: "I thought this was an interesting statement--"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 any mo..."

It may also fit in more with the thinking of church people of the time. Life was something to suffer through in order to reach heaven. Anything that was earthly, sensual, or corporeal was only second best compared to what was heavenly or spiritual. As we are all born in sin (went the thinking of the time) we have to mortify our earthly life as a way to show we are spiritual beings and aligned with God.

It's very different from the way mainstream Christians look at earthly life today.


message 12: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (catjackson) The Quakers may have been a less fire and brimstone, but that doesn't mean that they didn't have a more negative view of human nature, at that time. Just like all Christian traditions, theirs would have changed some between then and now.


message 13: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Bryan wrote: "The other note I highlighted was the same passage David picked out, which ends with "Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort." It's like history--it's just one damn thing after another."

I noted that because there seems to be a bit some "doubt" going around, or it at least the question is raised. Even Father Mapple asks at the end of his sermon:
. . .for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?"
In some ways this theme makes the book seem a bit proto-existentialist.


message 14: by Borum (new)

Borum | 535 comments Cphe wrote: "I don't know that I'd be that trusting to allow anyone to sign me up for service on a ship under ? poor conditions for a number of years.....no matter how good a friend they were supposed to be."

I guess Queequeg had enough confidence in his skills to earn a fairly good position for himself on any ship. He sure seemed to show the captain of the Moss or Peleg what he's capable of.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Catherine wrote: "It may also fit in more with the thinking of church people of the time. Life was something to suffer through in order to reach heaven. Anything that was earthly, sensual, or corporeal was only second best compared to what was heavenly or spiritual. ..."

No doubt that's true...but when I read this point about comfort, I was thinking that it was sort of like saying that comfortable living becomes a kind of rut, which can be sort of like a living death as well. (Or, as I heard someone put it, a rut is like a long grave) Whatever it was that Ishmael was doing before he decided to take his whaling voyage was not making him feel alive--quite the contrary actually, and I think it's a way of saying that we need to reinvent ourselves now and again, or at least break away from comfort, because it is only adversity that forces us to become stronger and better people.

The passage gave me pause because at first thought I would say that my life is comfortable, and has been so for a long while, and the repercussion of reading this epigram has been to make me think a little harder about my comfortable life. (Not that I'm going to sign on to a whaler anytime soon though)


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments David wrote: "In some ways this theme makes the book seem a bit proto-existentialist...."

Yes...I picked up on that as well. Wasn't there a poster not long before we started reading who mentioned something about MD being the equivalent of a great post-modern work? I can't remember now who said that, but this quote is a bit of evidence that might lend support to that idea


message 17: by Borum (new)

Borum | 535 comments Bryan wrote: ""No man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part."... The vastness of the ocean (the deep) being, perhaps, a close parallel with eyes closed and separated from the sensory world.

This reminded me of Descartes' thought experiment in the stove with all the sensory deprivation. I wonder if that's how Jonas felt inside the whale?
I've noticed that as the ominous portents seem to creep up more and more, Ishmael is shirking it away with some distraction one way or the other (like the clam chowder or calling Elijah a bugbear) but he subconsciously knows that he's just avoiding the problem. It seems to be connected to what he said regarding the bodily warmth. Nothing exists by itself. On the whole, life is an endless series of hardship but we can't help diverting ourselves with temporal pleasure or we would constantly be faced with a virtual hell. Human pleasure is connected to sin against God or sin against nature. Swindling the sailor would be connected to swindling the widowed investors. Christian proselytization has been linked with the repression of pagan beliefs. Ishmael (or Melville) is always reminded of some loss with the gain of other and is also aware of the reverse side of our so-called good (as calling on the Evangelists pagan and ungodly godlike man) Contradiction seems to be one of the main aspect of human existence.


message 18: by Borum (new)

Borum | 535 comments Bryan wrote: "I went back to look at a couple of highlights I made on chapter 13 (Evidently I'm an indifferent highlighter, because I've only made a few marks and I know I've been struck by several passages. Com..."

using an embalmed head for a wig block or sitting on people's buttocks... I don't know if Queequeg is incredibly practical or utterly dehumanizing. Maybe both.


message 19: by Adelle (last edited Jul 19, 2018 06:26PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #1 David wrote: "Chapter 11. Nightgown."

