2 December 2016

Moby Dick Book Club: Week 5


Sperm whales are very quickly terrifying me. I don't know if I ever really feared whales but add them to the list now since they have a "continual taste for human blood," (180)- does anybody know if these are facts or what? On page 205 there's a great passage:

"The point is this: The Sperm Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, judiciously malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy, and sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale has done it."

I may have mentioned this before (and will certainly mention it again) but Meg and I were obsessed with a quote we once read on how the sperm whale had "an almost human like sense of vengeance" and this confirms that... 

I liked the section on usurping Captain Ahab. It seems impossible that they'd have such political order on a feral boat like that but I would have started that petition the second I smelt a revenge trip. 

I LOVED CHAPTER 49. That may be the last time I say that throughout this book so I'm going to enjoy it. I identify with Ishmael so much in this chapter because he gets back to the ship after the whale hunt like what. the. fuck. 

"There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke," (227)

It's easy to forget that Ishmael has no whaling experience and now that he's been in the action he can't actually believe what he's signed up for. I love him asking all the other guys if what happened out there was normal and feeling sick to discover that it was all very routine. The passage where he keeps saying "considering... and considering..." and then decides he needs to go write his will. How jokes is he????


I am no longer ahead of the book club ... I am now reading in real time ... I already know it is going to be the struggle of a lifetime to read 10 chapters and write this blurb in one week.

I like how in Chapter 41 "Moby Dick" they talk about how all the other sea creatures are scared of the sperm whale. They do seem terrifying just in their size alone. Especially when they apparently have the taste for human flesh.

They also mention in this chapter how sperm whales have attacked ships before ... In In the Heart of the Sea they talk about what probably really happened to the Essex. They interview this famous sperm whale researcher (Hal Whitehead) based out of Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He said what probably happened was that the whale hit the boat by accident, was taken by surprise / was angered, and then struck the boat a second time. It was not an act of vengeance after years of watching his peers be harpooned to death. 

This line is terrifying, "Moby Dick had reaped away Ahab's leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field." No wonder the other creatures are terrified of him.

But really, my new all-time favourite line has got to be, "That his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad." This is the shit I signed up for.

Chapter 41 is easily my favourite so far. The also mention in this chapter how Ahab is essentially only on this voyage for revenge. This definitely makes me think of the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou by Wes Anderson ... the great line where after the captain's friend is eaten by the jaguar and they ask him, "That's an endangered species at most. What would be the scientific purpose of killing it?" and Zissou replies, "Revenge."

Definitely didn't expect there to be any footnotes in this book ... but here we are in Chapter 42 ... I liked the one where they talk about why people are so scared / uneasy about white objects. 

I loved when they are talking about charting sperm whales and describing their migratory patterns ... they say they swim "mostly in veins." 

I also liked the line, "he sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms." I feel this sort of obsession is missing from my life ... 

I also love when they start complaining about how many people just waste oil and how insulting that is for the whalers. They go through so much just so people are able to light their lamps. It made me crack a smile (first one in 200 pages). 

AHHHHH!! In Chapter 45 they actually mention the real people this happened to! Melville's openly references the whaleship Essex and the captain and first mate of the ship!

This section of chapters also ends with a really badass line: "Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost."



  1. I started to enjoy reading this again in this section. I enjoyed the plot development. I really like Ishmael moments of clarity when he sees Ahab, and the journey for what it really is. In chapter 41 he he has a lot of these reflections and I find them interesting. I really liked the line, " For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events, -as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to". To me this really captured the essence of what the energy on the boat must have felt like.
    I was happy to read the adventures of chapter 47. Following those events, I had another laugh out loud moment at the beginning of chapter 48 when Ishmael finally gets back on the boat and basically says to Queequeg, "wtf just happened and does this kind of thing happen often?" Queequeg calmly and confidently replies, "yes". This was a funny reminder again that Ishmael is in way over his head!

    1. This was for sure my fave section so far and I LOVE the last chapter where Ishmael is like what the frigging fuck. I read an article saying how this was deemed one of the "funniest books of the 1800s" and I can honestly kind of see that...

    2. Becca you are carrying this book club, so thank you! Also I really like what you said about those moments of clarity where Ismael is just like "what have I gotten myself into it." I almost just deleted Meg's comment saying how she can see that this book was one of the funniest of the 1800s.

    3. IT IS FUNNY SOMETIMES OKAY. We barely have anything left. Don't take the humour away.