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Whalemen Wanted: Moby Dick Book Club Starts Here

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posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 01:43 PM
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Some thing to keep in mind:

Someone mentioned Ishmael sounds Arabic? Indeed. Ishmael was the son of Abraham by his wife's servant Haggar. Even though Ishmael was the elder of Abraham's sons, Isaac was the legitimate son by Abraham's wife Sarah and was the inheritor of Abraham's legacy and blessed by God as the father of Israel.

Now the jealousy that Sarah felt for Haggar and Ishmael led to the pair being cast out into the desert which led to God saving them miraculously when Ishmael was about to die of thirst. A spring suddenly welled up and saved them. God also blessed Ishmael, but it is a dubious blessing. He was blessed to have descendants as numerous as the stars but they would forever be as a thorn in the side of men (something like that). Islam also carries a version of this legend and I believe they claim descent from Ishmael and thus lay claim to Abraham's legacy too.

You could say this is one of the oldest dysfunctional family stories in the world.

Now, Melville uses Ishmael to be the narrator's voice! Chew on that and stir in his motto. Also consider that first person narrators are unreliable narrators because we readers have to rely on them to tell us what is going on, but what we get is filtered through their experiences.

Also it is interesting to consider that one of the signs Ishmael uses to decide to go to sea is his sudden need to follow funerals and walk by coffin shops. Foreshadowing? Anyone here who has completed the novel knows what I mean and will also see how Melville also ties Ishmael to his Biblical counterpart with that little miracle that saves him at the end so he can tell us his story.

Ishmael is also pre-occupied with the sea/water ...
edit on 8-12-2016 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 02:08 PM
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originally posted by: ketsuko
Some thing to keep in mind:

Someone mentioned Ishmael sounds Arabic? Indeed. Ishmael was the son of Abraham by his wife's servant Haggar. Even though Ishmael was the elder of Abraham's sons, Isaac was the legitimate son by Abraham's wife Sarah and was the inheritor of Abraham's legacy and blessed by God as the father of Israel.

Now the jealousy that Sarah felt for Haggar and Ishmael led to the pair being cast out into the desert which led to God saving them miraculously when Ishmael was about to die of thirst. A spring suddenly welled up and saved them. God also blessed Ishmael, but it is a dubious blessing. He was blessed to have descendants as numerous as the stars but they would forever be as a thorn in the side of men (something like that). Islam also carries a version of this legend and I believe they claim descent from Ishmael and thus lay claim to Abraham's legacy too.

You could say this is one of the oldest dysfunctional family stories in the world.

Now, Melville uses Ishmael to be the narrator's voice! Chew on that and stir in his motto. Also consider that first person narrators are unreliable narrators because we readers have to rely on them to tell us what is going on, but what we get is filtered through their experiences.

Also it is interesting to consider that one of the signs Ishmael uses to decide to go to sea is his sudden need to follow funerals and walk by coffin shops. Foreshadowing? Anyone here who has completed the novel knows what I mean and will also see how Melville also ties Ishmael to his Biblical counterpart with that little miracle that saves him at the end so he can tell us his story.

Ishmael is also pre-occupied with the sea/water ...


Yes! Great post ketsuko!

I hadn't known about the Biblical Ishmael's connection to water before.. great info.

I had assumed that our narrator's choice of the biblical name stemmed from his being fatherless, an orphan, an outcast, unfavored by God. Which also probably also applies--I've found that there are layers upon layers of meaning in Melville's work.

Thanks for the great comment


I agree that we should question the narrator's reliability to a degree-especially one that is unwilling to give his true identity


I very much appreciate your interpretation. Bravo!
edit on 8-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 04:00 PM
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i also find it funny that he stays at the Spouter Inn ... run by a Mr. Coffin.


Even Ishmael remarks on the ominous implications at the time.



posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 04:14 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

I agree, it's funny in both senses of the word


Joseph C Hart wrote a book called Miriam Coffin that influenced Melville's work. Here's a brief excerpt from Wikipedia:




Hart became widely known with his novel Miriam Coffin; or, The Whale-Fisherman (1835). This was the first novel to deal with whaling in Nantucket, a subject later made famous by Herman Melville in Moby-Dick. Hart's work was the most important fictional influence on Melville's novel. Hart wrote the book to encourage congressional support for the whaling industry. He interviewed local people to obtain an accurate account of their lives and the workings of the industry. Unlike Melville, Hart concentrates on the community in Nantucket, and places less emphasis on the whalers. The novel was based on the historical career of profiteer Kezia Coffin (1723–1798). It describes the corrupt financial dealings of Miriam, a whaler's wife, whose unproductive market speculations are contrasted with the heroic and productive labors of her husband, fighting nature and dangerous savage peoples to bring home useful raw materials


As an aside:
Hart was the first American to speculate (in writing) that Shakespeare was not the true author of the plays attributed to him.

