My personal opinion is that this is a classic case of readers and academics imposing metaphors and symbolism onto a work that might not have been intended. I fully accept that there are symbols and there are themes but implying that the whole novel is a metaphor for some great human struggle against an unknowable enemy strikes me as wishful thinking. If that were true, why would Melville waste everybody’s time with endless descriptions of types of whales, Whales Through History and the rope used on whaling ships? All of which isn’t to mention the philosophical diversions into the nobility of whaling as a life calling. I don’t doubt that there are themes to explore if a reader has the inclination (I don’t) but I’m completely failing to grasp the Higher Meaning amongst the whale heads.
How awful was that?! Good heavens. Just being in a whale head at all sounds horrific to me but getting stuck in there and dragged into the depths of the sea?! Words can not express how awful I find that thought. I love my potential future children too much to subject them to this book. I’d read them the first couple of weeks’ chapters maybe so that they can learn about tolerance and then I’d play “1, 2, skip a few, 99, 100” to get to the end. “Once there was a man named Ishmael. He made friends with a man named Queequeg. They went on a boat trip. The End.”
I mean, really, what was Miss Honey THINKING letting Matilda pick this up?!