Captain Ahab has an all-consuming obsession: to exact revenge on the great white whale that ripped off his leg in a previous encounter. The scars run deep. Ahab's "torn body and gashed soul bled into one another", rendering him mad. But as master of the Pequod he is determined to be master of his destiny. Party to this single-minded pursuit are Ahab's assorted crewmen, including Starbuck, the First Mate torn between following orders and scuttling an ill-conceived venture; Queequeg, the tattooed Polynesian harpooner; and the ...
Captain Ahab has an all-consuming obsession: to exact revenge on the great white whale that ripped off his leg in a previous encounter. The scars run deep. Ahab's "torn body and gashed soul bled into one another", rendering him mad. But as master of the Pequod he is determined to be master of his destiny. Party to this single-minded pursuit are Ahab's assorted crewmen, including Starbuck, the First Mate torn between following orders and scuttling an ill-conceived venture; Queequeg, the tattooed Polynesian harpooner; and the narrator, Ishmael, who introduces himself in one of the most famous openings in literature. The novel charts an indirect course, tacking furiously to incorporate a host of diverting subplots, thought-provoking ideas and entertaining asides, all the while heading remorselessly to the epic confrontation between Ahab and his nemesis. Moby Dick is both a classic seafaring tale by a writer who lived and breathed such ocean-going escapades, and a profound exploration of the nature of good and evil. Richly textured and multi-layered, Melville's magnum opus ranks among the foremost works of American fiction, one of the greatest novels in the English language.
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This book was just like new & in excellent condition.
Oct 31, 2009
Whaling is a deep subject.
A lot of people can't understand Moby-Dick. And I think, to an extent, nobody can fully understand this book who doesn't know at least a little about the transcendentalist movement in American literature.
Transcendentalism, to Thoreau and Emerson, et al., was the idea that one can get to know God by studying nature. Thoreau was transcendentalism's greatest proponent. That's what 'Walden Pond' was all about.
Melville used Ahab and the whale to show (to put it as simply as possible) that one thing we learn when we study nature is that God isn't necessarily a creature we'd like to be closely acquainted with. When little Pip, the cabin boy, falls out of the whaleboat -- to take one example -- he sinks down and down, then he goes down a little farther, then farther still, and then he sinks some more until, bye and bye, he sank so far down in the ocean that he 'saw God's foot on the treadle of the loom.' At that point his mind snapped and when he finally broke surface, he was as crazy as a crap-house mouse. Having seen God, he became a madman, and his derangement was permanent.
Ahab is crazy because he, too, has met God -- and the damned thing took his leg off. He was not happy about losing his leg. He has sworn vengeance on God (manifest in the unstoppable power of the whale) and he will have it if it kills him -- as of course it finally does. Ahab's rage against God reflects the human creature's rage to order the insane universe (God) in which we live.
I mean, that vein is deep and rich. Moby-Dick gives us plenty of room to think and plenty of material to think about, and if we bother to think about it we'll be thinking for a long while. How about the scene where the men sit in a circle around a tub, squishing spermaceti between their fingers? Is there a circle-jerk going on there? Is there a hint at the homosexuality that was so common in all-male crews who spent months and years at sea?
In sum, I believe the novel has at least three purposes and at least two of those are didactic. On the one hand it discourses on transcendentalism, on the nature of God and the nature of man and the relationship between them. On the other hand, it discourses on the life of the whalers. We learn from reading Moby-Dick a very great deal about life and work on a wooden, wind-powered, Yankee whaling vessel. You can read it one way, you can read it the other way, or you can read it as a straight-up, meaningless adventure yarn. No matter how you read it, it's a whale of a tale and it's one that always yields more to those who re-read it.
I give it five stars because I think it earns every one of 'em.
Aug 6, 2007
Where to start with Moby Dick...
Had to read this book for English. The opening was really interesting, and it wasn't too bad until they were on the boat and Melville goes on and on about whale parts. I was warned about this in advance, so I just skimmed over those parts. It's really a great classic story if you can get beyond Melville's style at times.
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