Cetaceous Conflicts

Having recently completed the arduous task of reading Herman Melville's alleged masterpiece Moby Dick, I feel compelled to offer a few thoughts on it. Despite Melville's overwrought turn of phrase and fascination with beating an already tired metaphor into the ground, the book succeeded in revealing the dangerous and almost mystical world of whaling to an ignorant audience (namely, me). The idea of a handful of men in a tiny boat paddling furiously after a creature of such terrifyingly large proportions staggers belief (at least in my case). It seems to me to be an endeavor worthy of comparison to the scaling of Earth's most treacherous mountains. In both cases Man seeks to overcome a daunting force of nature, and I could not believe how paltry the equipment was on those whaling boats! A harpoon, some spears, and quite a quantity of rope, and off they went, risking life and limb to hunt a monstrously large animal in a lethal environs. Incredibly, they succeeded often enough to make it a profitable industry I know it is the custom these days to side with the whales and certainly if there is real danger of their extinction, I concede the case. But I have acquired a whole hearted admiration for the men who undertook such a perilous enterprise. And I hope the Makah will soon be able again to take to the open sea in a little canoe to spear the leviathan, as they did a few years ago. In a world of modern convenience and comfort I feel somehow relieved that there are still men who have the pluck and the nerve to dart over the waters after a creature as big as a house, armed only with small pointed sticks and their courage.


Zosia (z•O•sha') said...


Anonymous said...

"alleged masterpiece" That pretty much tells me you felt forced to read MD, even if by your own impetus. That is not the right motivation. I know from experience, having been forced to read it as an undergraduate. Later, I began teaching excerpts of the novel to my high school juniors--forced to do so by the established curriculum. But a funny thing happened...I grew to love old Melville more and more each time I climbed on board the Pequod. I reread the entire novel just last spring and was absolutely delighted by Melville's sense of humor (which I had somehow missed before). So...please wait awhile and then give MD another try. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Post a Comment