Melville’s Moby Dick

Finished Moby Dick.
If it wasn’t obvious, from the helpful map provided on the route of the Pequod, that the voyage ended in disaster, the final chapters could be quite suspense filled. A bit of a spoiler that. Apart from the late chapters when Ahab, soliloquises (to Starbuck mainly) about his career widow (yes the “Ahab’s Wife”) and his motivations to spend so many years of his life continuously at sea, (and of course the dramatic revelation earlier about the puspose of the mission) I don’t find Ahab and his much quoted “monomania” the main hero / subject of the book. The life and the characters are the story. Ahab is but one.

The competition for the dubloon provides an interesting parable on team motivation. In the initial part of the final chase Ahab (who put up the prize) – claims it over his crew, and creates the aweful anticipation of team demotivation. The second day Ahab changes the rules greatly in favour of the crew individually and as a team, and it shows in the way the entire crew follows his quest to their mutual terminal fate – with only Starbuck silently voicing “give it up now Ahab, for all our sakes”. Moby is not just real, but the real hero.

(Picky details – like the earlier rescue from the wreck in the first foray into the whaling boats, where the crew rescue is easy to miss, in the final fate of the Pequod itself, it is not clear when she sinks what has actually caused her to founder, and finally, the postscript about Ishmael surviving to tell the tale is a somewhat weak afterthought, though poignant in that Queeqeg’s coffin is the liferaft, and in fact only served to remind me that I’d lost any sense of where “I” was in the final scenes.)

Excellent read for so many reasons. Just the language is enough, varied though tough in some passages. The heroic historical adventure is a gripping and involving documentary too. Great stuff.

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