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Tag Archives: moby-dick
A Vikings’ Win when it counts turns Minnesotans into Captain Ahab, hunting his Moby Dick for all Eternity
Posted on January 22, 2018
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.” -T.S. Eliot
Last night, after the Minnesota Vikings got DESTROYED by the Philadelphia Eagles, I was flipping through channels on my rabbit ears and found the Gregory Peck film version of the classic American novel Moby-Dick. I found this story to be an apropos metaphor for all die-hard Vikings’ fans at the moment, and for eternity. We are all perpetually Captain Ahab looking for the majestic white whale (a Vikings’ Win when it counts), becoming dangerously obsessed, eventual that idea becomes our mental and physical downfall, to the point of mortal apathy. The game last night ended like the Pequod and it’s ill-fated crew: figuratively eviscerated in a vast ocean of literal Eagles fans and defeatist nostalgia. We, us Ahabs, may never get our Moby Dick–that one win to take our Purple Pride to the Superbowl, especially in our hometown (fuck). Ah, but we will all yell at our TVs, clench our fists, ask the whys and hows, and hope every season, as we scream, THAR SHE BLOWS! that this year will be the one in which we the Vikings will win!
Wreckage of Doomed Nantucket Whaling Ship Pequod Discovered in Pacific Ocean, Likely Destroyed by Moby Dick–Russian hackers to blame
Posted on July 14, 2017
The infamous long-lost Nantucket whaler, The Pequod, has been found in less than pristine condition at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, just below the equator, researchers have said, in a discovery that challenges the accepted history behind one of whaling’s deepest and most revered mysteries.
The Pequod was destroyed in heavy seas in an epic historical battle with the tenacious and malevolent white whale, Moby Dick, in the 1850s, during Captain Ahab’s much storied doomed attempt to pay vengeance on the while for taking his leg.
All men on Ahab’s fateful expedition, except for Ishmael–by way of, ironically, a coffin, perished, in the worst disaster to hit Nantucket in its long history of whaling. Search parties continued to look for the ship for 11 years after it disappeared, but found no trace, except for Ishmael, and the fate of the missing men remained an enigma that tantalised generations of historians, archaeologists and adventurers for years to come.
Now that enigma appears to have been solved by a combination of intrepid exploration, literary sleuths – and an improbable tip from Team Zissou.
On Sunday, a team from the charitable Hennessey Research Foundation manoeuvred a small, remotely operated submarine from a dinghy through an open hatch and into the ship’s lumber to capture stunning images that give insight into life aboard the vessel close to 170 years ago. “We found the food storage room with plates and one can on the shelves stove in.”
Alistair Hennessey Pacific Research Foundation
“We have successfully entered the captain’s quarters, we presume, worked our way into a few cabins, potentially, and found the spermaceti storage room with barrels and harpoons asunder,” Adrian S’moreschnapps, the foundation’s operations director, told the reporters by email from the research vessel Martin Bergmann.
“We spotted harpoons, a gold doubloon nailed to one of the ship’s masts, mixed with tables and empty shelving. We found a deck with curious peg holes and instruments for the purpose of whaling.”
The destroyed wreckage matches that of The Pequod in several key aspects, however it lies 60 miles (96km) south of where experts have long believed the ship was catastrophically done in by the hatefully-maligned white whale, and this discovery may force historians to rewrite a chapter in the history of whaling.
The 20-member Mountain Man crew found the absolutely obliterated shipwreck, with her three masts broken but still standing, one with a gold doubloon nailed to it, almost all hatches destroyed and everything stowed, in the middle of a vast underwater crag in the Pacific on 3 September.
After discovering little in an early morning search, the research vessel was leaving the bay when a grainy digital silhouette emerged from the depths on the sounder display on the bridge of the Bergmann.
“Most on board were up in the wheelhouse by that point in disbelief, obviously,” said Michael James Bond, 27, who was at the helm when the research vessel steamed straight over the sunken wreck.
Since, then, the discovery team has spent more than 5 weeks quietly gathering images of the vessel, re-reading Moby-Dick, and comparing the facts with the Pequod’s 17th century builders’ plans, descriptions, and peculiarities which match key elements of the sunken vessel.
At first, The Pequod seemed to be listing at about 45 degrees to starboard on the seabed. But on the third dive with a remotely operated submarine from a dinghy, “we noticed the wreck is sitting exploded to splinters on the ocean floor listed in a pile – which means the boat sank by being eviscerated by a spiteful white whale with a vendetta,” S’moreschnapps said Monday.
