Full Name:  Angeldeep Kaur
Username:  akaur@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The James Brothers on Emotion: Representation of Emotion in The Turn of the Screw
Date:  2006-02-15 11:52:48
Message Id:  18135
Paper Text:


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In the beginning of our class, we read 'The Turn of the Screw,' a novella written by Henry James. In conjunction with this novella, we read William James' theory on 'What is an Emotion.' Reading W. James' theory shed an interesting light on his brother H. James' story, especially in the different ways in which it can be read. I am attempting to make an argument for structure of 'The Turn of the Screw's narrative, using W. James' theory on emotion, suggesting that the structure does offer several justifiable readings of the governess' thinking and behavior.

William James' theory with regard to the nature of emotions is an unconventional one. He states the emotional response registered by the human mind is not caused by a stimulus but is rather the result of a person's reaction to the stimulus. The example he used that was mentioned very often by our classmates was the response to an encounter with a bear: a man runs away from the bear and thus feels fear. Conventional understanding, based on experience rather than theory, would argue that the action of running away is caused by fear of the bear, not vice versa. However, James' argues that point a little differently.

He makes a study of only those emotions that bring about a physical response in humans. He describes the condition as being 'possessed' with a mental state (Henry James: What is an Emotion, page 2), which is an interesting choice of words. It suggests an uncontrollable manifestation of a certain mental state in people, which is argued to be the governess's state in 'The Turn of the Screw.' As previously mentioned, he says that the emotion felt by man comes from the bodily changes that are experienced as a result of situation. Without the physical reaction existing first the emotion becomes entirely cognitive, which he does not consider a concrete or real source of human emotion. This thesis can be extended to suggest that emotions serve as the brain's method of articulating and interpreting the instinctual reactions in the body. He uses biological evidence to prove this point, illustrating the nervous system as an information system that is predisposed to undergo changes in a particular pattern. Then, the work of the brain becomes translating these impulses into an emotional understanding. He includes the circulatory system as one such other information source. Here, W. James takes away the cognitive agency of the human mind to an extent, negating the process of coming up with an explanation and emotion that would be easier to deal with, as an emotion would remain unreal if no bodily reaction accompanied it.

The fashion in which 'The Turn of the Screw' is written presents an interesting case study for William James' theory. The novella by Henry James consists mostly of a diary written by an unnamed woman who served as a governess for Douglas' sister. Douglas is the character who introduces us to the governess and then reads this diary to us. However, the words that we hear come from the governess, and serve as her representation and understanding of her emotions and experiences in a country house in Bly. By looking at the account she presents us with and taking her words to represent the range of emotions she felt, we can see how she explained her mental situation to herself. The catch here is that we see everything through her eyes only, a fact that was a source of distress for many students in the class, as they did not trust her and were unable to find a viable solution to the story because of this. I would argue that by exploring the stories she adopted, we can try and see if William James' theory does in fact stand true in his brother's representation of characters, and can study how she coped with her situation using the governess' own words. The viable solution doesn't come from knowing whether or not Miles did really die at the end of the story, it comes from understanding how the governess came to act the way she did.

Throughout the novella, we see several instances at which the governess describes her actions and tries to justify them, presumably after the incidents have gone by and when she is sitting down to write them out. She forms her opinion about the characters she meets in an impulsive and emotional manner, without really thinking or analyzing the facts before her. She goes along with the bodily response that is produced when she encounters characters; she is taken by the charms of Flora and Miles in this fashion, rejecting any claims made against either of them simply based on their appearance of goodness. Her encounters with the ghosts are described with a similar importance placed on her physical and instinctual reactions at the moment, and how she explained them to the reader. When she first lays eyes on Quint, she describes feeling two gasps of shock and surprise, one following the other. She felt as though she was surrounded by death in that one moment, as she froze in shock and it seemed to her that everything around her did too. She also says that writing about it brought back all those emotions. The reader can imagine her sitting in her room, writing in her journal and beginning to feel her heart race as she remembered staring at a stranger who turned out to be not of this world.

Similarly, she describes her other encounter with Quint as occasions when her brain took decisions in the moment, without her engaging in rational thought. It can be argued that at these times her mind was paying more attention to the way in which her body responded to her environment. Whether it was an understanding that Quint was not in the house for her, or that the children might be less innocent that she had supposed, all realizations came suddenly without active cognition on her part. All these descriptions can be read through W. James' definition of emotion, and the importance of bodily functions in actually experiencing emotion. The governess repeatedly emphasizes her reactions to situations in this way.

