Sunday, October 18, 2009

Autumn of Dick - Week 2 - Chapters 10-19

Some thoughts on the next ten chapters of Moby Dick:

-How would you describe the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg in the first couple of chapters of this week's reading? It seems more pronounced than last week, but, on the other hand, its almost entirely asexual. Once again, I wonder if this isn't an inappropriate reading of 21st century mores onto an 1840's text - we know that people in the 1840s did understand the concept of homosexuality as we know it. Men spent a lot of time in close proximity to each other, and men would frequently compliment each other's physiques and muscles in a way that would strike us modern readers as "gay." Ishmael seems to like the fact that Queequeg is a muscular, masculine fellow, but it never gets beyond that.

-Ishmael's approach towards Christianity is far more sophisticated than I would have expected. Both Ishmael's discussion of Queequeg's idolatry (and how a Christian God couldn't possibly feel threatened by something so small and insignificant), and his general live-and-let-live, "Christianity means doing unto others as I would have them do unto me; if people of other religions don't bother me then I have no reason to judge them" attitude seems more modern than I would have expected for a character living in the chapter-and-verse culture of early 19th century New England.

-The voyage to Nantucket is more harrowing than expected, and, upon arriving, Queequeg and Ishmael encounter all sorts of ominous omens, including coffins, tombstones in a chapel, a gallows, and two black cauldrons. Then they find an inn and feast on seafood chowder, and begin to feel cozy, but one can't help but feel as if things are about to go badly, that those spooky omens are foreshadowing something nasty that is about to go down.

-I love how the Pequot is introduced to the readers. The ship hasn't even left port, and yet it already seems like a character in its own right.

-I don't care how juvenile this sounds: Whenever Peleg speaks, the mental image that comes to mind is that of Captain McCallister from The Simpsons.

-Captain Ahab is described as "a grand, ungodly, god-like man . . . doesn't speak much, but, when he does speak, then you may well listen." A man to be recokend with. I can see how so many professors compare him to the Judge from Blood Meridian.


8yearoldsdude said...

a big theme in the book seems to be white/christian culture vs. savage culture.
Captain Peleg's baleen wigwam is an interesting part of this continuum and potentially indicates that white people will act "savagely" when at sea for whales.

I want to eat clam/cod pork chowder very much.

are bildad and Peleg just playing good cop and bad cop to get the best deals and performance from their whale ship, or are we meant to understand that they actually have these opposite personalities?

Wade Garrett said...

8YOD - I too noted the 'good cop, bad cop' dynamic between Bildad and Peleg.

I've been thinking about this in the context of the conversation we had last week about Ishmael's boredom and how that foreshadows the fact that he is about to get way in over his head. I wonder if that is a cliche that developed in the 150 years between the publication Moby Dick and today? I'm sure that the 'good cop, bad cop' dymanic existed in the 1840's, but I'm not sure that it was so prevalent in fiction that audiences would recognize it immediately. What do you think?

Ellen said...

He's completely tolerant of your religion unless there's fasting involved. Then all bets are off!

I wonder if Ishmael doesn't become closer friends with Queequeg because of his revelation that he's a royal (or of royal birth, anyhow). That said, I think Ishmael's waxing poetic about how close they are is more of a reflection of his joy in finding someone in this unfamiliar city who has his back. Or to use fewer words... their relationship didn't seem as gay this week. People were all physically closer back then; if you have to share a bed, better to share with someone you know.

Wade Garrett said...

It did seem less gay this week. On a scale of 1 to Elton John and RuPaul's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart," the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg was closer to 1 than it was last week. Where else but Common Sense Dancing can you get this sort of sophisticated literary analysis?