Approximately 200 metres (656.168ft) down, the wreck is in a horribly dismal condition, with American wood lumber that reinforced the hull against ocean currents clearly annihilated, visible amid swaying kelp, sharks, and giant squid.
A long, heavy hemp rope line running through a hole in the ship’s deck suggests an anchor line definitely had not been deployed before the Pequod violently went down. Which makes this event believable.
If fact, that sets up the tantalising possibility that Nantucket whalers sank with the vessel in an all-out impossible final battle with the notorious white whale, leaving only Ishmael to float to safety in a coffin on the vast Pacific.
One crucial detail in the identification of the ship is it’s smashed in hull, damage sustained only by being smited in by a white sperm whale.
“This is in the precise location where barrels stored oil in the Pequod’s belly to finance the ship’s whaling voyage, to fuel candlelight, and to squeeze coagulated spermaceti, through whaling perils and successes,” said S’moreschnapps in a phone interview.
The ship’s wood lies on the ocean floor, close to where the whaler on watch would have swung the clapper to mark time, and yell “There she blows!-there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!”
“The wreck is clearly in disrepair, the glass panes are blown out in three of four tall windows in the stern cabin where the ship’s commander, Captain Ahab, schemed and plotted his redeeming final battle,” S’moreschnapps added.
“She [The Pequod] looks like it was buttoned down tight for winter’s night and sank, after falling off mount Everest and then being hit by twenty trains,”– he then quickly added. “Everything was shut and decimated. Even the windows defenestrated by wood shards. If you could lift this boat out of the water, and pump the water out, it would definitely not float.”
Adrian S’moreschnapps, Pacific Research Foundation
The Pacific Research Foundation was set up by Jim Belushi and Alistair Hennessey, a naval tech tycoon and socialite philanthropist, who co-founded Research in the Ocean, creator of the loveable Furbies.
Belushi, who also played a key role in planning the expedition, proposed a theory to explain why it seems The Pequod sank far south of where they believed.
“This discovery changes history,” he told the Guardian. “Given the location of the find [in James Bond Bay] and the state of the wreck, it’s almost certain that The Pequod was not operationally closed down by the remaining crew who then did not re-boarded another vessel and sail south to safety where they would not have met their ultimate tragic fate.”
The 21st-century search for Ahab’s expedition was launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a broader plan to assert Russian sovereignty in the Pacific and promote development of its non-renewable resources – including vast reserves of sperm whale oil, ambergris harvests, and coral reef mines, which will be easier to exploit as the Pacific warms and sea ice disappears, naturally, this is attributed factually to global warming.
Putin’s underwater archeologists have led the mission since it began in 2008. Now they must confirm the wreck is The Pequod, either by examining the foundation’s images or visiting the site themselves. With the first winter snow already falling in the South Pacific, James Bond Bay will soon be encased in thick sea ice.
The Dramatic Sinking of The Pequod:
“Only Ishmael [was] unable to return to the boat. He [was] left behind in the sea, and so [was] the only crewman of The Pequod to survive [its] final encounter. The whale [then] fatally attack[ed] the Pequod. Ahab [realizing] that the destroyed ship [was] the hearse made of American wood in Fedallah’s prophesy.
The whale (Moby Dick) return[ed] to Ahab, who stab[bed] at him again. The line loop[ed] around Ahab’s neck, and as the stricken whale sw[am] away, the captain [was] drawn with him out of sight.
Queequeg’s coffin c[a]me to the surface, the only thing to escape the vortex when Pequod sank. For an entire day, Ishmael float[ed] on it, and then the Rachel, still looking for its lost seamen, rescue[d] him.” -Wikipedia’s actual account of the last known sighting of the Pequod.
The latest discovery was made two years and a day after Canadian marine archeologists found the wreck of Erebus in the same area of eastern of the South Pacific where Inuit oral history had long said a large wooden ship sank.
The same stories described startled Inuit stumbling upon a large dead man in a dark room on a different vessel, with a big smile. Experts have suggested that may have been a rictus smile, or evidence that the man had suffered from scurvy.
Putin’s Russian archeologists found The Pequod standing in just 11 meters of ocean. Sea ice had taken a large bite out her stern, and more than a century of storm-driven waves had not scattered a trove of artifacts around the site.
So far, archaeologists have brought up nothing from Ahab’s flagship.
