Moby-Dick discussion

Lines & Passages > Opening salvo (ch. 1 - 11)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
Cap'n Crunched and I decided to run a folder of favorite passages, sentences and/or phrases, since Melville's language is something to wallow in. Feel free to add your darlings.

I'm going to start with the book's first paragraph:

"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."

message 2: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) What a Starting S.! One of my favourite ever!!!

message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol Who ain't a slave?Tell me that.Well, then however the old sea captains order me about-however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right;that everybody else one way or other served in much the same way-either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; so the universal thump is passed around, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder blades and be content.

message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol I also like this one:Again , I always go to sea as a sailor because they make a point to paying me for my trouble.

message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
I enjoyed that whole passage about his going to see as a sailor, and how it winds up that the thought above and the point that passengers are not paid. The way he used repetition there worked so well.

message 6: by Ken (last edited Nov 05, 2011 01:35AM) (new)

Ken Melville is a fan of rhetorical devices, as were many of his contemporaries. If nothing else, it gives the narrative a set rhythm, almost like the rocking of a ship.

Here, with his description of an oil painting hanging in the Spouter-Inn (and what is up with H.M.'s love of hyphens???), we see anaphora, the use of repetition at beginnings of sentences:


"Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what the marvellous painting meant. Eve and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through. -- It's the Black Sea in a midnight gale. -- It's the unnatural combat of the four primal elements. -- It's a blasted heath. -- It's a Hyperborean winter scene. -- It's the breaking-up of the ice-bound stream of Time. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture's midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?"

message 7: by Carol (new)

Carol I think the whole book is one big quote. There are so many gems I would have to write the book again. I recognize some of the Shakespeare, but I am sure I am missing a lot of other references to other authors and great books. I also am amazed at Melville's depth of knowledge about a wide variety of subjects.

message 8: by Ken (new)

Ken True of most learned men and writers of previous centuries. A classical education was once de rigueur.

message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol I think he was hands on also. I mean he was a whaleman. That was taking research to the max., in my opinion, like Hemingway and the bulls.

message 10: by Debbie (last edited Nov 05, 2011 01:02PM) (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 55 comments I want to add my favourite bit but I think it is too long (and possibly outside the parameters of the current discussion thread. Anyhow, the very last bit is one of the best.....
"With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between the billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales."
It's from the end of Chapter 14.....but the whole chapter is lovely.

message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol Oooh Debbie, that was a lovely quote.

message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken To keep favorite lines and passages in one place, I moved Stephen's here:

"Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken christian."

OK. It may have just been another line in this tale but... I think it worthy. And a potential for a tattoo if ever I get one. Wonder how it would render in latin?

message 2: by Donald


Melior dormio per a siccus cannibal quam a madide Sarcalogos

But don't take my word for it!

message 13: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 90 comments No problem NE but wouldn't it also work to have each passage or quote as a separate thread within the Lines & Passages folder? It seems that we get really long threads and this would facilitate searching & sorting. Or at least that's the scuttlebutt.

message 14: by Carol (new)

Carol Personally I prefer it all in one thread. When I want to search for a specific comment within that thread, I type a few words and voila up it appears.

message 15: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (booktrovert) I prefer it all in one thread too.

message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 90 comments Kitty wrote: "Personally I prefer it all in one thread. When I want to search for a specific comment within that thread, I type a few words and voila up it appears."

Not sure why that can't be done if each is a separate topic within the file of Lines & Passages but I'll gladly yeild to the majority. Nevermind NE

message 17: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (booktrovert) I have marked this passage as a favourite for the imagery Melville creates, as well as for the great use of language. I was really able to conjure this scene in my mind and saw it very vividly. It was a visceral few moments of reading.

"A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door was
flung open, and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Enveloped
in their shaggy watch coats, and with their heads muffled in woollen
comforters, all bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiff with
icicles, they seemed an eruption of bears from Labrador."

page 16 ~ Chapter 3: "The Spouter Inn"
Moby-Dick: Or, the Whale

message 18: by Carol (new)

Carol I can visualize the grizzly bearded men looking like bears and just as hungry. That was a good passage.

message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
I like that, too, Jennifer. I thought all of The Spouter-Inn was worthwhile.

message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
As to running separate threads on favorite lines - maybe it would be good to do as we've done above, ie this particular one should include lines and passages from Chapters 1 - 11. I'll open a second for the set of chapters.

message 21: by Carol (new)

Carol That would good. Thanks S. and NE for all your hard work.

message 22: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (booktrovert) S. wrote: "As to running separate threads on favorite lines - maybe it would be good to do as we've done above, ie this particular one should include lines and passages from Chapters 1 - 11. I'll open a secon..."

Yes, that seems a perfect idea - having the quotes grouped by section. Cool!

I really loved The Spouter Inn section a lot too, Sarah. So full of life, activity and imagery.

message 23: by Donald (new)

Donald (donf) | 86 comments From Chapter 9, The Sermon:

"Now Jonah's Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers."

Reminds me very much of the lines from King Lear:

"Through tattered clothes, small vices do appear. Robes and furred gowns hide all."

Considering Melville's love of King Lear, it was probably intended.

message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
I remember that sentence well. Good choice. There's a poem in there.

message 25: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 90 comments On a less poetic note... we should probably log HM's attempts at bawdy humor as we go.

For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim),

Trying to be like Shakespeare and make with the bawdy... This is a reference to flatulance caused by
eating beans.

message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
I believe that's the book's first fart joke. Will it be the last?

message 27: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahj) | 121 comments Mod
from Ch. 12, Nightgown

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two noses bending over he, as if our knee-pans were warming-pans. We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bedclothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, 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. 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. But if, like Queequeg and me in bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakeably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

message 28: by JenniferD (new)

JenniferD (booktrovert) S. wrote: "from Ch. 12, Nightgown..."

I loved this passage, Sarah!

message 29: by J. Rosemary (new)

J. Rosemary Moss (jrosemarymoss) | 7 comments Like Newengland, I'm partial to this quote about the oil painting in the Spouter-Inn--in fact, it sums up how I feel about Moby Dick as a whole:

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

message 30: by Ken (new)

Ken Ha! Good one, J. Rosemary....

message 31: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 90 comments Yeppers! As far as I'm concerned Rosemary gets this week's best quote award (based on her reasoning)

message 32: by J. Rosemary (last edited Nov 14, 2011 02:02PM) (new)

J. Rosemary Moss (jrosemarymoss) | 7 comments Aw, thanks!

(*Rosemary blushes*)

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

When I got to that quote, it seemed to sum up exactly how that book seems equally sublime and frustrating, and why it has such a hold on me!

message 33: by Ken (new)

Ken I think you're in the right place, Rosemary.

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