In an earlier post I confessed that I was rereading Moby Dick for reasons that I put forth with not some little shame. Several of you responded that you were set on joining me in my quest for the white whale. So, what I want to know is … how goes it?
As for me, my progress has been determined entirely by the mood I’ve been in when sitting down to read. It’s a challenging book, no doubt, as the great books almost always are. Les Miserables proved to be a veritable Mount Everest. But, the summit finally reached, it was worth it; Victor Hugo’s descriptions of the streets and sewers of Paris alone were reason enough to make the climb.
When I came to Chapter 32 of Moby Dick I’d just waded through a slew of English IV essays and was in no mood for a catalogue of the various varieties of whales that traverse the world’s oceans. So I put it aside and read something more fun. But when I went back to it I found that long index of leviathans not only readable but full of foreshadowing of things to come. And for a reader given to scanning – skipping over unpromising or channeling parts (like “Cafeteria Christians” following the convenient rules and sliding past the hard ones) which I doubt anyone picking up Moby Dick would do – I hope they won’t flip past Chapters 38 through 40, which provide a fine Greek Chorus of the officers and men of the Peaquod, giving voice to their inner feelings during a stormy night at sea. Those voices breathe life into the overall story and sing out their collective fears regarding the first hints of the depths to which the madness of Captain Ahab has plummeted.
Stay the course, ye fellow graspers of the sharp harpoon. Let’s have a progress report.