Inuit knowledge was also central to finding the James Bond Bay wreck, but in a more mysterious way. Crewman David Lee Roth, 49, of Gjoa Haven, had been on the Bergmann for only a day when, chatting with fon the bridge, he told a bizarre story.
About six years ago, Roth said, he and a hunting buddy were headed on snowmobiles to fish in a lake when they spotted a large piece of wood, near scrimshaw, which looked like a mast, sticking out of the sea ice covering James Bond Bay.
In a phone interview, Roth said he stopped that day to get a few snapshots of himself hugging the wooden object, only to discover when he got home that the camera had fallen out his pocket along with his selfie stick.
Roth resolved to keep the encounter secret, fearing the missing camera was an omen of bad spirits, which generations of Inuit have believed began to wander James Bond Bay after Ahab and his men perished.
When S’moreschnapps heard Roth’s story, he didn’t dismiss it, as Inuit testimony has been so often during the long search for Ahab’s ship.
Instead, the Team Zissou crew agreed to make a detour for James Bond Bay on their way to join the main search group aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Shawinigan, at the north end of Victoria Strait.
That is where the only known record of The Pequod’s journey coordinates pointed for what experts now call the point of abandonment.
An indecipherable scrawled note dated sometime around that time, and concealed in a stone cairn at a secret point on northern James Bond Bay, said The Pequod had been obliterated three days earlier, smited by a hateful white whale.
Starbuck was in command of “the officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls”, because Ahab had gone to chase Moby Dick the note continued, “and now our captain has lead us to our demise, ignoring all foreshadowing and ominous tell… ”.
Stubb and First Mate Starbuck signed the note, which had what seemed a hurried postscript, scrawled upside down in the top right corner: “Listen here, ye men, we are going to die, maties!!! The very end is nigh, in three horrible parts, Old Thunder has done us in, old boys, stove us with the mighty DICK… we drown now and go, no, no, no… AHHHHH!!!!”.
Survivors apparently hoped to float to the river – now known as Henry David river – south to safety at a Jack Sparrow Bay Company fur trading outpost.
All perished, except the narrator, and for generations, the accepted historical narrative has described a brutal death march as the Nantucket whalers tried to walk out of the South Pacific, dying along the way.
Now Moby Dick experts will have to debate whether at least some of the dying sailors instead mustered incredible strength, fighting off hunger, disease, frostbite, and a giant loathsome white whale, in a desperate attempt to sail home.
Posted on August 19, 2015
Obviously this getting textbooks at the library thing isn’t some sort of secret raved-about genius way to save money on required course texts, but in some ways it is.
Let me express my sheer love for getting textbooks and other resources, digital and print, through the library systems briefly, so you can think about how you might do the same—and save money, save time, and save face.
When I started out as a CLA transfer student at the University of Minnesota, I had no idea how the library worked. I didn’t understand the importance of this resource—I had an idea, but it was vague, and that’s an understatement.
After being a student lead worker at St. Paul campus university libraries for 2 years, I have come to realize and utilize the advantages of the libraries (their branches), and the incentives that their lending service affords.
Perhaps you think: I can’t find a title, I won’t be able to get the required course materials, or I searched and that edition or exact title is not available.
Sure, you did one really impressive search (by your standards)… Well, try again. Remember: If you think you can, I know you will.
Maybe the library search engine you were perusing didn’t have it on the first try, or the first page; however, other catalogs may possess what you wish to attain.
Have your first try here: www.lib.umn.edu
A first try is good if you like not getting useful results, though a first try is a good start to something great…
So, try again.
Are you going to give up after one try and spend your hard-borrowed student loan money on things you don’t really care about/need, or are you going to search for 5 more minutes and find what you want for free?
It’s really all about your level of persistence, your level of creativity, and what you will do to attain what you desire: how bad do you want to be frugal and save? Use that thing inside your head, be like a thoughtful individual.
This year my level of wanting to save and be thrifty was high, so I found all of my books through inter-library loans, or other services provided by the library, and it took less than 10 minutes. This process took less time than it takes to send an email, or scroll through Instagram.
Last year my level was not so high. Last year I spent all sorts of what would have been beer or fun money on overpriced books which I did not read, and then at the end of the semester I sold them back at less than half price. I was lazy anyway. But, what a fucking racket. To my utter disdain I regret the decision to buy at the campus bookstore.
