I'm behind schedule already on my posting and reading, which is actually not that unusual for me. This time my excuse is that I had limited time to read, and when I had a couple of hours here and there, I had to choose between working out and reading Moby Dick. As enticing as Moby Dick is (and I'm not being sarcastic for once), I chose to exercise. I just kept telling myself, "My health is more important than Moby Dick. My health is more important then Moby Dick. My health is more important than Moby Dick," and off to the gym I went.
Likewise, I needed to employ a mantra to get through this section of the reading: "Pretend it's non-fiction. Pretend it's non-fiction. Pretend it's non-fiction." Because, really, that's what a good portion of this section is. I had to switch from a high level of fun quirkiness in the first part to textbook mode in this second part. The good things is, I rather like reading textbooks, so my feelings are still rather positive towards Melville's "draught of a draught" that is Moby Dick. But the cetology chapter signaled that it was time to shift into learning mode.
Aside from learning about different members of the whale family, the hierarchy of power on a whale boat, and historical accounts of whale hunting within the novel, I did a little outside research to be able to find my way around a boat. Quarter deck, mast-head, starboard, poop, etc. were all vague in my mind, so I found a couple of diagrams that were helpful:
I also found myself wishing I had some sort of illustrated version of the book. I know that Ishmael tells us the only way to really know what a sperm whale looks like is to see it for ourselves, and risk death in doing so, but I don't foresee whale-hunting in my future, so instead I searched the sea of Google images:
How bad can he be? He kind of looks like he's smiling. Maybe this is what Moby Dick looked like after he munched on Radney.
It wouldn't be quite accurate if I only focused on the inundation of information in these chapters. Melville does thrown in some peculiarly dramatic stuff here. Much of it reminded me of Shakespeare, which in turn reminded me a bit of Ulysses. I had earlier been thinking that Melville's writing seemed to me an unlikely combination of Dickens and Joyce, but I wanted to wait and see how the rest of the book played out. That Joyce vibe is coming in pretty strong now, albeit without the stream-of-consciousness mumbo-jumbo. But when it comes to the number of allusions and purges of random knowledge, I see similarities. But I'm not ready to write a paper on it or anything. I wonder if Joyce read Moby Dick? It's the wit in the writing that reminds me of Dickens. And some of the humor.
I loved Ahab's little pep talk to get the sailors all pumped about finding The Whale. I did not realize he was capable of saying so much at once, so it was a little shocking. The chapter about the whiteness of the whale was interesting and beautifully written. I for one have always been afraid of white--the stains show!
I keep looking for some deeper meaning in Ahab's hunt for the whale that ate his leg off. But Ishmael says specifically that this tale is NOT a fable or an allegory. Shucks! But I don't entirely believe him yet. I'm still looking. I have a monomania of my own.