Monday, July 2, 2012

Waiting to go to Sea


Moby-Dick – Herman Melville



Chapter 1 – Loomings
The narrator, Ishmael, explains how he desires to go to sea “whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in [his] soul,” and opines how man, no matter where he is, ultimately craves to go where there is water.  He refers to the image we see in rivers and oceans as the “ungraspable phantom of life: and this is the key to it all.”

Chapter 2 – The Carpet-Bag
Ishmael leaves Manhattan for Cape Horn and the Pacific to be a sailor aboard a whaling ship, but must first stay in New Bedford until he can leave for Nantucket. 

Chapter 3 – The Spouter-Inn
Although no vacancy at the Spouter-Inn, Ishmael may share a bed with an unknown harpooner.  Anxious to meet him, he learns that he is out peddling heads in town; Ishmael is sure he is a dangerous cannibal.  When the harpooner comes to bed, he threatens to kill Ishmael until the landlord enters and proclaims Queequeg harmless.

Chapter 4 – The Counterpane
The next morning the men must wake, but Queequeg has his heavy, tattooed arm over Ishmael’s body - a strange situation that reminds him of a childhood experience in which he felt or saw a phantom near his bed.  Once he forces him to wake, Queequeg seems to be a mighty gentle and polite native.

Chapter 5 – Breakfast
The whalers at the Inn meet for breakfast and eat in silence, while Ishmael witnesses Queequeg coolly use his harpoon to fetch food at the table.

Chapter 6 – The Street
Ishmael takes a walk outside the Inn and gives a description of New Bedford and the kind of men who become whalers; you can tell where they come from by what they wear.

Chapter 7 – The Chapel
Ishmael enters the Whaleman’s Chapel and reads the plaques of those who have given their lives for whaling.  He knows that he is capable of meeting the same end like those whose names he reads; he considers the understanding of life and death.

Chpater 8 – The Pulpit
Father Maple, the chaplain, an old seaman himself, arrives and ascents the pulpit very much like he would his ship when going to sea.  The pulpit, Ishmael proclaims, is the “earth’s foremost part: all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world…Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”

 Chapter 9 – The Sermon
The sermon is about Jonah, his disobedience and hard-heartedness towards God, which leads to his repentance.  Father Maple, explaining that Jonah does not beg for escape from punishment but instead praises God for his just chastisement, tells the congregation of whalers: “Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah.”

Chapter 10 – A Bosom Friend
Describing his new friend, Queequeg, Ishmael says, “You cannot hide the soul.  Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart.”  He calls him a “George Washington cannibalistically developed.”  Queequeg called Ishmael his bosom friend, and then with an odd justification, Ishmael practices Queequeg’s pagan religion of worshiping his wooden idol.

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