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Moby Dick chapters 16-41...

Moby Dick chapters 16-41

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm

Chapter 16

In this chapter we get introduced to the Pequod, the ship Ishmael and Queequeg will sail on. it's a shocking visual, since a substantial part of the ship including her whole rudder has been replaced by whale bones. "a cannibal of a craft" it is called. It seems like the kind of ship Skeletor would sail in -- those who grew up in the 80s get that reference. When I first read this i assumed it was a Romantic description, trying to make the Pequod seem more creepy and foreboding -- and I think it does serve that purpose. But it turns out that whaling ships actually did that. Whale bones are so big and strong, and whale ships would carry spare wood for repairs but they would sometimes run out and end up cutting whale bone into boards and patching the ship with them. 

In this chapter we also meet Peleg and Bildad, the owners of the Pequod. These two claim to be devout Christians but if you read closely, they're scammers. maybe you can explain the good cop/bad cop routine they play in order to get Ishmael to work for a low wage. 


Chapter 17

One of the topics you might discuss on your final essay is how Melville rates as a multiculturalist. In general, he portrays non-Western people, especially Queequeg, in a fairly positive light, but in this chapter Ishmael, who may just be a mouthpiece for Melville, seems to think that this particular cultural tradition is quite ignorant. Ramadan is a Muslim holiday and Queequeg is not a Muslim; the narrator is just using Ramadan to mean a period of religious fasting. One might say that makes Melville a bad multiculturalist, confusing Islam with Queequeg's pagan beliefs, but on the other hand, most Americans in 1852 wouldn't have even known what Ramadan was, so maybe we give him credit for knowing a little something about non-Western cultures?


Chapter 18

Some more of Peleg and Bildad's hypocrisy -- they initially claim to not want Queequeg on the ship because he isn't a Christian, but then they change their minds in a hurry. Why? What do I mean when I say it shows their hypocrisy?


Chapter 19

In this chapter a vagrant approaches Ishmael and Queequeg and warns them of the curse on the ship and the evil of Captain Ahab. In real life, if a strange homeless person approached you on the street and told you not to take your new job because the office building is cursed and the CEO was evil, would you listen to him?


This vagrant, who returns in chapter 21, is named Elijah, which is a biblical reference.


Chapter 25, which I think I didn't ask you to read, is entirely about the industry of whaling. It doesn't touch on the characters or the plot at all. A lot of critics have said that this is terrible writing, that it takes you out of the story. But think about modern stories that use real world knowledge. Movies like the Jurassic Park series, Gravity, and even Fight Club make use of lots of real world information in the telling of their fictional stories. And this might be the first book where the author uses lots of real world knowledge about this world to bring some reality into his stories. Obviously later writers learned to integrate the real world information more smoothly.


Chapter 27, Knights and Squires introduces a lot of significant characters, including some people of color for those of you interested in talking about how Melville portrays people from non-Western cultures.


Chapter 30, Ahab mentions that his pipe gives him no pleasure and he throws it into the sea. Modern readers might say "way to go, Captain Ahab, smoking is a terrible habit" but you should think about it from the perspective of a 19th century reader. Nobody knew smoking was bad and for most men in those days it was a very enjoyable habit. If Ahab is throwing his away, it says something about his state of mind. What?


Chapter 36. In this chapter, Ahab reveals the true mission of the Pequod: to hunt and kill Moby-Dick -- revenge for Moby-Dick biting off his leg in a previous encounter. They're still going to kill some other whales, but only the ones they bump into while they try to track Moby-Dick. Obviously this is not as profitable as just trying to fill up the ship with whale oil as soon as possible, but Ahab is a very charismatic speaker and gets everyone excited about the mission. Only Starbuck, the first mate disagrees with him. He says "Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing (he means an animal) seems blasphemous!" Why would hunting Moby-Dick be madness? Why would it be blasphemous?


Chapter 37 focuses on explicitly Ahab alone in his cabin. Chapter 38 is Starbuck talking to himself. Chapter 39 is Stubb, the second mate "solus" (meaning alone). So let me ask you this -- who is narrating this part of the story? Isn't Ishmael our narrator? But ishmael is not present for any of these private thoughts of these other men -- he certainly isn't invited down into Ahab's cabin! So who is narrating this thing? Come to think of it, when was the last time we heard anything at all from or about Ishmael?


Chapter 40 is strange. It's written like a play, not a novel. Romantics loved to buck conventional wisdom and not play by the rules and, although in 1852, critics said this was just unacceptable, I have the strong impression that this is just Herman Melville refusing to play by the rules of writing a novel.

We also get one or two lines from many minor characters. It's another instance of Melville showing us a highly diverse cast, although Melville sometimes characterizes these sailors with an inaccurate stereotype about their homeland, such as when the sailor from Iceland says he's used to ice floors. What do you think of writing one chapter of a novel as a play, complete with stage directions?


Chapter 41 starts out with "I, Ishmael" because Melville is aware of how far the perspective of this story has drifted away from the narrator character and doesn't want you to forget about him. But heads up, Ishmael is not the main character of this novel. can you tell who is?


Read each chapter here and answer the underlined questions and explain what you understood from each chapter.

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