Mid-semester I did a quick search and found most of my textbooks here:
U Borrow is my favorite resource for any book, always. You can get new books, old books, rare books, from some great universities throughout the United States. The best part is they get delivered to whichever library you choose to pick them up at.
Everyone talks about half.com, or amazon.com, or other places where a student can buy books online and “save”. Sure… How about “save” by not purchasing top-dollar subpar products from places that drastically mark-up their selling price?
In most cases, a specific new edition book is no better than the old edition that you can obtain at a local used bookstore… Same author, same words, different year of printing and edited by different people, wow.
The new edition just has the backing of new people getting paid for rights—each year for a few extra words, for their titles and their names to adorn these improved editions. And this costs you more money, but you want to pay for it, right??? No.
Likewise, these publications and institutions are paying bucks for agency, authority, and placement, big names at pinnacle levels have their materials located in expensive bookstores.
The best, and easiest, marketing they do is by putting their product on your required texts next to your class schedule on the university website, the campus bookstore wouldn’t stock them otherwise—wouldn’t pull an immense profit off of their student body.
Each name of the editor, or publisher, or corporation (and their ideology, and what they sanction) within that book, you pay for. Your teacher, the bookstore, and the school, perhaps makes a commission on these required texts.
Think about it: Do they want you to get the newest edition of Shakespeare because it is of far superior quality, or because certain entities belong to an institution which pays for a mention, for cheap product at increased prices?
Obviate this silly scheme by getting all, or a majority of your materials through the library system. You already pay for it in student fees, and you may have the access you need at your fingertips.
When you buy from the bookstore you are paying for that bookstore’s existence: utilities, workers, facilities; moreover you pay for the interest of your professor and the university, in what they make from these institutions and agencies, from their publications, for their specific interests: profit.
Now say you want to actually own the book, great. Great, you are an outlier on the verge of pariah! So what?
Get it at the library first—give it a try, and if you really enjoy what you’ve read—or you need it for personal use, then buy it.
I personally wouldn’t buy a car without test driving the vehicle first (or having someone else I trust test try it for me). So, why would you buy a textbook without assessing the quality first?
College is no longer affordable, any scholar with an inkling of responsibility will do anything to save money. One of those anythings is avoid the bookstore and utilize a service which is offered with no additional cost. Do it! Save yourself time and money in lines and in overpriced materials.
I’ll be honest, I’m partial to this concept because I work at a library. I love it. I am also partial because I enjoy saving money when necessary/possible. I’m smart.
I knew I needed a change when I bought the latest addition of Moby-Dick (Norton Edition, No. 9) at an incredible price ($23.00 +-), because the teacher expressed how we all needed it.
I thought on that for a moment: how much could they possibly alter or make critical improvements on this American classic? WTF?! Melville was rolling in his grave. I was completely baffled… Just think about that. I paid, and truly I paid.
I will leave you with this, the next time you think you need to get a book at the bookstore, count it out. Scratch that idea… Give it up and try something different, try a new search, give it one more minute on the browser—you can do anything. I believe in you.
Truly, get your books through a public or university library system, they are priceless and don’t carry a heavy price.
Posted on February 16, 2015
Moby-Dick: a Metaphor of Foreplay and Sex
Throughout Herman Melville’s American classic Moby-Dick, there is much description of whaling by way of terminology, the ins-and-outs of the profession, yet there is a more natural characteristic interwoven. Mixed between numerous chapters of encyclopedic fodder there are points of detailed action. Melville’s Moby-Dick critiques human sexual frustration brought on by thinking as opposed to doing, by obsessing over the act. The act of waiting leads to a catastrophic end, one built up by preconceived notions of such events; sexual relations or hunting a whale. A reaction not unlike the social assumptions founded in the motives of foreplay and sex. Throughout Moby-Dick there is subtle, and yet direct, insinuation of the sexual meaning, and the powers of sexual frustration. Readers are exposed to situations in relation to marriage, homosexuality, sperm, virgins, penis, vagina, with few, yet weighted references to women, in relation to sex, by way of ambiguous whaling references. What Melville does in Moby-Dick is express the sheer pressure of pent up sexual aggression, and the lack of sex- until the final chapter. Ahab’s hunt for the slippery Moby Dick, the unknowable, other sex, is his internal struggle with his sexual identity. Having this whale defines him; not having this whale destroys him. Moreover, Ishmael, Ahab, and the majority of the crew on the Pequod, are represented sexually by way of working in close proximity, discussing sexually loaded topics, and becoming ever increasingly more desperate for the prospect of having said whale, or symbolically, sex. In Moby-Dick, Melville is expressing the weight of thought, time, and words one puts into courtship, relationship, marriage and sexual conquests. Melville’s Moby-Dick is a 19th century critique on sexual strain and the emphasis society puts on sexual identity; in relation to the turmoil and pressure sex causes physically and mentally to an individual.