It does seem now to me that there is a physical relationship between Ishmael and Queegueg that Melville can't openly write of.

The close of chapter 10 found them in bed "in our hearts' honeymoon.... a cosy, loving pair."

Chapter 11 has Queegqueg's leg now and again affectionately thrown over that of Ishmael's, then drawn back. Two men who hardly know one another?

It does seem likely that they weren't even wearing nightgowns. "...the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air." Also, back in chapter 2, Ishmael's carpet-bag contained only "a shirt or two."

If indeed there is now a physical relationship between them, how does it end for them? Will there be a cost? Or is this simply Melville writing of whaling life within the parameters allowed him?

I'm with Ishmael in that I like to sleep under the covers in a cold room.


message 20: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #8 Cphe wrote: "I don't know that I'd be that trusting to allow anyone to sign me up for service on a ship under ? poor conditions for a number of years.....no matter how good a friend they were supposed to be."

Same here. Queequeg is doing what Yojo has told him to do. But, yes...I would want to see the ship myself before signing on.


message 21: by Adelle (last edited Jul 20, 2018 08:35AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 11. Nightgown
It seems Ishmael and Queequeg were attracted to each other because they are both outsiders in their own way.."


EDIT ADDED. David, you're right. I thought about your perspective this morning. It's not only possible, but highly probable that early on they sensed that about each other. It wouldn't have had to have been verbalized. I didn't see that until your post. That's the beauty of the group read... one benefits for a number of views! Thanks.

{I saw it differently. I thought that the fact that they were both outsiders was something they had in common, yes; but I thought the attraction between them proceeded the sharing personal information.}

LOVED the sentence: "There was excellent blood in his veins---royal stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his untutored youth." Made me laugh.


message 22: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Chapter 11. Nightgown.

Maybe a contrast between Ishmael and Queequeg.

Ishmael is possibly running away from the life he was leading... possibly running away specifically from the Christian aspects.

Queegueg is not running away from his life, but is purposefully running toward Christendom (and is disappointed in what he learns of its inhabitants. They don't eat people, but they seem miserable and wicked to Qq.)


message 23: by Adelle (last edited Jul 19, 2018 06:32PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments One last thought on Biographical. A contrast between Ishmael and Qq.

Qq is unreservedly WITH Ishmael, almost akin to Rachel ("I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.") Qq resolved [what a determination word!] to accompany Ishmael "to that island...aboard the same vessel....same watch...same boat..same mess," etc.

Ishmael? He feels joy---- nope....I misread. It wasn't that Ishmael felt joy... rather, he joyously assented to Qq's proposal.

because besides his affection for Qq.----and maybe because Ishmael's more civilized than Qq...and therefore more reasoned, more practical--- Ishmael assented because " he [Qq] was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to be of great usefulness, to one... like me."


message 24: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Bryan wrote: "Wasn't there a poster not long before we started reading who mentioned something about MD being the equivalent of a great post-modern work?"

Yes, it was Pam in Msg 7 of the Discussion Schedule. I wonder what her thoughts are about that so far?


message 25: by Borum (new)

Borum | 535 comments Adelle wrote: "Chapter 11. Nightgown.

Maybe a contrast between Ishmael and Queequeg.

Ishmael is possibly running away from the life he was leading... possibly running away specifically from the Christian aspec..."


