Still, I'm going to make an exception with Moby Dick as I'm taking part in this readalong. Which I'm actually enjoying. Thinking about everyone reading the same book at the same time. Somewhere in the world. It's ever so motivating.
And anyway it's quite a hefty book. Meaning if I waited till the end you wouldn't be hearing from me for another month. Or maybe two.
I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by my initial experience of MD. It's been a fairly easy and enjoyable read thus far. Interesting. Quirky. Descriptive. Zippy.
The chapters are short which make the reading easy. You feel like you're moving along quite speedily. And this echoes the observations of our narrator, Ishmael, looking around, taking everything in.
And so begins my list of themes running through it: acceptance versus prejudice. Perception versus reality. Friendship and intimacy versus scorn and rejection. Tradition versus humanity.
Of course you can't escape the constant biblical references that litter this work. These may indeed be the point of the work? I will learn that in good time.
They begin with the names of the characters:
Ishmael = God hears. Abraham's son by Hagar. Sent away for disrespecting Isaac, the promised seed and Abraham's son by Sarah.
Peleg = Division. In the line from Shem to Abraham.
Bildad = One of Job's three companions. A descendant of Shuah, the son of Abraham by Keturah.
Ahab = King of the northern kingdom of Israel. Married to a pagan wife, Jezebel.
Elijah = One of the foremost prophets of Israel.
The fiery sermon by Father Mapple Rose about Jonah and the whale then sets the tone: Jonah disobeys God. God’s reacts. "And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah."
The woes pronounced by MP will, I feel, be significant for the rest of the tale. But to what extent, I cannot say.
All I can say is that it would appear that Melville is lamenting the state of mankind. "It's a wicked world in all meridians." "Bildad... had come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's religion is one thing and this practical world quite another." "We good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things and not think ourselves so superior to other mortals, pagans and what not…. Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked and sadly need mending."
And so I continue. I've yet to meet Ahab. And methinks there are many adventures awaiting me as the Pequod sets sail...