Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Moby Dick, or the Whale

Moby Dick or the Whale by Herman Melville
Modern Library (1992), Edition: Illustrated edition, Hardcover, 864 pages
Recorded Books, LLC (1987), Edition: 18 CDs, Audio CD

'There she blows! There she blows!',
as the sailors cry when whales are on sight, and the sleeping ship sparks: down the whale boats, ready with the harpoons, chase the whales (or only one whale, Moby Dick the White Whale).

FIRST BLOW: Beyond the symbolic / religious meanings of this book, there are the men (Ahab, the captain; Ishmael, the witness), and the Nature (the sea and the whales), and the journey (the first teacher of humankind).
Ahab says: 'but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that's tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity. God only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor brains beat too much for that.' (p. 806-7)

SECOND BLOW: The Sea and the Life.
'There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.' (p. 329)
'At such times, under an abated sun; afloat all day upon smooth, slow heaving swells; ... and so sociably mixing with the soft waves themselves, ... these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw conceals a remorseless fang.' (p. 703)

LAST BLOW: At the end Starbuck (Ahab's ship mate) begs Ahab:
'Oh, my Captain, my Captain - noble heart - got not! - got not' (p. 810);
but fate is made, and Walt Whitman's written:
'O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done! (from Leaves of Grass).

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