I have finally done it. I have boldly gone where not many people go anymore. It took me over a month, maybe even more than six weeks, but I have finally finished this whale of a book, this leviathan of a book. The hump of this book – the middle half approximately – was extremely tough to get through, as it was just so boring and dense at times that I had to put the book down and continue it later. But I eventually finished it, and now I can cast it to the bottom of the ocean where it belongs. Now, whenever someone asks me, “Hast seen the white whale?” I can say, “Aye, I have seen that mighty beast, and I have conquered it!”
OK, enough over-exaggerated and cheesy whale talk. Yeah, it took me a long time to finish Moby Dick (1851), but I also had a lot of other things going on, and some family sickness to deal with as well. Here’s what I really thought of it:
There is a ton I could say about Moby Dick. I will not be discussing any of the religious aspects of it though, as much of it is very controversial and I wish to keep that out of my blog for now. In general, I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the story of Captain Ahab and crew hunting the giant whale. I enjoyed the unique and well-crafted characters. I enjoyed the sarcasm and satire that Herman Melville heavily sprinkles into the book. And I enjoyed the ominous white whale, Moby Dick, this massive infamous beast that could be a whaler’s doom or his glory. There is much that I did not enjoy, though, which made for a very dense and painful read.
Moby Dick is comprised of three parts (according to me, not in actuality): The Introduction, the Information, and the Chase.
The Introduction is where we meet all the important characters like Ishmael, Queequeg, Ahab, and the mates. All these characters get long, drawn-out dramatic introductions, especially Queequeg and Ahab. It may be overdone a little bit, but I liked it. The suspense of finding out who these people were kept me reading. I was a little disappointed, though, that after all the character build-up for Queequeg, he nearly disappears for the rest of the book. He makes a couple cameos and then has an entire chapter where he almost dies, but that’s it. I was intrigued by the tattooed face and cannibalistic nature, and wanted more story for him later in the book.
The Information section of the book is what held me up and made me put the book down way too many times. In this section there are many chapters devoted to describing whales, whaling, and the ship. We learn about how a whale is caught, how it is cleaned and stripped, we even learn about how they use the skin of the whale’s penis as a shirt! We learn about the different types of whales, we learn about the whale’s physiognomy and countenance, and the different types of fins that each whale has. Sure, it’s all very interesting stuff, and Melville’s sarcasm and witty remarks make it a fun read (when I can understand his reference), but I just think it was too much. It seemed that what Melville really wanted to do was to write an informative book on whaling, but threw in a tragic adventure story to make it more interesting.
The Chase is the final conflict of the book. Moby Dick is spotted by the crew, and they immediately attempt to catch and kill him. They try for three days. The first two days, Captain Ahab’s boat is torn to pieces, and he barely escapes with his life. On the third day, though, nobody is lucky. The entire ship gets destroyed along with everybody in it. Except for Ishmael, of course, who is telling the story. This section of the book is not only the shortest, but it is also the fastest paced. It kept me on the edge of my seat, even though I already knew the outcome. But by this time, I just wanted to be done with the book, so I read it as fast as I could anyway.
Overall, I’m glad I read the book. It’s been on my to-read list for years, and now I can finally cross it off. It had a lot of unique and interesting features that will influence my own writing. I give Moby Dick 3 out of 5 stars