Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Moby Dick Read-along: Week Two – Chapters 22 to 41

Wow.  This week was not easy.  I know that I wasn’t alone in breathing my sigh of relief when this week was over, thankfully.  Ah, the beauty of a read-along.  
1) We’ve met Captain Ahab now. What do you think of him? Did he meet your expectations? Who would you cast to play him in a movie?
Captain Ahab has exceeded my expectations!  I wanted him to be grisly and wild.  Conflicted and genuinely intriguing was more than I’d dared hope for.  I think this is one of my favourite quotes from him:

They think me mad – Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened!  That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself!  The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and – Aye!  I lost this leg.  I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer” [Page 119, Kindle edition]

I’ve been disappointed that we haven’t seen more of him, really.  Fewer rantings about the apparently misunderstood cleanliness of whaling and more Captain Ahab would be just great. 

In my head, Captain Ahab looks like…wait, like Geoffrey Rush.  I have a memory that Hanna and me have done this before but I was fumbling around the internet trying to work out who played “the guy from Pirates of the Caribbean who goes on about eating a lot of apples in the first film”.  The answer is Geoffrey Rush and Hanna beat me to it.
2) Some chapters seem to focus on action and attempt to move the story along, whilst others seem to ponder the concept of a whaling and life. Do you find one type easier to follow than the other?
I’m pretty sure that I nearly died during the chapter describing the different species of whale.  Or at least, my brain nearly did.  I read all of the words but I’m pretty sure I took about 7 of them in.  And those 7 weren’t in order.

Every time Melville starts lecturing, I stop absorbing.  

3) Keeping in mind everything we’ve learned about whaling this week, has it changed your views on it at all?
Not at all.  I think it’s appalling.  One man’s rambly discourse about how it’s really a lot cleaner than I was thinking (because my real problem with it is of course how mucky the whole practice might be) is not going to change that.
I understand that perhaps in the 1850s maybe people’s concerns were a little less animal welfare/extinction prevention focussed and that Melville’s attempt at very dull propaganda might have worked but now?  Not so much.
4) Why do you think Herman Melville suddenly branches off into lectures about how acceptable/difficult/clean whaling is? 
Because he hates his readers and wants them to die?  Ok, fine.  I’m being melodramatic.  
My real answer:  I know very little (nothing) about whaling in the 19th century but these chapters read to me like the tide was turning against whaling generally or as though whalers were seen as second-class citizens and he was trying to do some good for people who apparently he believed were worth more than that.  
5) Do the scientific misconceptions bother you at all? i.e. that whales are fishes etc. 
Although it’s the kind of thing that might usually bother me, it actually doesn’t very much.  I find it interesting, in a way.  It’s one thing knowing that people once thought that whales were fish but it’s another reading a whole series of misconceptions branded as fact.  Which I suppose they were at the time.
Onward, read-alongers!  I’m actually most of the way through Week Three’s chapters and they’re not bad!  Sure, it’s not all been plain sailing (sorry – someone had to say it!) but it’s better.