H. James insists, through the voice of Douglas, that the story be heard through the voice of governess. This was also a point of great vexation for our class as many students declared James to be coward for not simply writing as a woman, and instead placing other male characters as layers into the story. However, this insistence of hearing the governess' voice can be seen as H. James' attempt to allow the reader to follow the process of understanding events as the governess had explained them to herself. In effect, he gives us the role of the governess' brain, presented with a bodily reaction to a stimulus and having to explain what exactly was going on. Her inability to define her actions in the moment and rash decisions all reflect on this lack of agency over the feelings she was having.

This brings us to the ultimate question of the novella – was the governess insane and creating these ghosts, coming up with stories to deal with her sexual repression or was the house really haunted by spirits, looking to destroy and corrupt the children as the governess tried to be valiant and protect them? W. James' theories on emotion can offer some insight into the problem, but not show us a solution, The presence of the bodily reactions suggests the presence of a true reason for distress; however, we know that the state of the governess' mind would be affecting the way in which she perceived the reaction. The stories she presents to the reader through her journal are those she adopts to make the ghosts real to her, and that is all that we have accessible to us. If we believe what she has written, the ghosts were the reason she felt how she did and reacted accordingly. Her emotional impulsiveness and lack of cognition makes her unreliable to the reader, along with our biases with regard to the existence of spirits. So, an alternate story could be that her mind created images to frighten her, which caused her body to react, forcing her brain to reinterpret the situations she found herself in and respond accordingly. If this were the case, she would be clinically insane as she would be hallucinating and would really believe in the existence of the ghosts she made up. A third possible argument could be that she doesn't see the ghosts, but chooses to say she does anyway. In this case her diary would be a well constructed faηade, created to fool the reader by trying to provide a realistic representation of her dilemmas and the reasons why she chose to do what she did.

Each of us can come up with an interpretation of what really caused the governess to end up with a 'dispossessed' Miles in her arms. However, if read using W. James theory on emotion, her account as presented in 'The Turn of the Screw' can provide a very good example for W. James' argument. Her emotional responses are defined in terms of the bodily reaction they produced along with the stories that went along with them to understand and articulate the emotion being felt. But did she save Miles or kill him? Neither of the James' brothers are willing to give us that answer.

Full Name:  Laura Otten
Username:  lotten@bmc
Title:  Melville the Pessimist & Alternative Lessons My Religious Education Has Taught Me about Creation
Date:  2006-02-15 13:56:17
Message Id:  18139
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I distinctly remember sitting in my second grade classroom, hearing the Book of Genesis read aloud by my teacher. On the board, Mrs. Kane had drawn a length of land leading into the waves of an ocean with a gaping strip of sky overlooking the whole scene. I held tight to my own magnet, a bunch of purple grapes, while glancing around at all the magnets that the other children held. Tiny hands clutched lions, wheat, Adam, birds, starfish, apple trees, Eve, mice and a large blue whale. Carefully listening to the number of 'good' things God had conjured up during creation, at our own individual discretion we arose, walked towards the board and placed our magnet in its appropriate environment. When the teacher finished the story, God's own designs sprinkled our world and life had supposedly begun.

After thirteen years of Catholic education, it is no surprise that I am embedded with a reverence for God's creations and a solid belief that our world is inherently good. In my day-to-day life, this powerful faith does not often surface unless I encounter something that attempts to shake my beliefs at the core.

Reading Moby Dick provided many such incidences. Often times I found myself putting aside the novel. Disheartened, disgusted, terrified, doubting. Could I discount Melville's cynicism to the times in which he lived? To his skeptical character? Or was I upset that his questioning and probing led me to feel confused? To me, one of the most horrifying statements Melville wrote in Moby Dick was this,
"Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from this isle, thou canst never return!" (pg. 225)

Melville's illustration of the underwater kingdom is dark and gloomy. The beautiful sea masks evil. 'The loveliest tints of azure' hide 'dreaded creatures'. 'Brilliance and beauty' are 'devilish'. The citizens of this underworld are 'remorseless', cannibalistic and hostile, creatures which have been 'carrying on eternal war since the world began.' It makes me feel miserable and I believe it is inaccurate. Melville cannot claim that such events only occur in the deep sea and contrast it against the peacefulness of the earth. Terror of the same magnitude is present on land as well, in the same way that peacefulness can indeed be found in the oceans.

