Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally a decent chapter

Chapter 100. Finally the tale gets back on track. Finally.

Wait a minute--Chapter 100?? Finally?? Why the heck are we readers putting up with this?? Chapter 100 of a 135 chapter book and now it finally moves somewhere.

But finally we get back to Ahab and his monomaniacal vengeance. They meet an English whaling vessel and find the captain missing an arm--due to Moby Dick!

Why wasn't at least this chapter 30 chapters ago? At least when Melville introduced us to the gams that the whaling vessels had to talk to each other.

Sometimes this book reminds me of Hamlet--scholars know what the heck I am talking about. There are plenty of passages that seem to make the play "grander in scope" than Hamlet merely trying to make up his mind on revenge. Scenes like "What a piece of work is man." Carrying the skull and saying, "Alas, poor Yorick." Heck, even Ophelia's madness scene can be skipped if you're in a rush. I have actually taught Julius Caesar before by not including Acts IV or V, except the very last scene of the play.

However, that is unjust because after all my study, I know why Shakespeare put all these scenes in there as it does increase our understanding of character, at bare minimum. I just cannot make a connection between these extraneous chapters and the plotline or basic narrative of Moby Dick. They simply do not progress the characters. Why should I know that Ishmael finds it somehow fascinating to squeeze whale spermaceti? Maybe if Melville showed how Ahab was doing it (which he wasn't) and just seething with anger. Maybe equating the squeezing with his anger in some way but it is not there.

The little that we get on Ahab is just way too little. I don't know him as a man. Just a thing looking for revenge. Yet, analytically, maybe Melville is making us look at Ahab through only one lens, like Ahab looks at only one thing.

Dammit, I hate it when I come up with a literary reason that actually makes sense to me.

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