Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- Part 2

Well, it was an eventful week in our reading.  We started with Father Mapple's sermon which I thought was very well written.  Full of blatant, unapologetic speculation on the part of the preacher in  a way that would probably grind on me if I were actually in the pew, but in the context of this novel I thought it was well done.  It also serves the function (I would argue the sole function.  There wasn't a huge call in the narrative for a sermon at this point) of indicating what kind of a story we are to have.  It's to brim with symbolism and have spiritual significance.

Queequeg and Ishmael enter into the service of a ship in a rather raucous manner.  In Nantucket, they eat a good deal of chowder.  They also cuddle.

Queequeg's ethnicity is to actual South Pacific Islanders what Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado is to actual Japanese culture.  Queequeg has a little idol (which, to illustrate how my brain works, was immediately cast in my brain as the Trilogy of Terror doll.  See photo above) who tells Queequeg (off camera) that Ishmael should choose the ship they are to voyage on.  Ishmael happens upon the Pequod and a plurality of captains.  Ahab looms in the narrative to come like the whale and the voyage.  Melville was fond of looming in ways our modern, cynical society would probably not be as forgiving toward.

As my friend Christopher pointed out, there seems to be an anti-western religious hypocrisy message when Bildad "concerns" himself over the welfare of Ishmael's soul and attempts to insure that the man doesn't become to worldly minded.  They hire Ishmael and seem open to his companion while still unseen (who, for them, is looming in the coming narrative.)  We hear about Ahab, his missing leg, peripherally about the whale, and that Ahab is a family man.

Ishmael returns to the Inn where Queequeg is observing Ramadan (see first sentence of the previous paragraph) by sitting on the floor with his idol, not eating, speaking, and presumably "holding it."  Ishmael gives further example of his concern for a pagan over "his own people" (as I mentioned last week, there seems to be a well meaning message from a very much less enlightened age here) by breaking down the door.  Our two captains have misgivings about hiring Queequeg until he exercises his skill and we now seem primed for our voyage. 

Next week, we shall read through the chapter titled Queen Mab, which, in my text, takes us up to page 126. 

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