The quote on page 358 sparked my curiosity: "And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while if the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and lengthen Ahab's."I'm wondering what the relationship is between Fedallah and Ahab that brings about such a statement. I'm also curious of what the function of Fedallah is in this story and if we will learn more about him eventually.
Ever since I started to notice the multitude of biblical references within Moby Dick I've almost exclusively focused my reading of the novel on identifying and analyzing these references. My high school English classes may have ruined me and taught me to search for symbolism when there may not be any to be had, but there are two scenes that I cannot help but liken to Christian traditions.The first occurs during the first lowering of the boats when Ishmael's boat is capsized and he is tossed into the water. Afterward he comes to the conclusion that "I must resign myself into the hands of him who steered the boat." In my reading of the novel thus far I've likened the White Whale to a god-like figure, making the mates somewhat like priests in their guidance of the crew towards the whale. This scene seemed remarkably similar to what would be a baptism; in this case Ishmael has been tossed into the sea for the first time on his first whaling voyage, thereby christening him in the name of the "religion of rowing".The second occurs as Fleece the cook is "preaching" to the sharks as they partake in the body of the whale. Again, with whale acting as God it seems as though Fleece is advising the sharks on how to receive the Eucharist, especially when Stubb demands him to "make a bow before ye go" as he is leaving his altar of sorts.Again, I could be stretching things a little far but now knowing that Melville was not entirely devout to the Christian faith, it's interesting to question whether these scenes (which are at times comical) are sometimes mocking the faith.
Is it just me, or have the strange five or so sailors that were first revealed at the first whale sighting disappeared? Tell me what I missed...The two chapters dedicated to Ambergis got my attention. First, the comedy of Stubb's swindling of the Frenchman, then the "excavating" of a dead whale's bowls. Then Melville gets deep. He begins to wonder about the pure fact that something so illustrious can be found in such a thing of "ill-savor". What is the saying of St. Paul? I tried to find it but couldn't read more than two chapters before losing interest. Melville then goes on to talk about the stigma of whales, that they are stinky hulks. It is of no surprise he finds beauty in the whale and reasons that they do, in fact, have a perfume likened to a sweating woman. He's almost sexing the whale up. At this point, it would be nice to be inside his head and know a) what the whale symbolizes, or b) if he simply praising something he dedicated a lot of his life to.
My short-blog entry this week focuses on the end of last week’s reading and the beginning of this week’s reading. When I read chapter 61 “Stubb kills a Whale,” I thought Ishmael was dreaming all of this. He kept talking about how everyone was falling asleep and drowsy. When I read the line “suddenly bubbles seemed bursting beneath my closed eyes,” (308) I felt like this was a hint to the reader that the events coming up were all a part of Ishmael’s dream. Then in the following chapters I thought Melville was pointing out the flaws in how Stubbs was portrayed killing the whale and talks about the dart and the crotch. Consequently, when I read the beginning of this week’s section, I was pretty shocked to find out that Stubbs actually DID kill the whale, and he wanted to enjoy a nice piece of whale steak for dinner. Either I read too much or too little into what Melville was trying to say there. Also in chapter 64 “Stubb’s Supper” it is mentioned that the sharks kept eating from the dead whale while it was moored to the ship. Didn’t anyone on board ever think to catch the sharks? I guess people of the time were more obsessed with hunting whales than they were with hunting sharks. They could have been afraid of the sharks, but they aren’t exactly afraid of the gigantic whales in the ocean, so that doesn’t seem very likely. I found Cook trying to “convert” the sharks into being quiet by order of Stubbs to be one of the few humorous parts of the book.
I have found myself wondering Ishmael's function as a character within the novel. Aside from the obvious, that he is the narrator, we are presented with this seemingly intelligent individual throwing himself into a world of uneducated working class men. I am unsure whether or not the language that Melville chose to use is what makes this seem more important to me (I believe we discussed how the language was based on King James's Bible(?)...therefore it was supposed to sound informal rather than formal.). Taking in our discussion from last week, it is clear that religion has some heavy meaning within the novel. Perhaps the fact that Ishmael is an outsider and therefore not bias in descriptions of these working class men, that we as readers can look at the misinterpretations of the Christian doctrine as a clear satire of organized religion.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Probably because I'd actually heard of ambergris and its use in perfume before, I was most interested in the two chapters dealing with it, 91 and 92. It is interesting how often Melville seems to try to reverse our expectations in this novel; with Queequeg being admired despite being a savage, Moby Dick being white and that being terrifying, and now with the scent of a whale.I wonder, is Melville trying to reverse every expectation his reader has, one by one? Or is he simply unknowingly obsessed with the concept of "more than meets the eye?"