Within the second paragraph of this quote, Melville invokes imagery of the land. He says that compared with the sea, the earth is 'green, gentle' and 'docile'. In looking at the contrast between these two extremes, the land and the sea, Melville sharply divides between good and evil. For him, it seems there is only black and white, no grey area of vagueness. I would argue that such vagueness is exactly what defines our being human. With God's gift of free will, humans are forever struggling to distinguish between good and evil. If we use Melville's categories, then humans ceaselessly wade through the murkiness of the shore, neither submerged in a malicious sea nor dry and perfect on the land.

From the second part of the quote, I think Melville believes that humans possess some good inside, for he writes that, 'this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.' The 'soul of man' is like the 'verdant land' and contains 'Tahiti', a paradise island that is 'full of peace and joy'. With this image, Melville affirms the optimistic view of humans' original, inherent goodness. However, Melville goes on to say that surrounding humans there lies, 'all the horrors of the half known life.' The darker reality of the external world and the hidden darkness in us all, calls for a warning, 'God keep thee! Push not off from this isle, thou canst never return!' When thrown into the chaotic, sinful mess of the world, Melville believes human purity is immediately shattered. By simply living and existing, we are susceptible to numerous forms of predatory evil. Therefore, we should 'push not off from this isle' for 'thou canst never return'. According to Melville, once humans experience sin, it is impossible to regain purity. How is it possible to stay 'on land'? How does Melville expect us to do this? To never experience the external world, would be to risk not living at all. How can Melville confidently claim with this novel, that living with both good and evil, wading along the shore, human choice will always lead to demise?

The tones of Melville's statements throughout Moby Dick bother me because they lack of any hope. I would like to challenge his ideas. I strongly believe that with the options and risks for both good and evil it is possible for humans to live with good intent and produce positive results. I believe that everything created in this world holds potential for goodness and because of this; we have nothing to fear in 'going to sea' and leaving the 'land'.

Thinking back to my second grade classroom, I knew that my purple grapes belonged on the board, under the category of 'good'. I knew that what God created, the lions, wheat, Adam, birds, starfish, apple trees, Eve, mice and even the large blue whale, a supposedly 'dreaded' creature of the deep, were all 'good'. I knew it then and I believed it to be true. I maintain and carry that faith to this day. God created humanity and nature with an overriding power for good.

Within that second grade classroom, my perspective began with the Bible, an influence that has continued to teach throughout my education. In the Bible, God pieced together the world, and the results were wonderful.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters...And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good." (KJV, Genesis 1: 1-10)
One of the first reports in the Bible is that the 'Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters' and the Sea and Earth were 'good.' Water, one of the most basic elements of our physical world, is terrifying to Melville and for others, like myself, it is the subject of holy grace.

I love the water. My parents called me a natural 'fish' as a child because I was always splashing on beaches, in pools and leaping off docks. I like boating, swimming, snorkeling, waterskiing, kayaking, and descending in submarines. The water holds no fear for me. It is the opposite; it is a space of joy and comfort. Water is showers, baptism, water is life-giving. For example, in the midst of college applications, I was strongly considering Bryn Mawr. What kept me hesitant? It was not close to a coast. I could not see water from campus. The lack of water, not its presence, alarmed me. In contradiction to Melville, I think that physical water, and the metaphor of the 'sea' in us, holds nothing worthy of trepidation.

According to the Bible, after the introduction of water,
"God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth." KJV (Genesis 1: 20-22)
With this passage, we witness the beginning of life. Everything that might have frightened Captain Ahab races forth in a single moment. Chaos that is both joyful and risky at once. With a final declaration, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (KJV, Genesis 1: 31) we can be certain that even with the possibilities for evil, God's grace prevails. The world unbounded will reap goodness.

Melville fears that what is dark and mysterious in this world will corrupt me, and draw out the evil that lies inside. I know that it is my own free will, which grants me opportunities for success and mistake. In our world, there are mistakes, yet I have witnessed many successes. I believe that everything God set in the world is 'very good' and therefore I refuse to live in fear. I do not fear the water literally, I do not fear the greater thrashing 'sea' of the surrounding world, and I do not fear the darker 'sea', which swells inside of me.

