Reading and Discussion for Moby-Dick chapters 42 – 60

This is my professors discussion board post, please read those chapters and reply to this by my professor is a discussive manner:

Chapter 42 — as you were skimming this chapter (I didn’t make you read it) about the symbolic meaning of whiteness, you might have come across the passage that read “…it applies to the human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership over every dusky tribe…” Those do not seem like the words of a multiculturalist! In Melville’s defense, he was probably describing the world as he saw it. in 1852, not only had (white) Americans conquered this entire continent, but the British and other European powers were ruling over a large portion of Asia, Africa, and Australia. China, Japan, and India were not yet major powers (although they had been in the past). The strongest, most independent non-white nations were in Latin America, but the US was just about to snatch half of Mexico’s land in the Mexican-American war (which Melville anticipated). So when Melville mentions “mastery”I think he is describing the world as it was in realistic terms. But saying this is how the world IS is not necessarily saying this is how Melville thought the world SHOULD be.

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Chapter 43 — two minor sailors, Archy and Cabaco hear some unidentifiable noises coming from the ship’s hold. They are foreshadowing a little secret that Ahab is hiding from them.

Chapter 44 — starts with “had you followed captain Ahab down into his cabin…” which once again brings up Melville’s weird narration perspective. are we supposed to infer that Ishmael did follow Ahab down into the captain’s quarters? I don’t think so because lowly sailors like Ishmael would not generally be allowed to go there. I definitely don’t remember Ahab inviting him. Or ever talking directly to Ishmael at all. Come to think of it, has any character talked directly to ishmael since he got on the ship? Are we sure he’s even there?

Chapter 45 — There’s a joke in this chapter! In fact, it’s a joke about the novel itself, which you might consider to be “meta” humor or “breaking the fourth wall” — which basically means that a character in a work of fiction acknowledges that he is in a story and might speak about the story directly to the audience itself. It’s done in movies like Deadpool and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Melville might be the first author ever to use this kind of meta-humor.

here’s the joke. He’s talking about how people who aren’t in the whaling business might foolishly think Moby-Dick, the whale, is just a legend. “they might scout at Moby-Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory!” That’s funny because Moby-Dick, the novel, actually IS an allegory! Anybody want to explain what an allegory is and why Moby-Dick, the novel, might be one?

Chapter 48 — this is the first time the crew of the Pequod try to kill a whale — not Moby-Dick, just the first whale they run across. This chapter lets you get a feel of how the Pequod operates (the ship doesn’t attack the whale, its little boats do) and it creates a bit of an action scene to break up all the heavy thinking parts. You also learn what Ahab has been hiding under the deck: his own personal boat crew of Filipino rowers who interact with nobody but Ahab himself. Why does he need them, with all these other sailors working for him already. Ultimately they lose the whale and it’s a bit of a letdown. There are several non-Moby-Dick whale hunts in this novel and they are designed cleverly so that each one has a little more emotional impact than the one before it.

Chapter 49 — we are introduced to Fedallah, Ahab’s Persian fortune teller. This is the one time you’re going to see Melville imply that somebody might be suspicious or evil partly because of his ethnic background — a strange exception because he has already given us very positive characters who are African, native American, South Pacific islanders, etc.

Chapter 52 — Let’s take a quick look at Ahab’s ego. He is standing on the bow of the Pequod, and as he does he watches some fish swim out of the path of his ship. And he says ” Swim away from me, do ye?” Ahab, those fish do not know who you are. the world does not revolve against you. Ahab thinks he is fighting a personal battle against a force of nature. The sad reality is that the forces of nature do not give a damn about Ahab.

Chapter 53 — There’s another joke! Melville (or Ishmael, I can’t tell anymore) is wondering why whalers get such a bad rap. He says even pirates get more respect than whalers. The joke is “Because in the case of pirates, say, I should like to know whether that profession of theirs has any particular glory about it. It sometimes ends in uncommon elevation, indeed; but only at the gallows.” Anyone want to explain that joke to me?

Chapter 54 — the only reason this long side story is in here is to point out that sometimes a mutiny on board a ship is possible and even justifiable. Melville wants you to have it at the back of your mind that the men on the Pequod COULD rise up and take control of the ship from Ahab.

Chapter 59 — Dagoo sees something big and white in the water and thinks it might be Moby-Dick but it turns out to be a giant squid. The crew takes that to be an omen and gets pretty freaked out. You might say, “big deal, it’s just a giant squid, just another sea creature.” but in 1852 we knew a lot less about the sea. Giant squid , which live very deep, had not yet been scientifically studied. They were semi-legendary. For them , this was almost like seeing the Loch Ness Monster.

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