In order to understand Melville’s theory of sexuality the reader must first understand a few things about sex, before understanding Moby-Dick’s sexiness. Sex, usually, takes place between two people, sex involves sexual organs (almost always), and sex presumably comes out of want, or need to be satisfied sexually, and/or to procreate. One can have sex, but one cannot have sex: Ishmael suggests, “It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all” (p 20) Sex is not an object to obtain, but an experience to behold. Though, neither is Moby Dick an object to obtain. One can either talk about sex, or have sex, -doing. Though, one can discuss Moby Dick, one cannot have Moby Dick. One can talk about past experiences in relation to sex, or create new experiences by having sex. Though, Ahab lost his leg to Moby Dick now he chases him again. Sex is not tangible, however real, sex is not a thing, entity, or object, sex is an action fleeting. The act of sex is meaningful, or meaningless, depending on the person. It can be life changing, or life ending (heart attack: Viagra). People can have sex, but they cannot keep sex. They can remember sex, or can’t; because it’s either over or happening. The obsession with sex is age-old, but made relevant by the persons involved. Moby Dick is made significant, a sole obsession, as sex can be also made an obsession, by Ahab. In order to reproduce one must have sex, coitus. Sex is the monomaniacal obsession we human beings exist for. Without sex we would not be. That being said, Ahab’s sex is Moby Dick. Ahab’s only life goal is to capture and kill and have Moby Dick, though he does not realize that like sex, Moby Dick is also unobtainable. One cannot own sex, as one cannot own Moby Dick. He can have Moby Dick for a moment, but that moment must end. One cannot strike sex, because sex does not exist. Sex is an act, above an object, yet still sought after to no end. We human beings become excited by the prospect of sex, possibly as much as Ahab becomes excited about the prospect of having Moby Dick. Melville is creating a symbol of sex out of Moby Dick, a giant white whale, and those aboard the Pequod, led by Captain Ahab, are the human beings looking for the action, the sex. Also, the reader must be human.
Moby-Dick, the book itself, is a whale of a novel in its most literal sense (pun intended, in the most clichéd way). Moby-Dick is the elephant in the room. It is large in size and meaning, it is rough and hard in reading. It builds itself up within itself; Moby Dick as infamous, Ahab as crazed, and the Pequod as totally fucking doomed. That ship is going down, that captain will die, and that whale will get some action and then leave. The book is endowed with much thick symbolism. One example of symbolism is expressed through Ishmael and Queegueg. Before the meeting of Queequeg we see an independent Ishmael, a sort of landlubber on the prowl for something more, to become a seaman, he is walking loose. Ishmael saunters around town until he finds the nearest Inn, in hopes of a warm night’s rest (sure). He gets far more. Upon realizing that he must sleep with a cannibal (opposites attract!) Ishmael is changed. He sees this prospect as something exotic, something new, something which grabs him. He had no real warning of this event, and has no time to react negatively. It starts the way an impassioned sexual encounter may start, perhaps. He navigates the situation using themes suggesting a marriage, a wedding, and a “wife” (p 36), thoughts of intimacy are swollen, as he is drawn in. His relationship with Queequeg is seemingly consummated on the first night. After this encounter they are bound to a queer pact, for the rest of the book; a tacit agreement that makes them closer than any of the whalers aboard the Pequod. This is an example of how Melville shows the importance of sexual closeness in a relationship, specifically one not built upon pretense, prejudice, or judgment, and the stability and comradery which comes with it. This passage breaks down the build-up, the sexual frustration, it shows discussion of evils as a device to oppress and torture the mind. Whether or not Ishmael and Queequeg have sex, it is no matter, but innuendo. They conceive this relationship spontaneously, and it is no one-night-stand. Melville puts great emphasis on the concept of a relationship being formed quickly, physically, and without airing of past situation. Melville adds deep meaning to this somewhat substantially awkward narrative, which becomes a foundation of Moby-Dick’s progressive sexual ideology; free love, gay relations, and a desirable and poignant friendship which encompasses both. Moby-Dick is built-up on stories of sexual experience before they happen, this garners fear and anxiety, causing major issues for the Pequod’s crew: Ishmael states, “What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man’s a human being just as I am: he has as much reason to fear me as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.” (p 36) Ishmael could be saying (for later chapters): the whale is just a whale, or sex is just sex.