Full Name:  Erin Bagus
Username:  ebagus@haverford.edu
Title:  Bush-whacked
Date:  2006-02-16 17:37:26
Message Id:  18162
Paper Text:


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Call me Ahab. Forty years afloat, I am lost in a sea of my own loneliness. The great, powerful ocean has been my one constant companion, calming and threatening, ever changing and ever consistent. Its beauty is the only thing that has the power to overwhelm me and move me to tears. Lurking within this beloved sea of mine though is a creature that embodies all that I hate, all that is evil in this world. The great White Whale. Moby Dick. I am vowed to "chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up" (Melville 139). My men will join with me in the hunt; they too will "chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out" (139). They don't know it yet, but they will.

Call me George. Five years President, I am lost in a conflict-ridden world of my own making. The great, powerful Middle East has been my one constant companion, calming and threatening, ever changing and ever consistent. Its oil is the only thing that has the power to overwhelm me and move me to tears. Lurking within this beloved oil field of mine though is a creature that embodies all that I hate, all that is evil in this world. The great terrorist network. Al-Qaeda. I am vowed to "chase him round [Afghanistan], and round [Iraq], and round [Iran], and round perdition's flames before I give him up" (Melville 139). My men will join with me in the hunt; they too will "chase that [terrorist] on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he [spits] black blood and [falls arms limp]" (139). They don't know it yet, but they will.

Call me Queequeg. I am strong but illiterate. The perfect whaler, I live for the hunt and – trusting my captain – don't question its purpose or morality. Captain Ahab calls me his 'head harpooner'. He has so mesmerized me with his singularity of purpose and with his passion for achieving his objective that I remain loyal to his mission no matter what, even when, returning from the chase, my great captain's cohorts try to trick and further weaken me when I am already vulnerable, with "blue lips and bloodshot eyes [...] exhausted [...] and involuntarily trembling" (256). I am mysterious and dangerously powerful in my simplicity.

Call me John. I am strong but illiterate. The perfect soldier, I live for the battle and – trusting my President – don't question its purpose or morality. President Bush calls me an "army of one." He has so mesmerized me with his singularity of purpose and with his passion for achieving his objective that I remain loyal to his mission no matter what, even when, returning from the field, my great leader's cohorts try to trick and further weaken me when I am already vulnerable, with "blue lips and bloodshot eyes [...] exhausted [...] and involuntarily trembling" (256). I am mysterious and dangerously powerful in my simplicity.

Call me Ishmael. I am the weaver of stories, the advocate of whaling and of whalers. Because I believe in the honor and greatness of my profession, I am telling a tale of a personal whaling expedition that also knits together the history of the vocation, its great accomplishments, and all the knowledge of whales and of geography that could not exist without it. Though the mission of the particular whale hunt that I recount has been cursed by a monomaniacal Captain, and is thus doomed to end badly, I still believe in the profession of whaling. I think. I write to convince, maybe even to convince myself. Do you believe?

Call me Kate. I am the weaver of stories, the advocate of soldiering and of soldiers. Because I believe in the honor and greatness of my profession, I am telling a tale of a personal wartime expedition that also knits together the history of the vocation, its great accomplishments, and all the knowledge of the enemy and of geography that could not exist without it. Though the mission of the particular war that I recount has been cursed by a monomaniacal Captain, and is thus doomed to end badly, I still believe in the profession of soldiering. I think. I write to convince, maybe even to convince myself. Do you believe?

Call me Stubb. I, too, fell for the rhetoric, though not that of the Captain himself, but of a dream. I believed it when ol' Queen Mab whispered to me, "wise Stubb, what have you to complain of? [...] you were kicked by a great man [...] It's an honor; I consider it an honor. In old England the greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made garter-knights of; but, be your boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; be kicked by him; account his kicks honors" (114). I took these enchanting words to heart and from then on "let the old man alone [and] never [spoke] quick to him, whatever he [said]" (114). I let myself believe the fairy, never more questioning the sweet lies she whispered in my ear.

Call me Matt. I, too, fell for the rhetoric, though not that of the President himself, but of his conservative media. I believed it when ol' Fox News whispered to me, "wise [soldier], what have you to complain of? [...] you were [sent to war] by a great man [...] It's an honor; I consider it an honor. In old England the greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made garter-knights of; but, be your boast, [soldier], that ye were [sent] by old [Bush], and made a [heroic] man of. Remember what I say; be [commanded] by him; account his [commands] honors" (114). I took these enchanting words to heart and from then on "let the old man alone [and] never [spoke] quick to him, whatever he [said]" (114). I let myself believe the media, never more questioning the sweet lies they whispered in my ear.