I meant to write this earlier, but Melville's biographer Hershel Parker believes that, in Moby Dick, Melville was attempting to reach, or even surpass, the genius of Shakespeare in an entirely American setting. He was also interested in contributing to the establishment of an American literary tradition that equalled that of its English counterparts.

Good work pointing out the humor/foreboding that seems to be a common element throughout the book!
edit on 8-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:11 PM
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Chapter 2: The Carpet Bag (Warning, spoiler alert!)




The carpet bag was invented as a type of baggage light enough for a passenger to carry, like a duffel bag, as opposed to a wooden or metal trunk, which required the assistance of porters. It was a good traveling companion: in 1886, the Scientific American described it as old-fashioned and reliable: the carpet bag "is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used." Its use implied self-sufficiency: in Jules Verne's 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg and Passepartout bring only a carpet bag as luggage, which holds a few items of clothing and a great deal of cash.


In this chapter, Ishmael shows himself as a traveller by means of his worn-out boots and his familiarity with inns (in general, not New Bedford's)- he knows at a glance which were too dear for his purse. He perfectly demonstrates the feeling of being an outsider- alone in the cold with the sounds of laughter, tinkling glasses, and warmth so close, but out of grasp.
I really liked Ishmael's referrence to the effect of a cold wind being an entirely different one whether one sees it from within the warmth or as an outsider looking in, and then proceeded to compare his own body to the abode, his eyes to the windows through which he beholds the wintery world. He mentions that the cold has found ways in through cracks..
I see this as his outlook on the world- a cold, isolated place. And also perhaps indicative of his being a wanderer who carries his home with him.
As far as the vignette "The Trap"- if anyone wishes to add their thoughts on this fiery sermon, I'd love to hear it. It seems to be an interesting contrast to the upcoming sermon of Father Mapple.

I find his take on the Lazarus parable to be fascinating. If you haven't studied the parable, Divas is a wealthy man whose disregard and contempt for the beggar (Lazarus) at his gate earns him eternal damnation.
Ishmael compares the icy gutter in which Lazarus finds his home to that of Divas's frosty isolation (wealth as isolating).

We shall find out what kind of warmth The Spouter Inn offers in the next chapter!
edit on 8-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:34 PM
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"the pains and penalties of whaling"



Is this quote, taken from the second paragraph of The Carpet Bag in any way related to Ishmael's references to hell a few paragraphs later?

Probably not, but thought I'd add this as a possibility. An interesting book I read (Melville's Quarrel With God) makes a case for the great whale being Melville's allegory for God. Whether one agrees or not with the implications or reality of such an assertion, I'd say it's worth considering, if only so we could discount the theory.

As always, I would love to hear differing perspectives for anything I suggest here! I love a healthy debate and alternate theories-- all in the quest for getting to the bottom of this deep book. I've already learned so much from you guys!

ye good mateys!
edit on 8-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 08:21 AM
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Hi guys!
What do you think Ishmael meant by his thoughts on Divas/Lazarus?
What impressions have you gotten so far from inside The Spouter Inn? How does being inside compare with what he experienced outside (The Carpet Bag)? What kind of decor/entertainment do you find in there?
How open is Ishmael to new experiences? To new people? How do you think he views humanity in general?
Any examples of humor? Foreshadowing?
If given a choice between sharing a bed with a stranger or braving an uncertain wintery night, which would you take?
Anything else you'd like to add about the previous/next chapter would be great!

Hope you're staying warm and enjoying the read




posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 08:34 AM
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originally posted by: AnkhMorpork
a reply to: zosimov

Thirdly, as I was being led straight to the contemplation of the ocean regarding it's strange and almost mystic allure to people of all kinds, along with a good explanation of his desire to set off on a whaling voyage, I also had the sense of being forced to consider the possibility that there were two narratives running parallel to one another, the other one of which was of an allegorical nature, as if the whale and endless processions of the whale, while forming a phantom menace in the minds eye, is also a "hump" and a "snow hill in the air", as the chapter ends.

It makes me wonder what he's really up to in the telling of this story, which reads as if reading the book version of a lost video horror story, with a maritime-inspired foreboding not unlike the movie Jaws, as we flyover the scene, and are equally drawn, as he was, in sympathetic harmony with the promise of an ocean voyage.

Where is he hoping to take us?

