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Ahab to Mr. Starbuck in "MobyDick"

 
 
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 01:21 am
(in the captains quarters)

Ahab:

"Why are you wearing that long face, are you not game for MobyDick?"

Starbucks:

"...I came here to hunt whales not my commander's vengeance. How many barrels of sperm oil will that vengeance yield? What will it fetch on the New Bedford market?"

Ahab:

"Money's not the measure, man. It will fetch me a great premium, 'here' (Ahab, pointing to his heart)."

Starbucks:

"To be enraged at a dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct is blasphemous."

Ahab:

"Speak not to me of blasphemy, man, I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. ..Look 'ere Starbuck... All visible objects are but as paste-board masks. Some inscrutable yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding of their features. The white whale tasks me. He heaps me! Yet he is but a mask. 'Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate. The malignant thing that has plaqued and frightened man since time began. The thing that mauls and mutilates our race - not killing us outright but letting us live on with half a heart and half a lung!"
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William
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 04:57 am
@Pythagorean,
Pyth, great excerpt. What do you think Melville was alluding to in his using the "White Whale" to represent. Taking into consideration the mixture of he crew aboard this ill fated voyage to reach reconsiliation or even the score so to speak. Man's insatiable search for justice alluding to the dominate "white control" in the world? This is just a notion, if you don't mind, I would like to hear what you think? I do not mean to cast aspersions on the white race. I am white myself, but I think it is significant in that the whale was "white". Just a thought.

Thanks,
William
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 05:51 am
@William,
William, I appreciate your thoughts..



It is my understanding that Melville held that the objects or things in the natural world were representations and not completely real things. These natural things come and go, they drift and change before our eyes. But there is something behind them which drives them, some natural motor. This inner nature is blasphemous precisely becuase it is purely natural. I understand Melville to be saying that behind these masks of appearances there lurks nothing but pure evil. And that is the status of nature. Captain Ahab was waging a war against evil itself in the guise of MobyDick.

--
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 07:10 am
@William,
William;74253 wrote:
Pyth, great excerpt. What do you think Melville was alluding to in his using the "White Whale" to represent
Ishmael gives an entire chapter on the subject in Chapter 42 -- he's quite explicit about it.

Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville - Chapter 42 - The Whiteness of The Whale :: American Literature, Classic Books and Short Stories

In addition to all the positive and negative symbolism of whiteness, it serves two other roles. First, it allows Moby Dick to be tracked and identified -- to every passing ship Ahab asks the same thing: "Hast seen the white whale?"

Second, the novel was partly inspired by the true story of an aggressive harpoon-laden white sperm whale named Mocha Dick.

Mocha Dick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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William
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 02:54 pm
@Pythagorean,
There is so much that can be said. It could be interpreted that the fact that the whale was white, it represented to Ahab the inflicting evil that haunted him an that if he could conquer it, it would indeed cleanse him. He makes so many sybolistic references to "whiteness" as to purity, yet in this demon that represented the "stain" of humanity which he references to the Polar Bear, the shark and the albatross which represents the "ball and chain" around the neck of the purity of "white". That represents his obsession in that cleansing of his own soul and the battle between good and evil. It is in the white so deceptive that lurks that evil in the White Whale a reflection on Ahab himself in that he could not witness in himself such evil.

The gold coin represented temptation in that it turned the head of the multitude of the diverse assemblage of the crew aligning them and compelling them to follow suit in the quest for revenge giving it meaning and reward such as the "spoils of war" as it were blinding them even in the purity of the sun darking it purifying affect (of which was noted in then excerpt Paul quoted in the "Moby Dick" thread).

William
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 04:52 pm
@Pythagorean,
In my mind the whiteness of the whale is most effective in portraying the whale as old, an old disgruntled creature of the sea -- just as Ahab is.

The whiteness probably came first from the reference to Mocha Dick. But because the novel is largely a work of symbolism, it's probable that Melville added on all the different facets of meaning. He makes it easy for us with Ishmael's meditation on whiteness, because it shows that he thought of every possible association with whiteness -- and therein prevents us from seizing on one of them.
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William
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 05:32 pm
@Pythagorean,
I agree, but the peg leg was of the Whale, the scar was white representing his "infection" due to the life he had pursued in the killing of such a grand "beast". It think the entire book was about retribution. IMO.