In physical words and vastness of text, Melville emphasizes on the importance and detriment, of foreplay in a sexual relationship. Melville shows in practice through the text’s length, the power of waiting for action; Moby-Dick has 427 pages, 135 chapters. Approximately ten of the chapters consist of showing actual action. There is much lengthy foreplay in Moby-Dick of asserting oneself near Moby Dick. Ahab’s monomaniacal obsession could reflect the obsession that a real whaler, or real sailor, has while away from the physical and mental nature of the opposite sex. Ahab constantly discusses the whereabouts of Moby Dick. “Hast seen the white whale?” (p 403) this is the first question Ahab asks every ship he comes across. He is out to sea for such a long period of time, away from civilization, and the first inquiry he can conjure is one of a whale. One could assume he does not act unlike someone suffering from sexual frustration due to lack of sex, or the obsessing over sex. He has seen a bit of Moby Dick, and now he wants more. His days become toilsome and disturbed in wanting. He can think of one thing only, and he will put the whole crew in harm’s way to mount it. Instead of being obsessed with his wife, being away from her, and lacking the ability to console in her, Ahab goes to the nearest, yet most unbelievable and less attainable thing: a white whale, Moby Dick. Ishmael is Ahab’s foil, here Melville shows contrast by characteristics, by way of having and not having a companion. Ishmael has Queequeg, Ahab lacks Moby Dick. Ahab’s obsession shows the obsession a human being has while in love, or in the pursuit of a sexual intercourse. Ahab puts himself out there for whatever he may receive. He would do anything to have said object; one can interchange girlfriend, boyfriend, penis, vagina, sex, pleasure, power, or love etc., for Moby Dick. It is Ahab’s piqued obsession, and like the others, in a similar situation, are all going down together, and not in a good way. Misery needs company and all of those on board the Pequod are lacking, except, interestingly enough, Pip, who the reader can assume is not old enough for these sexual urges; also including Ishmael and Queequeg, being already satisfied. Ahab would stop at nothing to achieve his goal of getting, having, and taking the elusive white whale. Ahab has made it his mission, as someone in love will stop at nothing to be with a certain person they love.
In language and “fact”, the reader can assume that Melville, through Ishmael is somewhat experienced. His numerous chapters on the art of whaling, or the art of the action, outnumber the actual action itself. We see this foreplay, and foreshadowing, of something to come. Ishmael wants action in a way as well, from experience, “Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn.” (p 71) Ishmael once worked on a merchant vessel, something apart from a whaling ship. Ishmael observes and relays information, but like someone lacking experience in trials and errors, he gives no fresh examples of tries. He refers to outdated, sourced material, written by others who have experienced. These second hand accounts excite and entice Ishmael into finding something more, something tangible. He reads a book on whaling, or a book on sex, and he wants some of it, so he enlists and gets aboard a ship. This happens, not before a possible sexual encounter. Ishmael has only begun, he is madly in lust for action; however, there is someone else more interested, more taken over by this lust, that someone: Ahab. Ishmael eventually recognizes the danger in this obsession, obsessing over the unattainable; whether that be the touch of a women, sex, love, or intimacy on the high seas. Ishmael witnesses this change in a person, – he also has Queequeg for a companion- and realizes he must avoid such peril. His desire through readings on whales is less than one who has previously experienced whales firsthand. In Ahab’s experience, as in the experience of being in love, or having sex, one loses a part of themselves. Ahab has lost his leg, and now he wants to take something from his adversary, or ex-lover. His mission is deeper than actually killing Moby Dick. His mission is as deep as eradicating Moby Dick from the world, and from his sick mind. Ahab and Ishmael are consumed by similar plights, obsession, yet just before Ishmael is drawn fully into insanity, and that experience, that tryst, he takes a step back to see the situation for what it is. He realizes that his “marriage” with Queequeg is more important than some passionate and deadly fling with a white whale, unobtainable.