Which only lends to the whole story, the desire to read on bravely, but questioningly, and wondering if he isn't speaking in metaphors half the time with an almost hypnotic aim and intent.

Here we go...


Ankh, I really love this comment. Have you taken this any further with another read? Any new ideas? Also, what do you think Melveille meant by calling the whale a "hooded phantom", and a "snow hill in the air"?



posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 12:59 PM
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originally posted by: zosimov

Have you taken this any further with another read? Any new ideas? Also, what do you think Melveille meant by calling the whale a "hooded phantom", and a "snow hill in the air"?


Well I got a little bit distracted, but will to return to it to be all ready for a Christmas day departure of the Pequod.

Hooded phantom and snow hill in the air in the same sentence as a description of the whale, appears to me to represent a pointer to Moby Dick's nature, as an obscured (hooded) phantom, which means an apparition or specter, to which I would add the idea of the hoodwink, if the perception is obscured by hooded eyes or perceptions, and "snow hill in the air" is an image of the high pure hill in the air, or of God's domain, aka "Zion". It's the image of a snow-capped mount, raised high above.

Bear in mind that the placement of the story in history, is between a highly contested election who's motives were duplicitous and suspect and what was probably an unjust war (history repeating and foreshadowing our own), in the middle again of which rises processions of the whale as a hooded phantom and snow hill in the air.

This to me represents the idea that God keeps coming in succession and resides forever pure and incorruptible in a holy mount that's both frightening and an unknown and obscured apparition or specter (hooded phantom) that's as pure as the driven snow, yet like the great whale, in possession of great size and might.

It's an ominous foreboding, as well as an example of a wicked sense of humor, mirth and irony, since we're aware that a "whale" awaits us, we who are about to embark on a voyage to find it, and then presumably try to fight and kill it if we can.

The aim of his biting mirth and humor is, I think, intended to make God laugh, and the God within us to also laugh, at the absurdity and folly of fallen and ignorant man in battle with God's essential goodness and righteousness. The humor arises when the hood of the hoodwink is removed, and the phantom is perceived as a snow hill in the air.

edit on 10-12-2016 by AnkhMorpork because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 01:27 PM
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a reply to: AnkhMorpork

Yes, awesome response.

And this would align perfectly with the later chapter The Whiteness of the Whale.

Great points, thank you!



posted on Dec, 12 2016 @ 09:23 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Hi Dan00, so I promised a bit more info regarding Melville and Hawthorne's friendship. Here it goes..



The two authors met through a mutual friend one August afternoon in 1850, when Melville (already more than half-way through writing Moby Dick) was visiting his family's farm in Pittsfield MA. Hawthorne and his family had rented a small cottage in nearby Lenox.

The party of 6 (the above mentioned authors, another-bad-author, two publishers and a doctor) headed toward Monument Mountain for a climb and a picnic. A thunderstorm caught them off-guard and forced them to find shelter under an outcropping of rocks. The doctor produced from his medical bag a bottle of champagne, and a silver mug for each. They discussed local poets, and the pedantic author Matthews recited a 30 minute poem. Once the rain had slackened, they headed back to the doctor's cottage for dinner and lively conversation (the physical inferiority of Americans to English was a subject vigorously debated, a sea serpent which had recently been spotted in the NY harbor, the latest scientific news, among other things).

After dinner, they were joined by another who convinced all to hop into carriages to visit a local attraction called the Icy-Glen. the leader of the party took a treacherous route (a bit drunk) and they scrambed over rocky precipices but did make it safely down. They didn't reach their destination (the Melvill farm) until 11 pm. By the end of the day, the men had each made an excellent impression on the other. Melville had decided that Hawthorne was the most fascinating American he had ever met, and Hawthorne had (quite uncharacteristically, recluse that he was) decided to invite Melville to stay with him and his family for a few days in his cottage. So began a short-lived but intense friendship between two truly remarkable men.

My imagination reels trying to picture this amazing afternoon. I'll write a bit more soon, hope you enjoyed!
edit on 12-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 12 2016 @ 11:26 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

I got all the info from Hershel Parker's Bio on Melville. Great book!



posted on Dec, 13 2016 @ 06:27 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Thanks, zosimov. I enjoyed that very much and I enjoy puzzling over how those two might have hit it off. They look like a pair, don't they? In 1850 Hawthorne would have been 46 and Melville 31. Melville lost his father and eventually went to sea, Hawthorne lost his father when he was away at sea.

