Monday 16 September 2019

Moby-Dick Chapters 21 - 25

Ahoy, there shipmates!
We're finally on board the Pequod and due to set sail, any chapter now.

I've had a week, not unlike Peleg and Bildad, stocking up, ticking off lists, organising and categorising, as we plan for a new adventure at work. Which is my excuse for not getting around to doing any supplementary reading on Melville this week.

Chapter 21: Going Abroad
  • More Elijah impertinence & prophecy
  • Mysterious, shadowy sailors only seen by Ishmael & Elijah.
  • More slap-stick humour with Queequeg sitting on sleeping sailor, then laughing about how easy it would be to kill him!
  • Admiration for (the as yet, unmet) Starbuck 
    • 'he's a lively chief mate...a good man, and a pious.'
    • Starbuck was an important Quaker family name on Nantucket.
    • Starbuck Island in the South Pacific named after this family.
    • According to wikipedia: 
      • 'Starbuck Island was first sighted in 1823 by Valentine Starbuck, American-born master of the British whaling ship L'Aigle on which the young king and queen of Hawaii, travelled to England in 1823–1824. However it had probably been sighted previously that same year by his cousin and fellow-whaler Capt. Obed Starbuck.'
  • Ahab still 'invisibly enshrined within his cabin'.

Chapter 22: Merry Christmas
  • Peleg & Bildad acting like the Ernie & Bert of the shipping world!
  • 'as for Captain Ahab, no sign of him was yet to be seen'.
  • Ishmael received his 'first kick' - his merchant experience not so useful on a whaling ship?!
  • A long voyage ahead 
    • 'this day three years I'll have a hot supper smoking for ye in old Nantucket.'
  • Setting sail on Christmas Day...reflects the Quaker belief that Christmas Day is not a special day worth celebrating as Quaker tradition says that EVERY day is sacred.

Chapter 23: The Lee-Shore
  • Bulkington - barely on land from his last voyage & now heading back out to sea again.
    • Foreshadowing - 'this six-inch chapter is the stone-less grave of Bulkington.'
    • A decent man, but apparently this is the last time we see or hear about him.
    • An unsung hero, a regular good guy whose story is subsumed by Ahab's mania...?
    • He represents all the men on board we never meet or get to know.

Chapter 24: The Advocate
  • In which Ishmael discusses whaling as an honourable vocation.
  • 'And we get a version of Australian history:
    • That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia was given to the enlightened world by the whaleman....The whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover, in the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were several times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of the whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters.'
    • Hopelessly non-PC to a modern reader, but that's how the white world viewed the world and its history until very recent times. 

Chapter 25: Postscript
  • In which Ishmael touches on the uses of oil in the coronation of kings and queens.
  • One of the short chapters - barely a page in length.
  • My new favourite word introduced - QUOGGY - meaning soft or flabby of person.

It's also time for another photo challenge for #MobyDickintheWild. 
This week take pictures of your copy of Moby-Dick with your favourite/most bizarre/curious nautical or marine objects.

Moby-Dick with my father-in-law's weather gauge.


  1. Thanks for the post, even without the commentary, it's still generous.
    I remember that part on Australia, and thinking how outdated and limited view of the world it was. But still the book remains larger than life! I'm loving it but a bit stalled because of work too.

    1. It was a curious section indeed. I wasn’t expecting to see my home in this great American novel!
      Was Australia ever called ‘the great America on the other side of the globe’? Not by those of us on the other side at least.

      The story is kind of factual & an interesting one that says a lot about our early history. The First Fleeters did nearly starve while they were waiting for the Second Fleet to arrive.
      But of course, they completely failed to wonder, ask, investigate what the Indigenous tribes ate. Some individuals explored this option, but none of the English governors ever took this on as a serious idea. They only wanted the food they knew. Dry ship biscuits as opposed to trying local yam roots, grasses or fruit!! White colonial thinking didn’t want to see any signs of native culture or expertise, therefore, for a long time, that’s what our history books reflected too.

      But don’t get me started on historical bias and revisionism!!

    2. I won't get you started if you don't want, but I love listening to you.

      I also saw my country, Spain, with her sailors represented. Same. Some things ring true, but it's also encapsulated in the past. I did love to see my people represented. Even Malta, my husband's country of origin, was mentioned!


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.