Category Archives: Moby Dick

Moby Dick Review

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Moby Dick aka The Whale

Published: 1851
Pages: ~509
Completed: Yes
Enjoyed: Yes

Seriousness: Philosophical; occasional light moments, but mostly fairly serious.
Genre: Adventure
Difficulty: Tough, unless you’re an avid reader who doesn’t mind digressing into musings.
Rating: M – little outright violence, but not really a kiddies book.

Recommend: Yes, though it’s a long book.

Up next … appropriately, Notes From A Small Island, by Bill Bryson

(though I may look into Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, which is later in my randomised list, but is close at hand, as Rose Red is currently reading it).

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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Moby Dick, Review


They seek him here…

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…just to snatch an allusion to the Scarlet Pimpernel – which, oddly, is not on The List (a pity – I personally enjoyed it very much).

The long-hunted white whale, Moby Dick, finally makes an appearance in the last 30-odd pages of the book. In keeping with the ominous portents dropped hither and yon previous, the chase is long, difficult, violent, dangerous, and ultimately tragic. I won’t give any more detail so as not to spoil the ending.

I will note, however, that besides the “common knowledge” that this is a cautionary tale about a man driven to destruction by his obsession, it also covers a wide variety of issues that are still relevant in today’s world (some 160 or so years later). Themes like isolation vs. community, democracy vs. autocracy, action with meaning vs. mechanical behaviour (and more if you believe the writer of the introduction). It’s good to be reminded, now and again, that other people in other places and other times have struggled with these issues. It’s also good to experience them through learning about something that seems crazy and alien to our own worlds: I’ve never been to sea, let alone set off in a large row-boat to throw harpoons at a large sperm whale. Thankfully!

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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Moby Dick


Common knowledge vs Truth

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After a rather busy few weeks, I should really say something more about Moby Dick.

It’s interesting comparing what “everyone knows” about a famous work with what’s actually there. I suspect most people who have not read the book, if asked, would say that it is about Captain Ahab and his fanatical pursuit of the mysterious white whale that ate his leg. They may even be able to quote the opening sentence (“Call me Ishmael.”).

Actually reading the book (which is reasonably long – I’m about 60% through), I would say it is an occasionally-dreamy philosophical look at the life aboard an Nantucket whaling vessel. Early on, the book was very strongly from “Ishmael’s” perspective, but since going to sea it has varied between that, and following various crew members as they discuss their duties. There is much musing on life; the sea; whales in general; the process of chasing, catching, and dismembering a whale; and other such details. Ahab’s mania is almost a “macguffin” – something that motivates the plot, differing only in that it is not really interchangeable with anything else.

It does make me wonder. What other things does “everyone” know that don’t accurately reflect the truth of the thing in question?

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Posted by on November 13, 2010 in Moby Dick