William
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 08:24 pm
@Pythagorean,
As best I can tell, the book is not so much about retribution as it is about a dark, self-destructive obsessiveness. Ahab sees his own end in his quest, he never speaks of looking beyond catching the whale, and when he speaks of his life he speaks only of regret. He renounces God (not perhaps specifically, but it's obvious that God isn't a source of any comfort or motivation), and is bent on dragging himself and everyone around him to hell. Melville makes a number of allusions to Dante's Inferno in the book; and Ahab in a striking way resembles the Satan from Paradise Lost.
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 08:48 pm
@Pythagorean,
As far as alluding to Milton and Dante, two authors whose works have never crossed my path, I am at a loss to make a comparison.

William
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 08:54 pm
@Pythagorean,
Dante wrote The Divine Comedy (he wrote it roughly between 1310 - 1320), and it chronicles his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

John Milton was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and his greatest work is the epic poem Paradise Lost. In this poem Satan is a complex and tragic character. Two of his most famous lines could just as easily have been spoken by Ahab:

Tis better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven

and

Which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven


I studied both authors and poems when I was in college, took a year long course in Dante and a semester in Milton. Great, great works of literature, just timeless.
0 Replies
 
William
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jul, 2009 09:09 pm
@Pythagorean,
I know of their work, I just have never had the occasion to read either.

william
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 10:58 am
@Pythagorean,
Anyway, retribution is the main plot mover, but the story is about the relentless darkness and monomania of Ahab
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William
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 11:52 am
@Pythagorean,
Yes, I do agree and why all who followed his madness to survive perished, save 1, who was there to record it all. Melville is Ishmael.
william
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 01:10 pm
@Pythagorean,
The narrator is Ishmael, but he's as much a character in the story as anyone. I think Melville created Ishmael's voice with a lot of irony, so I wouldn't call them the same.
William
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 02:40 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;74595 wrote:
The narrator is Ishmael, but he's as much a character in the story as anyone. I think Melville created Ishmael's voice with a lot of irony, so I wouldn't call them the same.


I can agree with that. We didn't exactly live with the guy, but his mind is clearly available which allows us to examine it, so to speak. That is one of the great puzzles that has often evaded me and that is where they gather the thoughts that enable them to so freely offer a narrative of such magnitude, such as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, or Ryn's Atlas Shrugged , and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (I still have no idea of what that was about) Ha. Smile They are definitely "plugged in" to something.

Thanks,
William

PS; Just had a thought; "The literary Musical" alludeing to the mystical "MUSE". Hmmm?
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 05:22 pm
@William,
William;74611 wrote:
That is one of the great puzzles that has often evaded me and that is where they gather the thoughts that enable them to so freely offer a narrative of such magnitude, such as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, or Ryn's Atlas Shrugged , and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (I still have no idea of what that was about) Ha. Smile They are definitely "plugged in" to something.


If you are ranking Atlas Shrugged among such classics as The Canterbury Tales then I highly recommend you find the time for Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost. Rand's book has to be one of the most monstrously awful texts ever penned. The only thing she was plugged into was a misunderstanding of Nietzsche and arrogance.

As for Ishmael - is that the character's actual name? As I recall, the book begins, "Call me Ishmael" which is quite different from "I am Ishmael". If with go with the Biblical reference, taking the name Ishmael would signify that the character is cast out from what he feels to be his home, abandoned.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 05:35 pm
@Pythagorean,
He says to call him Ishmael, but he also relates stories in which others call him Ishmael (and as I recall he never intimates that he has any other name). As for being cast out and abandoned, he seems to choose that for himself -- except in the very last line of the book he calls himself an orphan.

Haven't read any Rand. The Canterbury Tales is a work of ungodly brilliance. You've got to read it in the original Middle English, and preferably out loud, to really sense the irony and color.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 05:42 pm
@Aedes,
Okay - see, I've never read Moby Dick, so I had no idea.

Don't read Rand. Seriously. In fact, if you began Atlas, my guess is that you would abandon the effort before the halfway mark and pity, for the rest of your days, all who have trudged through that mammoth waste of ink and paper.

Sorry, William, I don't mean to disparage your tastes - I know a great many people who rank it as their favorite. It is wildly popular, after all. It's just that I cannot find any redeeming literary qualities in the work, and the underlying outlook on life strikes me as juvenile.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 06:25 pm
@Pythagorean,
William is a big fan of many of the 19th century novels that are on my short list to read, so we've enjoyed comparing notes lately.

DT, if you're interested in Moby Dick, the free audio recording of it on librivox.org is outstanding. It took me about 2 weeks to finish it.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Jul, 2009 06:29 pm
@Aedes,
I am very much interested in Moby Dick, but this pile of books next to my bed precludes my beginning that text. A good portion of it is re-reading - the resulting of poor reading habits as a youngster.
0 Replies
 
 

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