We’re about halfway through the book, so we’re going to take this Friday off. But y’all can keep the discussion going! What did you think about Chapter 54 ("The Town-Ho's Story") which sees Moby-Dick take on yet another narrative format, the story within a story? It’s also the only single chapter send we’ve done so far. Or what are your feelings about the novel in general? What has surprised you the most?
Chapter 54 underscored something that has shocked me repeatedly: Moby Dick may be a *classic* but it is not *traditional*. Based on the first couple chapters I was anticipating a straightforward first person limited narrative with buddy-cop undertones (bring back Queequeg!). I wasn't anticipating a novel-turned-script-turned-frame story with a limited-then-omniscient reliable-then-unreliable narrator. Side note: if Ishmael is unreliable now, was he ever reliable? The end of Chapter 54 read like a jab to me. As Ishmael puts his hand on a Bible to swear up and down the story of Steelkilt is true, I felt naive for believing a single thing he's said up to this point.
I was glad to see that Ishmael is as verbose in all parts of his life. I wonder what Don Sebastian said to prompt this ridiculously verbose story. Like even the Dons seemed impatient having to having to hear about the Erie Canal.
The Spirit-Spout is a really cool idea - just a phantom spout following them late a night. Spooky!
The Town Ho’s story was GRUELING for me. This was the first chapter I really struggled with, I loved the imagery but the length of this tangent really threw me. I’ve been reading Moby Dick since april at the pace of about a chapter a day or whatever life lets me read and for the The Town Ho’s Story it took me a week to push through.
Some thoughts I had while reading:
I really like the alliterative sounds in the beginning of the Spirit-Spout chapter - "when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow" - there's just something really enjoyable about reading that kind of thing, especially out loud.
I also enjoyed the little English sailor vs. American sailor rivalry explained in The Gam, where the English consider Americans to be "sea-peasants".
Steelkilt is a great name and I love the phrase "merry as a cricket"