Call me Starbuck. I signed onto this voyage to make an honest living. To protect my boat and my shipmates, I am vowed, but not "to hunt [...] my commander's vengeance" (139). Now, however, I am trapped, bound to join my captain in his death-wish search for an unforgiving whale. I didn't sign on for this, and I let Ahab know it. I asked him, "How many barrels will they vengeance yield thee," and though he tried to make me believe that the amount of oil harvested was not the most important judge of the worth of the hunt, he assured me that his "vengeance will fetch a great premium" (139). However much I want to protest, though, the others have all vowed themselves to Ahab's mad chase. I am "more than matched; [I'm] overmanned. [...] Oh! I plainly see my miserable office, - to obey, rebelling; and worse yet, to hate with a touch of pity!" (144) Thus, I, too, – the only one who would dare resist – acquiesce and join the pursuit.

Call me Kristin. I signed onto this army to make an honest living. To protect my country and my fellow soldiers, I am vowed, but not "to hunt [...] my commander's vengeance" (139). Now, however, I am trapped, bound to join my President in his death-wish search for an unforgiving terrorist group. I didn't sign on for this, and I let Bush know it. I asked him, "How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee," and though he tried to make me believe that the amount of oil harvested was not the most important judge of the worth of the war, he assured me that his "vengeance will fetch a great premium" (139). However much I want to protest, though, the others have all vowed themselves to Bush's mad chase. I am "more than matched; [I'm] overmanned. [...] Oh! I plainly see my miserable office, - to obey, rebelling; and worse yet, to hate with a touch of pity!" (144) Thus, I, too, – the only one who would dare resist – acquiesce and join the pursuit.

Immersed in our own sea – in our own social-political-cultural world – it is hard to examine the water – the network of relationships and motivations – that surrounds us. Sometimes it is helpful to look at a community separate from our own, but which mirrors it, in order really to be able to see and understand our own society. As evidenced above, Herman Melville's Moby Dick serves this mirroring function for the situation in the twentieth-century United States quite well. Captain Ahab reflects President Bush, both avowed to a hunt for evil as he believes it personified. Each of the other shipmates can be seen to represent some faction of the American public, from the media who makes us believe in its heroic tales to the blind believer, who trusts without question, and the honest soldier, who signed up "to protect his country" not to fight his leader's personal battles. If we understand the book in this way, what lessons and warnings might it offer us?

One, perhaps, is the danger in making the world so cut and dry, starkly good and evil, here and there. In the novel, "all evil, to crazy Ahab, [is] visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick" (156). Ishmael, in narrating the story, describes the captain innumerable times as "monomaniacal:" he has one mission and all else in the world has faded from his consciousness. In contrast to Ahab's singularity of purpose, though, Ishmael's narration constantly points to the duality that naturally exists all around. The 'evil' whale lives within the great, beautiful ocean. The savage who is nobler than the Christian. The practical joke that always seems to exist in the midst of earnestness. The paradisiacal island in the middle of the "appalling ocean" (225). Ishmael tells us that even within Ahab's own face, one can see that "two different things [are] warring. While his one live leg ma[kes] lively echoes along the deck, every stroke of the dead limb sound[s] like a coffin-tap. On life and death this old man walk[s]" (192). It seems that Ishmael is trying to show that everything naturally contains within itself complementary aspects, but Ahab's monomaniacal hunt does not. Instead, it is singular, which is against natural law, and thus doomed.

President Bush's own descriptions of the purpose of the War in Iraq are startlingly similar to Ahab's monomania. He has declared, "the United States has been called to a new worldwide mission to 'rid the world of evil'" (Loy 1). In his State of the Union Address in 2002, Bush talked almost the entire time about the war on 'terror', at one point sounding confusingly similar to ol' Ahab as quoted above, "[We] have delivered a message now clear to every enemy of the United States: Even 7,000 miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountaintops and in caves – you will not escape the justice of this nation" (Bush, 1). In this war, not only have we, like Ahab, lost sight of the good and evil that naturally exists in everything/one – so both us and them – but we, too, have gotten so wrapped up in our mission that we have willingly given up most other concerns. The State of the Union, which might speak of so many diverse aspects of American society, from healthcare to taxes, social security to the economy, was packed full of almost nothing but "homeland security" and our own Captain Bush's rhetoric of the heroic and moral hunt. Our course so set, this modern-day American Pequod, too, seems headed for a fateful confrontation with its own dreaded White Whale.


