Friday, September 14, 2007

Chapters 4-16

Chapters 4-12 went super quick today, as they are pretty short chapters. However, do they really advance the plot at all? Do they really advance any of the themes and images? One whole chapter is dedicated to Melville's ramblings about Nantucket. Is it necessary?

I just looked at my paperback copy and chapter 16, "The Ship," ends on page 109. Say what? 109 pages so far of Ishmael wandering around and being Queequeg the "savage"'s buddy? (I say "savage" because of the context of the novel, but Melville, while admitting that the populace saw Queequeg as a savage, deftly shows the contradiction that Queequeg may be more civilized than the people of Nantucket.) When will the novel move on? THIS is exactly why I have never gotten this far reading it to myself. It doesn't go anywhere. Not 109 pages worth, at any rate. There is some character and setting development but was that much necessary? Actually, there was a time yesterday, driving down Interstate 39/51 in the middle of one of these chapters, that I screamed, "Jesus Christ, get on with it, Melville!" His circumambulatory sentences are like walking on a treadmill--it'll give ya a workout, but you don't go any place!

Chapter 16--finally we hear the name of the famous ship, the Pequod, and the name of its famous captain, Captain Ahab. Finally! The meat of the matter. I don't know why the lesser captains, Bildad and Peleg argued so much yet, but I am sure it will come to a head later.

I am amazed so far. I don't understand how this novel has been applauded for so long. Unless it gets really good really fast, I won't ever find the answer to that question.

1 comment:

Steve Whitt said...

What did you think of Father Mapple's sermon? I think Mapple and Ahab are meant to be polar opposites. As an atheist I find Mapple's interpretation of the Jonah story, and his self-immolation at the hands of a non-existant god, one of the most disgusting things ever written. Ahab, by contrast, declares his independence from god. Then he screws it up by using his independence to chase and torture a dumb animal. I still don't know if Melville was trying to make Ahab a hero or trying to tell a cautionary tale about what happens when you abandon god. What do you think?