Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
This is how my life has changed since I spent an entire (!) semester ‘diving’ (pun intended!) into the novel “Moby Dick” due to the investigation of Herman Melville’s authorship:
1. Whenever I see:
– an ocean
– a picture or painting of an ocean
– a ship
– a ship in a church (there are a few maritime churches in Denmark!)
… I stop and wonder, and feel like there’s a memory that’s coming (screaming!) in my remembrance
2. Whenever I stumble upon:
– a <b>really</b> white colour (not normal white, but a blinding white, you know?)
– fish in a supermarket
– someone with only one leg
… I start to wonder about an old distant memory
Okay, maybe there are enough examples to describe now… Ah well, last one:
3. When I meet someone and we have this conversation:
Stranger: “Oh, you also read Moby Dick? It was amazing, right!
Stranger: “You didn’t really like it? I thought it was ACTION-PACKED” (add stars in the stranger’s eyes)
Me: “So you’ve read the shorted version, right?”
… and then I think: “If you had read through the 663 pages, you wouldn’t think it was that action-packed.
However, I was intriqued by the novel. You hear so much and the opinions are always different, no matter where you go. I was one of those who really didn’t like it that much, because often I felt that the plot vanished and this created no action = a heavy read!
It is a shame because there are so many elements of this novel which are brilliant, in fact;
Maritime literature, man vs. nature (how much are we capable of?), man-made vs. naturally man, hierarchy, racism, a male-dominated world and much more.
Herman Melville had a thing for details and often this creates a very visual environment for the reader. However, as much as this is his strength, this is also his weakness, e.g. many of the pages only describing whales and anatonomy (of certain types of whales which do not at all appear in the story).
There’s no doubt that Herman Melville has added several novel to the canon, which have described cultural or historical circumstances or events of the 1800s brilliantly and in many details, but this novel had work, even though it would have been third of the length.
“for there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men”
/If you are interested in reading other novels by Herman Melville, I would recommend “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”, which is very different than his maritime literature. I liked this short story a lot, because it deals with existential crisis, work environment and the writing style is filled with symbolism, metaphors and details.
Read the review of Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street here