ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
ambrmerlinus ([personal profile] ambrmerlinus) wrote2011-04-04 10:16 pm

Moby Dick, or The Rant: chapters 1 and 2

Due to popular demand (read: 3 people), I have decided to read Moby Dick.

Chapter One

pg. 1: Call me Ishmael.

Probably the most famous opening in English-language literature, apart from "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." But the first page also gives us this quote:

pg. 1: Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Emphasis mine, because seriously, are all great literary protagonists secretly Hot Topic kids? On a related note, why the hell didn't I read this when I was 13?

The rest of the chapter is devoted to Ishmael explaining that he is a schoolteacher who gets depressed every once in a while and goes to sea. He makes special note of the fact that he goes to sea as a sailor and not a passenger. He's a big fan of getting paid rather than paying, you see, a philosophy I can totally relate to. (Again, why have I not read this already?)

Ishmael also spends a lot of time talking about how excellent the ocean is. I get the feeling that the ocean is to Moby Dick as architecture is to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Please prove me wrong, Herman Melville. Please.

Chapter Two recounts Ishmael's journey through downtown New Bedford. He wanted to take a boat to Nantucket, but he just missed the last boat, and there won't be another one 'til Monday. Having little-to-no money in his pockets, he seeks out the cheapest possible place to stay for the next two nights.

Why does Ishmael want to go to Nantucket?

pg. 8: Where else but Nantucket did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give chase to the Leviathan?

Oh, racism. How quaint!

Granted, he's not calling the Native American population of Nantucket stupid, backwards, or ugly, and he is describing them using the language of his time, but it's still really, really awkward to read.

Please don't be this bad when Queequeg shows up. Please don't be this bad when Queequeg shows up. Please don't be this bad when Queequeg shows up...

Ishmael wanders past a couple inns, but decides they're way too bright and cheerful for his pocket. He finds a third potential place to stay, and stumbles inside.

pg. 9: It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of DOom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the preacher's text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out...


So after that mis-step, Ishmael finds an actual, cheap, creepy inn to spend the next two nights at. "The Spouter-Inn," owned by one Peter Coffin. Melville lampshades his own lack of subtlety in naming the innkeeper, which I appreciate.

Ishmael's opinion of the inn?

pg. 10: It was a queer sort of place...

Oh, you and me, we're gonna have a grand ol' time, aren't we, Ishmael?

He blathers on about how cold the wind is for another page or so (I can attest to the wind; it's like Icewind Dale down here), and then into the inn we go.

That's it for chapters one and two. As a reward for reading this far, have a stupid comic.

it's funny because words meant different things back in the day


Other adventures in Moby Dick reading include:
Part One (You Are Here)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen
Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen
Part Sixteen
Part Seventeen
Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen
Part Twenty
Part Twenty-One
Part Twenty-Two