CR Episode 186: Moby Dick, Part XII

Moby Dick: Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish? by Rockwell Kent
Moby Dick: Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish? by Rockwell Kent

Download Link: Released on 31 July 2023

The panel discusses the Ahab’s representation as a wrathful, inhuman avatar of anti-nature, the hellish nature of the Pequod, the sorcerous conniving of the captain and crew, and the abandonment of every comfort and sentiment in search of Moby Dick.

One comment

  1. Happy Birthday to Herman Melville today!

    Update from the Marathon: Fifteen people did the whole Mystic Seaport Moby Dick Marathon and slept overnight on the whaling ship. I arrived at 11:00 on the second day and was still able to sign up and read two chapters. There was a birthday celebration afterwards – thankfully with cake and not the dessert suggested by Ishmael in the Grand Armada!

    A Bower in the Arsacides

    I loved the discussion of enigmatic Ishmael with ESP, x-ray vision, and who may also be able to time-travel (if Melville really meant to say Ishmael was writing the book in the future) – he definitely could be an alien.

    Because Ishmael is shocked by Queequeg’s tattoos and wonders if he might be a sailor forcibly tattooed by cannibals, I don’t think he was tattooed prior to the Pequod. Thus, his tattoos would be a quite a change for him and it would be interesting to know what changed.

    Was this a result of some bad decision making during the drunken gam on the Samuel Enderby? Or, is it that he has given up Christianity (having tattoos is repeatedly described as being characteristic of cannibals)? Or that he has perhaps adopted Queequeg’s religion? Thoughts, please!

    When writing about his own experiences in Typee, Melville writes he is “horrified at the bare thought of being rendered hideous for life” if the Polynesians he is living amongst force him to be tattooed, and this motivates him to escape. So, if he indeed did not have tattoos, this is an interesting point that distinguishes him from Ishmael.

    The Fossil Whale

    I am very pleased that in 2010, scientists named a fossil raptorial sperm whale Livyatan melvillei after Herman Melville. The teeth are over a foot long!

    Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?

    The connection Dr. C made with the placement of the Rockwell Kent illustrations in this chapter so that they correlate with the idea of pre-Adamite and post-Adamite whales is so fascinating. The middle image – of a whaleboat upended by a whale, was used for the 2001 Moby Dick stamp celebrating American illustrators, the birthday cake at the Marathon, and for Dr. C’s recent excellent essay on substack.

    Ahab and the Carpenter

    The parallel drawn between Ishmael writing on his skin and Ahab writing on his leg is intriguing. Is Ahab employing his whale bone leg to find and kill Moby Dick analogous to Stubb eating whale meat by the light of a whale oil lamp (i.e. adding insult to injury)? Is it a foreshadowing of how Moby Dick will seal Ahab’s fate (i.e. Moby Dick adding insult to injury by killing with Ahab’s own hemp rather than with his teeth or tail)?

    Queequeg in his Coffin

    The passage in this chapter may be Rockwell Kent’s inspiration for making Queequeg’s mark look like an infinity symbol – “And like circles on the water, which, as they grow fainter, expand; so his eyes seemed rounding and rounding, like the rings of Eternity.” I also found this quote from Kent in Wikipedia – “I want the elemental, infinite thing; I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.” Of all the people who have illustrated Moby Dick, it is enigmatic to me that the only one to illustrate Queequeg’s mark (to my knowledge) is Kent.

    O< O< O<


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