Moby Dick – Pre-Ahab

Okay, so I’ve read through the first part of the book. The boys are on the boat, but they haven’t yet met the elusive Captain Ahab. At this point, I thought I’d jot down some first impressions.

First off, I have to say I’m enjoying the story quite a bit. The narrator has a unique way of putting his own flavor on everything, but seems to be a level-headed guy. Queequeg is an incredibly entertaining and curious character, and the initial meeting between Queequeg and Ishmael had me laughing to myself.

Secondly, there’s quite a bit of build-up in this first section. Almost too much, in my opinion. There are portents and prophecies and allusions to the dark, dangerous trip our narrator is about the embark on. It’s good, that it sets the mood, but I’m starting to think it’s a bit much. At some of the points, I found myself saying, “Okay, we get it, these guys are probably not making the best decision. Enough, let’s get on with it.”

There was also an interesting line in chapter 11 that keeps coming back to me as the book progresses. It’s when Ishmael is laying in bed, and he’s commenting on how the only way to really enjoy your body is being warm is when there’s a bit of it that is cold. The part that stands out is this:

… for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.

This leads me to think that the book itself will present us with quite a few points of contrast. We already have one going between the educated and Presbyterian Ishmael and the uneducated “savage” heathen that is Queequeg. I’m curious to see if we might see more contrasts such as this present themselves throughout the work.

Overall, though, a pretty encouraging start to the book.

Questions/Comments

  • So far the narrator has made some decisions. The most important one being the boat that he and Queequeg got on. However, he also got pushed into making a decision by Queequeg and his idol. Will he continue to be a factor in the direction of the book or more of an observer?
  • It looks like Ahab has already had his run-in with the whale before we met him. It’s been mentioned that he’s “sick”, is this sickness his need for vengeance or something else?
  • I’m curious to see what the first meeting of Ahab and Queequeg is like. We know something of the character of Queequeg, will Ahab’s reaction to him tell us something about Ahab’s character?

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