"Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?"
Ugh. No wonder I hated this in seventh grade.
The stilted language is almost barring, a great deterrent, even to an English major like me, to start off with. These first few pages do nothing but express that he wants to go on a sea voyage. References to Cato and Narcissus and others make this an exercise like a Jeopardy! contest. Do I know all of these strange references. Thankfully, yes. I couldn't imagine not knowing them and trying to read this, even with a good dictionary by your side.
"No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor..." He then must explain that he wants to go as a sailor and get paid for the voyage, really digging into the actual sea-faring life and not as a silly passenger. He wants to get his hands beautifully dirty. I do like that ethic and that aspect of this narrative. Struggle makes us more human.
We know that Ishmael is writing this of a past experience. He tends to think highly of himself, as some grand narrator. He sees metaphor in everything, especially in the ocean. No matter how right he is, it still is a little off-putting having all this meaning placed upon our everyday lives and the objects around us. What has given him this great insight? Obviously, the answer is the plot of the book he is writing.
The book starts with the famous line "Call me Ishmael." He is an enigma.
Well, first chapter done. I am proud of myself to at least start.