Moby Dick Read-A-Long Chapters 16-30: Starbucks, Ahoy!
Ishmael and Queequeg take a back seat as we meet The Pequod and her crew. Share your thoughts in the comments, or better yet, link to your own post.
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- America, Fuck Yeah: This is embarrassing, but I thought Moby Dick was a British novel until very recently. Like, basically until I started reading it. I *know,* great American novel, right? I had to keep reminding my self in the first few chapters that we’re in New York, not London. I don’t know where I got this idea, but it was hard to shake… now that we’re a ways in, I’m finally seeing this as an American novel. The owners of the Pequod are Quakers, and that’s pretty American. So is Ishmael’s description of these whaling Quakers:
They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.
- Starbucks, Ahoy: The other thing that’s reminding me this is an American novel is that Starbucks is named for the Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck. Figures that the month I decide to give up lattes is the month I will be reading Starbuck over and over and over again.
Ahab in the House: Melville sure likes to build anticipation. In the first 15 chapters, I was wondering if we’d ever get on the boat. Over the next 10 or so, I wonder where the heck Ahab is. Is he really ill, but almost better, as Ishmael is told? Or is it something more sinister? What’s he hiding? We finally meet Ahab near the end of this section, and much is made of his strange birthmark and other physical characteristics. The first time we hear him speak, he calls one of his mates “ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass,” and in the next chapter, abruptly throws his pipe overboard as smoking no longer gives him any pleasure. Hmm. Something on your mind, there, Big A?
- Ishmael’s AWOL: I felt Ishmael’s absence in this section, as he steps back into a more traditional narrator role. I got to thinking about his motivation for taking part in the voyage in the first place. Ishmael presents it as basically his wanting to see the world, and having nothing better to do. YOLO, if you will. Or should I say YOJO? (Nailed it!) I hope we get back into Ishmael’s head soon.
- Pre-Post-Modern: This section has a couple of passages that could fit in a postmodern novel, despite being written before postmodern, or even modern, was a thing. First, there are some structural oddities, like two chapters called “Knights and Squires,” which I thought was a Kobo fail at first. My favourite chapter so far, and the most “postmodern” in this section, is The Advocate, in which Ishmael turns away from the action to rant about the “injustice hereby done to us hunters of whales.” He gives examples of arguments against whaling and skewers them. He really gets worked up.
No dignity in whaling? The dignity of our calling the very heavens attest. Cetus is a constellation in the south! No more! Drive down your hat in the presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg!
Tune in Next Week: Everything you wanted to know about whales but were too afraid to ask.
- Hat tip to @ebookclassics for this low quality but illuminating clip from The X Files. Mulder as Ahab.
- A Playlist for Moby Dick from one of my favourite websites, Book Riot.
- Even really smart people don’t have a clue what this book is about. Uh oh. (Video)
Actually I thought the short chapters would be helpful:
Check out this great comment from Heather on last week’s post, about Ishmael and Queequeg:
As far as the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg, I like how Melville used language about marriage and love to describe their friendship. We discussed this in an American Lit college course I took, and we came to the conclusion that we have to be careful about simplifying this too much. Theirs is a very deep, connected friendship, but not really in anyway sexual. To get hung up on the what we see as a potential sexual side to their relationship (not that I’m saying you’re doing this at all) is to miss out on how special/tight their friendship is.
What did you think of this section? Link to your blog post below and drop me a line in the comments.