Further on in Moby-Dick we reach a chapter alluding to the experienced and the inexperienced, or tainted and innocent. The Pequod eventually runs into other ships. One of those ships happens to be called the Jungfrau. Now, for those of you who spechen sie Deutsch, you know that this means one thing (well two things): Young Girl; essentially, as Melville puts it: virgin. The Jungfrau is depicted as fickle, green, frolicking, along the sea in hopes of finding a whale. The ship is presented as empty, or as needing to be filled. And what does the Pequod do? The Pequod fills her with all of the material she needs, the materials being made of spermaceti. The symbolic, and literal, references to being filled with sperm are obvious. This experienced ship is moving along, looking for its experienced prize, Moby Dick, when it finds the Jungfrau in need, wanting, begging for backing, it must attend to pressing issues. They press near. So, the Pequod takes it upon itself to satisfy the longings of the Jungfrau and give her special attention. Satisfied, the Jungfrau carries on and leaves the Pequod watching from afar, in anger. The Pequod feels hurt and rejected, and ironically, used. It is almost as if the virgin has escaped the grasp of the Pequod, the social constructs of marriage, and carried on. In this instance the foreplay was quick, and then followed by back breaking agony, and action, in excitement for the chase of a useless whale, as Starbuck cries, “Come, why don’t some of ye bust a blood-vessel?” The Pequod is ever wanting, and ever frustrated. The Jungfrau is off on to the next big thing, leaving the Pequod behind as damaged goods, with less of a load. Hurt by this prospect the Pequod can only become more morose and sensitive to finding what it must have, Moby Dick.
In the chapter Schools and Schoolmates, Ishmael gives us one more hint of foreshadowing, and sexual frustration. He ejaculates, “Like a venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone, he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though she keeps so many moody secrets.” (p 307) Ishmael himself is the sole survivor, left as an orphan to the water. He is himself the child born out of a “moody” experience, his “secret” encounter and companionship with Queequeg, and his unfortunate journey commanded by the “Nature” of Ahab. Ahab has finally had an experience with Moby Dick, yet it proved fatal, and not without great warning. Ishmael puts forth an idea about the secrets of sexual nature, through a man, Daniel Boone, and through a woman, Nature, proper. Sexually speaking these labels cannot be attained, discretely. Declassifying gender is not Ishmael’s purpose, but creating a sexual urge about a seemingly asexual object that declassifies gender is. The sexual object to Ahab is Moby Dick, the sexual object to Ishmael is a cannibal, and the womb of these interactions is the sea. Ishmael floats in vitro for two days before being found by the Rachel. All else on the Pequod perish. The pressure, and frustration built up from such an encounter created a deadly reaction, gave new life to Ishmael. Ishmael through experience because the experienced man he so desired to become. By way of not building up such an idol of his sexual importance he did not succumb to the demise of those interactions, he was birthed out of them.
Moby-Dick explains many things in great detail, but what it falls to explain absolutely is its narrator. The reader is given volume upon volume of whale theory and idea. Moby-Dick gives much about the physicality of whales, and delves into whale psychology, yet very little about Ishmael as a person is discussed: “my Lord Whale has no taste for the nursery” could explain the orphanage of Ishmael in the end. Moreover, “he leaves his anonymous babies all over the world; every baby an exotic.” By the end of the book we truly do not know Ishmael from Adam, or Noah. He tells us to call him Ishmael, as a sexual partner may introduce himself, but we have not the slightest inkling of his past, where he comes from, who he is really. His identity is blank canvas as one is before their birth, his trip on the Pequod is his creation, and his being discovered by the Rachel is the beginning of his life. His frustration as a human being, sexually, begins for him exactly at the end of the book. Before this he is just another passenger led astray by the emotions and sexual needs of others, as having been born.
Also, Moby-Dick has the word dick in it.
Melville’s critique of sexuality, by way of Moby-Dick is astonishing. This great novel, in size and in literature merit, carries heavy meaning. On the surface one can perhaps safely assume Moby-Dick is about the Pequod and its deranged captain attempting to exact vengeance upon a white whale named Moby Dick. However, when looked at closely, readers can see how this carries over into the prospect of attaining a sexual partner, or experience, and the trials and tribulation in relation to both. Moby-Dick is large in foreplay and little in action, though the action seems to outweigh the words, in experience. One can gam through a whole novel, give examples, show and tell; however, what trumps that speech, that language, is actually going out and experiencing it firsthand, getting a piece of the action. In doing that, experiencing, the aggression, sexually, and vengefully, all aboard, save for Ishmael, the lone survive, perished in this dire pursuit to obtain the unobtainable, this appealing encounter. Comparatively speaking, Melville’s iteration of knowledge and experience, in information and action, depict the makeup of foreplay and sex in real-life. Moby-Dick exhibits both of these devices, and shows the negative aspects and the pressures which come from the discussion of experience, and the actual experience.