Perhaps he ran toward Christendom (or ran away from his homeland) because he was dissatisfied with his life on the island. Unfortunately he's not content with the life in Christendom either.
All throughout my life, I had to move abroad a lot due to my father's work in the foreign ministry. People always tell me how they would like to live abroad but I have to tell them that kind of fantasy or excitement fizzle out when you really go and have to put up with living there instead of going on a temporary trip. You find out that people are pretty much the same here or there.


message 26: by Adelle (last edited Jul 20, 2018 12:40PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #2 David wrote: "Chapter 13. Wheelbarrow
Queequeg tells two stories of cultural awkwardness.l?"


Like you, I thought this chapter was about cultural differences. I thought of the title: We use Wheelbarrows to haul heavy/*awkward things around; Our cultural habits are heavy/awkward and we haul those around with us.

Queequeg: the whaling ship would have provided him with a *harpoon ("such a troublesome thing"/*awkward for him to carry around... "...yet he had a particular affection for his own harpoon." LOL...even though those we meet are usually willing for us to adopt THEIR culture, we all have a preference for our own cultural habits, I suppose.

LOVED the sentence: "How I snuffed that Tartar air! -- how I spurned that turnpike earth!-- that common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will permit no records."


message 27: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 13. Wheelbarrow..."

Nice: "a lifeless form... restored"


message 28: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Adelle wrote: "I thought of the title: We use Wheelbarrows to haul heavy/*awkward things around; Our cultural habits are heavy/awkward and we haul those around with us."

How about this? Two ways of using a Wheelbarrow are demonstrated. One way is when Queequeg attempts to carry it and his belongings on his back; the other by picking it up by the handles and pushing it on its wheel.

In ignorance, racisim/cultural habits are born with difficulty on our backs but with knowledge diversity is pushed more easily in front of us. - or something along those lines.


message 29: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 14. Nantucket."

"more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddysto...

Wiki notes that this lighthouse is referenced TWICE in Moby Dick. ----- To avoid wrecking the ships/our lives we need some sort of light or guidance to help us avoid the dangers that can sink us???

Melville seems to be showing us that life has never been easy in Nantucket... "but these extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois." Which means, I think, that life has never been easy in Illinois either...or anywhere... just different.

I liked the Indian story. Unexpected events can take our children. How deeply we love our children. Wanting/ trying to save them. Not always able to. And yet... despite the grief and loss... life must go on.

Loving the hints of the under-story of Moby Dick: the "sea-salt Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power," "seeking to draw...from the bottomless deep itself." And from the close of chapter 13, Queegueg. "Was there ever such unconsciousness?"


message 30: by Adelle (last edited Jul 20, 2018 05:32PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #31 David wrote: "In ignorance, racism/cultural habits are borne with difficulty on our backs but with knowledge diversity is pushed more easily in front of us. - or something along those lines..."

I can see that, David. We "assume" ... but, yeah, with knowledge we can learn other ways, possibly better ways.


message 31: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Bryan wrote: "I went back to look at a couple of highlights I made on chapter 13 (Evidently I'm an indifferent highlighter, because I've only made a few marks and I know I've been struck by several passages. ."

:-) Yes! My book, too!


message 32: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 16. The Ship
..."


I very much enjoyed the Quakers' conversation. LOL. "Talk not the lingo to me."

I was struck by the poverty of the times. Ishmael is hoping to make enough to pay for the clothes he'll wear out and the food he'll consume.

I thought of Peleg and Bildad and the pay negotiations as something like good cop/bad cop.

I was surprised that Ishmael seemingly made his decision to ship on the Pequod pretty much on the basis of how the ship looked... surface facts.

"He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab" GREAT line. No idea as of yet what it might mean.


message 33: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Adelle wrote: ""He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab" GREAT line. No idea as of yet what it might mean."

God-like reminds me of all of the god-like persons in our last read, Odyssey. I notice they did not call him god-fearing.


message 34: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments Adelle wrote: "At #2 David wrote: "Chapter 13. Wheelbarrow
Queequeg tells two stories of cultural awkwardness.l?"