It is confirmed. Melville is obsessed with relating/comparing various aspects of religion with various aspects of whaling. In Chapter 95, "The cassock", Melville casts the duties of the mincer in a religious light; "Arrayed in decent black; occupying a conspicuous pulpit; intent on bible leaves; what a candidate for an archbishop, what a lad for a Pope were this mincer!" (460). I found this a bit odd. Also, I was intrigued by Melville's reference to Queen Maachah and King Asa: "Such an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea; and for worshipping which, king Asa, her son, did depose her, and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th chapter of the first book of Kings" (459).
My post today is related to my fridays entry. I am interested in the aspect of Melville's thoughts on religion. I want to know what Adam and the class have to say about how Melville believes, or lack there of, in religion. In my eyes he compare Christianity and Paganism and almost says that they are the same. It made me think, if I could switch spots with a "savage" and live on a romote island would I? Or would you? With no interference from "the white man" I feel life as an island could be overall a better one. I would just like to get some opions of the class and see if what I think makes any sense.
There were some things in this weeks reading that I found interesting. in chapter 68 I found it disturbing that he finds pleasure reading about whales through their transparent dried up skin. How is that pleasureable and not haunting. I also like that Queequeg and Ishmael's relationship has been brought up again. I would still like to why they haven't had much contact though up until now since the begininning of the novel. Also along with what I wrote about with Ahab and narcissism, it is very evident when he interacts with the different ships they come in contact with on their voyage.
While reading through Moby Dick, it is very apparent that Ishmael/Melville both respect whaling very much and hold it in very high regard. From the numerous chapters where Ishmael explains the anatomy of the whale, to discussing the heroic history of whaling, it is easy to see that whaling is a prominent part of both lives. It's almost too much information at times.However, one part I did find interesting is the chapter where Ishmael explains the uses of ambergris (chapter 92). Ishmael tells everyone that the foul smelling ambergris can actually be used for perfume. I found Ishmael's views on this idea to be very humorous as he compares whales to beautiful women, who actually aspire to smell 'like a whale.'
Why did Melville write so many informative chapters in Moby Dick? It is interesting insight into the knowledge that a whaler would need to have, or about whatever connection he is about to make. Certain parts are definitely relevant to the narrative, but why not work it in and instead give us an entire chapter of it? I think he uses Ishmael's background as a schoolteacher as a matter of convenience for imparting the knowledge on the reader, but I'm not sure of the exact reasoning. For instance, "Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of his spouting canal, and as that long canal...is furnished with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the downward retention of air or the upward exclusion of water; therefore the whale has no voice" (407). Interesting, and it make help us to think about some other sections in the novel through a different perspective, but why does he do it so much?
I have to wonder where fate comes into play in this book. From the beginning Ishmael has been hinting at the inevitable demise of the Pequod. I think it's an important distinction between Ishmael and Ahab and the rest of the crew believing that their journey on the Pequod is predetermined or if their actions determine the ultimate outcome of their journey. It seems that, at least on some level, the crew believes their own actions and capabilities have an effect on how many whales they catch. On the other hand, Ahab talks about killing Moby Dick as his destiny. It maybe that Melville is showing his disbelief in destiny through Ahab using predetermination as an excuse to recklessly chase after Moby Dick. Either way, I think fate, or lack thereof, is an important component of this book.
I thought the reading this week was filled with a few too many filler chapters - chapters that don't really further the plot but only offer a few points of extraneous information. Instead of this, I would've liked to read more about life on board, and how the crew kept themselves entertained through the boring weeks filled with no action. I think it would've helped with character development and would've offered some more comic relief. The chapters I liked the most, however, were the ones where the Pequod met with other ships. The gam that I liked the most was with the Jeroboam, because it showed the interactions of a different crew in a similar situation. I was interested in the self-proclaimed prophet Gabriel of the Jeroboam, who caused a mutiny on board and "predicted" the death of anyone who hunted Moby-Dick. I compared him to Ahab, as both believe they have supernatural powers of knowing the future, yet their point of views are exact opposites. Do you guys think they're both just crazy, or is Gabriel foreshadowing something?
As I was finishing up this week's reading I started to think about our discussion in class last week about the origin of the ship's name. We talked about the significance of the name Pequod coming from the name of an extinct Indian tribe of the northeast. Throughout the book we are introduced to a multitude of strange names, both for places and things as well as people. I was wondering if the strange names of these things also have some sort of larger significance? Where did Melville come up with such strange names as Queequeg, Stubb, Tashtego, Daggoo or Fedallah? The list could go on and on. I also was interested in looking at how much biology Melville really knew. He obvioulsy has extensive knowledge about whales, but is he familiar with any more branches of biology? Does Melville get classified as a naturalist due to the exhausting recounts of filler chapters in this book about the biology and science behind whale hunting?