Melville, Herman, and Hershel Parker. Moby-Dick. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2002. Print.
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Posted on December 16, 2014
Day One of Winter Break, I look back and think on this past semester. Fall 2014 was nothing short of interesting, trying, and above all, eye opening/mind expanding (whatever cliché). There was copious reading and unfollowed syllabi. One comes into contact with fliers on the walls of buildings; peers, scholars, and professors. A person can see groups talking in the mall in the sun one moment, and then weeks later, few huddled bipedals running bundled for warmth on sidewalks, and into halls. Minneapolis is as diverse in weather as it is in people.
The classes were four in number, and somewhat different; each offering a unique perspective on relevant, and mostly interesting topics- though Hamlet is still ubiquitous and rampant at the U of M campus (I am not sure if this is good or bad). I took part in a Science Fiction course which focused on social critique, a Film course which focused on gender, a non-linear Deutsch course which focused on focusing on the syllabus, tentatively, and acting, and talking, and projects which come with that, and of course tangents. I found solace in reading, in its entirety, Moby-Dick. This American Literature 1 course was enduring, yet all the same rewarding. And again, this entire experience did not come without the most important part, the people one connects with.
University is great for connecting with people. I came into contact with real-life actors, monomaniacal professors obsessed with Melville, and their TAs who wear low-cut shirts and gave smiles over discussions of hangovers. I met a professor named Craig who was the most loving, and caring woman; more open and honest than the average person outside of their homes. Moreover, I had a professor who gave me 65 percent on a paper, a fucking D, the first since high school, and it was deservedly. Examples of people I connected with, there were a million: AV a boy who carried his works in a backgammon case, Theresa who was a non-traditional student and would tell you that fact numerous times, but was as youthful as anyone my age, K, B, and D and everyone in German (H,H,…) anyone I forgot; all of these people were special and amazing and scholars in their own right. We took something from one another; student from teacher, teacher from student; student from student, etc.
These people appreciated like wine; ever getting better, and more seasoned. I can see vividly the situation where a human being is that, a human being. At 8 am in the morning we are all the same; we crawl from the warm womb of our beds to look into the mirror and judge ourselves, as we hope others won’t. We all have to get outside today, things to do. Whenever a project, assignment, quiz, or test came up, as a thorough student, I realized that the person on the other end was actually a person indeed. Writing in small letters would make it more difficult to grade, same as showing late would fuck up the flow of the lecture. I learned that that person had shit days, and had good days too. I was shown that no one is perfect, or always on time, or always smiling every second of the day. College enlightens humanity by showing examples of humanity. My experience was more personal than a letter grade.
What college has done for me so far is opened my eyes to new and unknown concepts. Even if I am reading and writing on subjects which have been read and written on a millions times over, I am doing something unknown and new. No moment is exactly the same as the moment before, even with all of the same parts involved. These parts are the people. I met people of interest, people from different and varying backgrounds; those people who took the challenge of academia as I did. We became parts of this semester, of this time, of this progressive movement called education, this system of grades and titles, and hellos and handshakes.
I think back to sitting in Walter Library every Monday at around noon talking to a friend. I would eat Cheerios out of a repurposed Talenti jar. We would discuss language, relationships, and the week ahead. We met once a week, it almost reminded me of seeing a therapist, this real-life person, with real-life opinions, sharing an honest and open real-life discussion over the things, any, which came to mind. There was no agenda, there never has been. That’s life. We walk guided by invisible strings. I sat and munched Cheerios and smiled and tried to focus on the person directly in front of me. Even the ceiling and walls offered a story. I would say, see you next week, and without text, without call, without social media, no convolution, it was so, like clockwork.
Now, looking back, I see a tinge more clearly of everyday life. The mind is a camera which captures and records. After each semester at the University I take something away, and I have left a bit heavy-hearted, and less and more of myself. I wonder: would I see these people again? Would I ever sit in the same spot with the same group with the same ideas with the same professor, words, ideology, and mindset? No. I do not think so. But now I can look back and take with me what I’ve gained. What I have gained is experienced learned. What I have learned is that we must all learn from those around us, and teach others as if they are learning too.