Like you, I thought this chapter was about cultural differences. I thought of the title: We use W..."


I thought in the same way about the chapter 13. It is very interesting because the display of cultural differences.


message 35: by Adelle (last edited Jul 21, 2018 12:11PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #36 David wrote: "Chapter 16 The Ship: God-like reminds me of all of the god-like persons in our last read, Odyssey. I notice they did not call him god-fearing..."

Nice points. God-like in large in personality... and with human flaws? Are his flaws correspondingly large? And, ah... not called god-fearing. Yet, according to Peleg, a good man---"not a pious, good man, like Bildad {note: I wasn't much impressed with Bildad as a "good man"}, but a swearing good man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of him."

Yes. Were Ahab a cheese he would be a strong-tasting cheese, not some mild, smooth brie.

My dad was a swearing good man, so I give Ahab the benefit of the doubt at this early point.


message 36: by Adelle (last edited Jul 21, 2018 12:20PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Rafael wrote: "Adelle wrote: "At #2 David wrote: "Wheelbarrow: I thought in the same way about the chapter 13. It is very interesting because the display of cultural differences."

Did you come away with the impression that both Qq with the wheelbarrow and the captain at the wedding of the ten-year-old thought/assumed that they were doing the right thing?

The owners assumed that Qq knew how to use a wheelbarrow. Qq not to seem ignorant about the thing just did what he guesssed to be "right." [a] not wanting to look stupid

The captain, too. He ASSUMES that due to his importance, it's his turn to wash his hands. {b} assuming too much importance in ourselves

LOL... Remember that old saying? When you assume, it makes an ass of u and me.

The sad part is sometimes we don't even know enough to know when we should be asking... or what we should be asking...


message 37: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #3 "Chapter 16. The Ship"

Maybe far afield....but one of the thoughts I had from the prior time I read this book still seems valid to me. At least valid to consider.

Peleg says that Ahab has a young wife. "--not three voyages wedded--a sweet, resigned girl." And that the two of them have had a child.

The child already having been born, odds are that it wasn't conceived AFTER Ahab's encounter with the whale.

I wonder still, just how badly that whale damaged Ahab physically. We know he's lost a leg, or part of his leg. With both reads, I wonder if he was damaged in a way that might make it impossible for him to have sexual relations with his young wife.

I can try to imagine how that might contribute to Ahab's anger.

And the young wife... Is she resigned to Ahab's personality? Or is she resigned to a lack of physicality in her relationship with her husband?


message 38: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #4 David wrote: "Chapter 17. The Ramadan"

1) Back in chapter 13, Wheelbarrow, I had thought that Ishmael had taken advantage of Qq as he used Qq's money to settle the bill at the Spouter-Inn. Now I can see that he was justified. Qq broke the rules of the inn in taking his harpoon into the room with him... and then the door had to be broken because QQ wouldn't open it... It's only right that Qq should have to pay for the damages. The cost shouldn't be on the poor landlady.

(2) . . .I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious obligations, never mind how comical. . .

It seems to me that Ishmael neither cherishes nor respects the religious obligations of others. He merely tolerates them and performs the surface actions required. Or does it look different to you?

I think he just goes along and gives others space to worship as they please... I don't think he has any real respect for their religions... "There was QQ...with the most absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan." He goes along to go along... He "honors" Qq's religion simply to not offend Qq.


message 39: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments "Chapter 17. The Ramadan"

Ah...people are people... Towards the close of this chapter we read that Ishmael has spoken to Qq about religion...thinking that Qq was "so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan." Probably like most people in most places, Qq "no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true religion than I did."


message 40: by Adelle (last edited Jul 23, 2018 05:31PM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At 4..." Chapter 18. His Mark
Here we see a display of employment discrimination against Queequeg for being an unconverted cannibal,"


I'm wondering whether the tattoos on Qq's body identified him as a cannibal and whether it might be the danger factor of having a cannibal on board that gave Captain Peleg pause. He did say no cannibals on board "unless they previously produced their papers." I'm thinking the papers would show that the man in question had served on other ships without eating anyone... therefore a safer bet. And if Qq were converted, then he would have renounced eating people.