Thanks again.




posted on Dec, 14 2016 @ 01:20 PM
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originally posted by: Dan00
a reply to: zosimov

Thanks, zosimov. I enjoyed that very much and I enjoy puzzling over how those two might have hit it off. They look like a pair, don't they? In 1850 Hawthorne would have been 46 and Melville 31. Melville lost his father and eventually went to sea, Hawthorne lost his father when he was away at sea.

Thanks again.





Dan00, thank you for the interesting info! I'll write a bit more later but I can't help but wonder if there is any reason these men's destinies were interwoven in such an impactful way.
They sure do look like a pair.

More to come, friend.



posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 11:15 PM
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a reply to: Dan00

Dan00 I appreciated your comments on the sea connection and it was one of several interesting convergences of the friends' fates.

Melville and Hawthorne met on a Monday in August. On Wednesday morning, Melville sat down and read some of Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse, which had been a recent gift from his aunt, and on Thursday morning his friends, still visiting from New York, convinced him over cigars to write a review of Hawthorne that they could publish.

(Dan00: Melville's publisher friend- one of the party described above, Evert Duyckinck, knew Poe btw)

Here is a link to the review Melville wrote:

people.virginia.edu...

He wrote it anonymously as "A Virginian," and the Hawthornes loved the review without knowing who had written it. Sophia Hawthorne wrote to Duyckinck about the "extraordinary review" that "The Virginian is the first person who has ever in print apprehended Mr Hawthorne." She went on to write,
"I keep constantly reading over & over the inspired utterances & marvel more and more that the word has at last been said which I have so long hoped to hear, & said so well. There is such a generous, noble enthusiasm as I have not before found in any critic of any writer. While bringing out the glory of his subject, (excuse me, but I am speaking as an indifferent person) he surrounds himself with a glory. The freshness of primeval nature is in that man, & the true Promethean fire is in him. Who can he be, so fearless, so rich in heart, of such fine intuition? Is his name altogether hidden?" (Parker, Hershel Melville Bio Vol 1 p 769).

Incidently, Melville's criticism of Washington Irving in the review made a huge impression on the aging and ill Irving. Parker wrote that Irving "suffered greatly" from it. Irving was particularly upset that the author had used his own words against him. I don't think Melville ever knew of the impact it made.

Meanwhile, Melville and Hawthorne had spent some good times together. On one occasion, Melville had brought over (unknowing of its contents) a package from Duyckinck that contained all of Melville's books, which Hawthorne read laying in new-mown hay in his barn one afternoon. About Mardi he wrote of "depths here and there that compel a man to swim for his life."

I'll write more later


edit on 16-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 11:19 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Well,

Thank you again. I am blown away that we have such access to that sort of detail about the "royalty" of American Lit.

Digesting,,,



posted on Dec, 15 2016 @ 11:20 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

ketsuko, what did you take away from the Lazarus/Divas ruminations of Ishmael? Your take on that parable would be most welcome. I always wonder at that parable, anyway. It's one of the few descriptions of hell (and its proximity to-but also infinite divide from- heaven).

Hope you're enjoying the book!

I was cracking up when Ishmael met Queequeg! You all?


edit on 15-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 16 2016 @ 09:51 AM
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Alright, so I have an (optional) assignment for anyone interested in taking-- pick one of the following topics to expand on. I plan to write about one, and would love to read yours! Here are some topics to consider:

*Write a character analysis on Ishmael based on the first 5 chapters of Moby Dick.

*How does Melville use tone and foreshadowing to set the scene for this great tragedy?

*How does Melville use Biblical lore to supplement the text? How much is left unsaid but implied by using this method?

*Pick one of the following themes and write about how Melville expands on the theme in the text: the color white as symbolic of both purity and death (and both as representations of God), isolation vs community, civilized (Christian) vs savage (pagan), fate and free will.

*Write your own bill of providence. Which event in your life would you choose as the headline? Which two impactful events would you wedge it between, and why?

*Anyone willing to guess/write about the allegory Melville is setting up?

I hope some of you take the bait! Would love to read your thoughts on one of the above topics


btw-- been noticing some of my spelling mistakes-- I am a terrible speller! So forgive me in advance please

edit on 16-12-2016 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 16 2016 @ 10:22 AM
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originally posted by: Dan00
a reply to: zosimov

Well,

Thank you again. I am blown away that we have such access to that sort of detail about the "royalty" of American Lit.

Digesting,,,



Isn't is marvelous? I was astounded when I started to read all the interwoven details, strange coincidences, significant events, and chance meetings in Melville's bio.



posted on Dec, 19 2016 @ 07:39 PM
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I find it interesting how the real whale upon which this story is based, would swim along side ships but if attacked would then and only then sink the ship, as it had many times before.



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