Bush, George W. "State of the Union Address." Online. 9 February 2006.

Loy, David. "On the Nonduality of Good and Evil: Buddhist Reflections on the New Holy War." Bunkyo: University of Japan, 2004. Online. 9 February 2006.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Eds. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford. New York: Norton & Co., 2002.

Full Name:  Marie Sager
Username:  msager@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Turn of the Female Adventure
Date:  2006-02-16 22:18:35
Message Id:  18166
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Big Books Home
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National Public Radio's segment Fresh Air, often features book critic Maureen Corrigan, who recently published a literary memoir titled, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading. In her work, Corrigan, an obsessive reader, explores the extent books have shaped her life, and how, in turn, her life shaped her reading. She also presents a critique of literature, and, for me, introduced a novel concept– the notion of the female extreme adventure story, as distinguished from the better known, classic genre of extreme male adventures. On a similar note, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, tells the story of a "young, untried, nervous [governess...with a] vision of serious duties and little company, of really great loneliness" (297). Moreover, he presents an unmarried woman, beset by a range of emotional struggles, who quietly, yet unrelentlessly, fights against the spirits of Bly, for herself, and for her young charges. However, throughout the course of time, discussion of the novella centered mainly on the mental capabilities of the governess, causing readers to question her sanity and emotional stability. Yet, in bringing a slightly feminist approach to the work and reading it through the lense of a female extreme adventure, the view of the governess shifts. Instead, she emerges as a woman, who, confined by her traditional nineteenth century landscape, endured and conquered her emotional trials, rather than physical challenges, with profound courage and strength. In definitively defining a female extreme adventure story, one must first examine the well- known male extreme adventure story. An immensely popular genre of literature today and in the past, it is a "one-shot testosterone expenditure of physical courage that pits man against nature/man/himself, with man (the narrator usually) left standing, bloody but unbowed, amidst the wreckage of his fancy sporting gear...[it is a] scale the mountain, weather the storm at sea (or not), fight the war, the fire, the flood" type of story (Corrigan, 5). The Perfect Storm, by Sebastien Junger and Moby Dick, by Herman Melville exemplify male extreme adventures. Naturally, there are literary exceptions, especially in more recent years, but typically, past works refrain from placing women in these predominantly male roles, especially in the realm of the nineteenth century novel. The "extreme" aspects of a female adventure story are much less defined in a physical sense. Indeed, two characterizing features include anxious waiting and endurance; endurance not in terms of physical strength and stamina, but in terms of emotional capacity. More particularly, Corrigan asserts, Much space is devoted in these stories to the value of a woman quietly keeping her nerve through the hours-sometimes years- of strain. And above all, it's the quotidian quality of their pain that separates the women from the boys... Blinding blizzards may last a few hours, maybe days...[then] the nightmare is over. In contrast, the torments particular to women's extreme adventure tales continue year after year (9). Moreover, the women who meet these unique challenges often face them indoors- within kitchens, parlors, and bedrooms. Though physical risks are not entirely absent, the emphasis centers mainly on the "threatened loss of their sanity and their sense of self" (18). Referring again to James' The Turn of the Screw, the female extreme adventure story becomes a useful categorization and offers a unique perspective to the text, especially through the role of the governess. Two essential components in female extreme adventure stories, endurance and silence, provide a fitting description of the governess's character. The governess, in receiving the job as caretaker of her employer's niece and nephew, Miles and Flora, accepts a life cut off from almost all contact with the world outside of Bly Mansion. States Douglas, "His [the employer's] main condition...[was] that she should never trouble him- but never, never: neither appeal nor complain nor write about anything; only meet all questions herself...take the whole thing over and let him alone" (297-8). The governess does not meet this demand with complaint, but finds satisfaction in her ability of accomplishing this "mission" alone and when her sole companion, the servant Mrs.Grose, suggests writing the children's uncle, she immediately refuses and thinks, "She didn't know- no one knew- how proud I had been to serve him and to stick to our terms" (354). Thus, the governess willingly acknowledges her capacity to handle the situation alone. Without help from the outside world, and even more, without help from a man, she silently endures the terrifying mysteries that haunt Bly and the children. Still another aspect of female adventure found in The Turn of the Screw is the notion of the marriage-market extreme adventure. The governess, at the young age of twenty years old, is unmarried, and therefore sentenced to a "death-in-life future as a female dependent- years spent outside the home as a governess or companion..."(Corrigan, 19). Labeling James as the "great male master of this subject," Corrigan writes, "I read accounts in the nineteenth-century novels of young female characters reining themselves in and waiting breathlessly for a male partner to take notice of them" (20). Indeed, this observation describes the governess's own feelings, for, while conversing with Mrs. Grose, she silently states, "I myself saw: his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set in motion to attract his attention to my slighted charms" (354). Though ultimately the governess rejects any attempt to contact the uncle, her underlying motive may be to impress and please him. The truth behind the apparitions of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, and thus, the sanity of the governess, are main topics of debate surrounding the story. James' provides the reader with no conclusive answer to these questions. However, the "loss of sanity...and self" composes another aspect of the female extreme adventure. The governess's repeated visions of two people, supposively dead, threatens to undermine the qualification of her sanity. However, it is the governess's reaction to these visions, whether real or fake, that reveals her true character and determines the stories ultimate categorization. For example, upon meeting Peter Quint for the second time, the governess notes, "This flash of knowledge...in the midst of dread...produced in me the most extraordinary effect, started, as I stood there, a sudden vibration of duty and courage" (316). Furthermore, plagued by a painstaking job of teaching young children, while stuck in a situation of extreme loneliness, the question of her madness loses its original importance and instead, shifts toward the fact that she bravely faces these apparitions of horror. Caught in the midst of intense emotional upheavals, the governess never loses sight of her ultimate purpose of protecting the children. States the governess to herself, "Something within me said that by offering myself bravely as the sole subject of such experience, by accepting, by inviting, by surmounting it all, I should serve as an expiatory victim and guard the tranquility of my companions. The children, in especial, I should this fence about and absolutely save" (323). Alone, the governess prepares to face evil, and though a friendship exists between she and Mrs. Grose, neither have any contact outside of Bly, and it is never completely clear if Mrs. Gorse truly trusts the governess. Again, the governess silently endures and shows bravery and emotional strength in the face of haunting perils. The Turn of the Screw, a story of an "extreme emotional adventure" presents a situation "where, because the social options are so...limited, the heroine has no other alternative but to tough things out, silently" (Corrigan, 10). The absence of the typical "male" adventure elements found throughout literary history spurs the genesis of a "novel" category- the female extreme adventure story. Though James leaves the reader unaware of the governess's future, her bravado throughout the story is clear. A forbearer of feminism, the female extreme adventure story highlights the challenges traditionally faced by women and places its women, like the governess, among the ranks, and perhaps atop, of men, before such ideas seemed plausible.