{Remember, Peleg doesn't want Qq to be particularly pious... "pious harpooners never make good voyagers"--- mmm, "voyagers"... and life has been compared to a voyage. Is Melville saying this of all men? A criticism of piousness?

Could be. He DID write to Hawthorne that he had "written a wicked book." (Especially for his times.)

The close of that chapter... Peleg/Melville is saying that there's no time to think much of Death and the Judgment during the turmoil of life... "every sea breaking over us"... Peleg and Ahab... fully engaging in life...

In contrast, Bildad is painted as living small... a closed-sort of man... "buttoning up his coat"... stooping "to pick up a patch, or save an end of the tarred twine, which otherwise might have been wasted."

EDIT ADDED: I've re-thunk Bildad. Perhaps??? that sentence doesn't indicate a man living small. Perhaps it symbolizes his thinking of Queequeg's as someone relatively unimportant...he gives him the tract so that Queequeg [Queequeg's soul] won't be wasted.



Peleg invites them on board in the same paragraph in which he voices that he's noticed Qq's harpoon.

Repeatedly we've seen that people will set aside their standards if there's money to be made. "He pays reg'lar."


message 41: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 06:47AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments At #4, The Mark, David had asked, Is the name wrong on purpose?

My sense is that the name wasn't written wrong on purpose, but that as Qq was some sort of native/(=not an equal) and because Queequeg was some sort of non-normal, non-pronounceable name ... it's not worth the effort for Peleg to get the name right... Peleg does probably think that neither Qq nor his name are equal ... BUT! Let's sign him... He's got skills we need. AND ... bottom-line ... Peleg is willing to PAY Qq what he's worth.


message 42: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 07:32AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments David wrote: "Chapter 19. The Prophet
After learning about Ahab, the captain of the Pequod, we meet Elijah...."


And... we're back in Chapter 9: The Sermon. What a tightly woven book Melville has written! Father Mapple: "Shipmates...what depths of the soul does Jonah's deep sea-line sound!"

Elijah: "Shipmates... have ye [signed]...Anything down there about your souls?" Is Elijah implying that if they've signed with the Pequod, they've signed away their souls??? Is it an evil ship? A doomed ship? "...the old squaw Tistig" that the name would prove prophetic? And now we have a prophet???

Elijah in the Bible warned of the dire consequences to come of idol worship. Does this have something to do with Ishmael's sharing Queequeg's worship of the wooden idol? Does Ahab worship something too?

So Melville has given us a Biblical allusion.

But I thought, too, of Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." A poem of a doomed ship... Possible spoiler: (view spoiler)

"It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

[....]

He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he."

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem.... Note 1834. Before Melville wrote Moby Dick.

Interesting that Elijah says that HE--Ahab---has enough soul "to make up for all deficiencies of that sort in other chaps." We learn that Ahab spent three days and nights "like dead" --- allusions to Jonah and Jesus. How did that experience transform Ahab?

And what a statement by Elijah, telling Ishmael that regarding Ahab, "you are just the man for him --- the likes of ye." No idea what he means, but I've an idea he means something important there.


message 43: by David (new)

David | 2737 comments Adelle wrote: " I'm thinking the papers would show that the man in question had served on other ships without eating anyone... therefore a safer bet. And if Qq were converted, then he would have renounced eating people."

According to the Power Moby-Dick site, the papers in question are in fact:
. . .papers showing that they had been baptized and belonged to a church
Power Moby-Dick, Chapter XVIII: His Mark
Too bad we cannot look back on this and similar practices as extinct. At least Queequeg was hired on the basis of his merits, after taking the rare opportunity of demonstrating them.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Adelle wrote: "David wrote: "Chapter 19. The Prophet
After learning about Ahab, the captain of the Pequod, we meet Elijah...."


