Nine chapters into Moby Dick, Melville is still setting the scene. The narrator, Ishmael, has grown bored in Manhattan, and relocated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the hopes of finding some excitement on a maritime expedition of some kind. When he arrives, the town is salty and quiet, and Ishmael looks for an inn in which to spend the night. Passing on the first two places he finds, because they are too nice and expensive-looking, he stumbles into a sketchy inn with no vacancies, but where the inn keeper allows him to share a bed with a then-absent, unnamed mariner. The mariner - who we come to know as Queequeg - returns to the inn very late at night and is understandably shocked to find another man sleeping in his bed. Queequeg's physique, tattoos, and creole dialect, as well as the disturbing shrunken heads he carries, startle Ismael. The inn keeper introduces them, both men realize they have nothing to be afraid of, and doze off. Ishmael wakes up to find that he has never slept sounder in his life, and also that Queequeg's arm is thrown over him in an intimate fashion. Surely these details will prove significant down the road, but how so? I've read enough books to tell that Melville is foreshadowing all sorts of terrible things, but he's not giving anything away. I'm hooked.
-Isn't it funny to think that, in the 1840's, somebody might have left Manhattan and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts in search of a good time?
-In the first couple of chapters, Ishmael tells the reader that he is bored, and is looking for an adventure, and believes that he might find one of the sees. To a modern reader - if not to Melville's contemporaries - this practically screams "Warning!!! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get more than you bargained for!" It strikes us as a rather obvious bit of foreshadowing. Would readers in the 1840s have recognized it as such, or has it only become cliche in the intervening 150+ years? Do any of you have an opinion about this?
-I love Melville's style, heavy as it is on allegory, symbolism, and foreshadowing. Its clear that William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy read this novel closely - the parralels to McCarthy's Blood Meridian are striking. What do you think of the writing style? Heavy in a good way, or just . . . heavy?