I’ve been rather remiss with my readings this week, and I’ve only gotten through a couple chapters, but they were very exciting, and here’s my recap on them! 🙂
The crew of the Pequod went after their first whale, and in the chase, Ishmael was thrown into the ocean and experienced his first life-threatening episode aboard a whaling ship. He survived, but was discombobulated to learn that his near miss was a common occurrence for whalers, and even considered less dangerous than it could have been. Meanwhile, Ahab has done something odd – apparently, he has been keeping stow-a-ways aboard the Pequod all this time, and he now has brought them to light to man his own little whale-chasing boat. The crew is disturbed by this, but they quickly grow to except it. The people he stowed away are frightening in aspect, and seem almost as crazy as himself. Starbuck still shakes his head at the situation, and can do nothing as it continues to escalate.
Chapter 52 was chilling – the Pequod met a ship named the Albatross, which is usually a bird that symbolizes good luck to sailors, but Melville is clearly following in Samuel Coleridge Taylor‘s tradition, and using it to signal a ‘heavy burden’. The ship is spectral in nature, pure white, and its sailors look like they are on the edge of death. Ahab asks them if they have seen the white whale, but he hears no answer back, and now is more disturbed than ever.
All this time, the crew has been chasing a whale that only reveals itself in the dead of night, and they cannot track it down to hunt it. The sailors are getting superstitious and whispering among themselves that it is Moby Dick, taunting them.
Before I conclude, I have to say a thankful word about the writing style. There is a certain depth added to this simple story of a madman chasing a whale, that I have never experienced from any other author. Melville plunges into the details and history behind every event, so that every little instance is imbued with deep significance, and as a reader, you cannot help but be pulled along in the awesomeness of the happenings. It is a simple, boring life to hunt whales, or so you might think; but in reading Melville, you find that it is a miracle of life, an adventurous journey, a danger worth pursuing. It is man versus nature, and it is epic! I only pray that I can imbue my own writings with a quarter of the majesty and significance that he delivers in his. Thank you Melville, for teaching us how to write a great American epic!