I wonder if this didn't seem excessively heavy-handed on Melville's part to the readers of his generation. Elijah and Ahab were both characters that interacted with one another in the Biblical account, Ahab being a king (married to Jezebel) and celebrated the worship of Baal, while Elijah prophecies his doom.

Now, I had to look that up, but I expect that many readers of Melville's time were pretty familiar with it.


message 45: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 08:43AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Re #47....Interesting. I wonder why.... especially as it doesn't seem to specify a particular church....also...Ishmael wasn't asked for his papers.... Maybe 1) it was assumed Ishmael,
being white, was a Christian, or maybe 2) as Ishmael wasn't covered with cannibal tattoos he was assumed to be "safe".mmmm....I recall that a few chapters back Queequeg said that he can't return to his island until he's been baptized, or perhaps it was rebaptizd... I'm working from memory here.

Thanks for the info and link!


message 46: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 08:35AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Bryan wrote: I wonder if this didn't seem excessively heavy-handed on Melville's p..."

I suspect just the opposite. 😀 But that's just my take. I think it's akin to reading a novel that references places one has been. "I know THAT place, person..." Will Ferrell in "Elf." "Santa!!! I KNOW him!"

I enjoyed the Biblical allusions. Gives one hints of what may be coming. I was raised Baptist. Read the Bible thru more than once....that's what Baptists do. Sermons revolve around the Biblical text. So ... entirely familiar and meaningful. I would think readers from that era---familar with their Bibles, would find it meaningful.

Just my perspective. Because....SUCH foreshadowing.


message 47: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 08:44AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments Bryan, in looking it up, didn't it make you kinda think, "Something bad is going to happen."? And then, too, the question of culpability. Does what happens happen due to Ahab? (like regarding the Biblical Ahab?) Does it happen due to Ishmael, maybe, due to his idol worship? Is Melville going to try to show that neither of these two were responsible? That Melville wanted to undercut the religious beliefs of his time? Just...lots of questions at this point.


message 48: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 09:21AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments One thread I do see is Melville repeatedly showing the hypocrisy. The many examples of "These are the rules. Wait. I can make some money by disregarding those rules? In that case, I can disregard that rule."

People have to live... the owner of the Inn needs money, the owners/shareholders/widows&orphans need money. Everybody needs money. How do we resolve our two worlds (secular and religious). Might it not be better --- regarding BOTH aspects -- to give more heed to the New Testament words: Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's. ??? If you're going to run an inn, etc, recognize that you're running it for money and that the color and creed of your guests doesn't matter... The aspect the inn owner is interested in is strictly business..
and the personal beliefs of the guests aren't in play.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Adelle wrote: "Bryan, in looking it up, didn't it make you kinda think, "Something bad is going to happen."?

Yes--that's why I thought maybe Melville was laying it on a bit thick with the names. Bildad was okay--I think it's very natural that these characters have biblical names--it's just that the very person who is going to warn Ishmael about Ahab happens to have the name Elijah. It's like if I were to write a story about two corrupt politicians and I gave them the names Richard and Spiro. Or Adolf and Josef.

On the other hand, this is the only critique I've had of the book through these first 20 chapters, and that's a very small critique. Otherwise, I think it's excellent.


message 50: by Adelle (last edited Jul 22, 2018 09:49AM) (new)

Adelle | 3130 comments lol, Richard and Spiro... mmmm... I think "cover-up" and downfall.

I hear you. But.... that's why I gave the perspective of a Baptist... The mid-1800s had more familiarity with the Bible than we do.

All those little self-conscious dark bits. Jonah. Bad things happened. Ahab. Bad things happened. Bildad...friend of Job. Bad things happened.
Ancient Mariner. I LOVE that poem...and bad things happened. Helps build the pervading sense --- almost a Poe feel to it ---that... yes! something bad is going to happen.


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