Full Name:  Jorge Rodriguez
Username:  jjrodrig@hc
Title:  Sleeping With Cannibals
Date:  2006-02-16 23:51:57
Message Id:  18167
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"Cannibals? who is not a cannibal?" (p. 242), Herman Melville questions in his novel 'Moby-Dick' as the narrator, Ishmael, suggests that those of us who are considered to be civilized are actually no better than savage man-eaters. Over two hundred years before, Michel de Montaigne presented a similar idea in his essay 'On the Cannibals' where he explains that those who we consider to be cannibals are not as savage as we have made them out to be. Montaigne argues that "we can indeed call those folks barbarian by the rules of reason but not in comparison with ourselves, who surpass them in every kind of barbarism" (p. 87). These two authors then invert our understanding of what a savage truly is and reverse our notion of who the real cannibals are in our society. Montaigne sustains that "there is nothing savage or barbarous about those peoples [i.e. cannibals], but that every man calls barbarous anything he is not accustomed to" (p. 82). In turn, Melville introduces us to Queequeg, an alleged cannibal from the island of Kokovoko who, despite his extensive tattooing, turns out to be more refined than any other man aboard the Pequod. Through this character and his classic novel, Melville embraces Montaigne's revised notion of cannibalism and teaches us what needs to be done if we want to become as civilized as the savages they describe.

In his essay 'On the Cannibals', Montaigne establishes how nature is underappreciated by our society and how it has consequently been replaced by the artificial products of mankind: "It is not sensible that artifice should be reverenced more than Nature... We have so overloaded the richness and beauty of her products by our own ingenuity that we have smothered her entirely" (p. 83). In our eagerness to develop technologies and in our endeavor to promote culture, our self-proclaimed civilization has forgotten about Mother Nature. Montaigne then recognizes that those who we consider to be cannibals are only so because they have not been 'bastardized' by our supposed progress: "Those peoples, then, seem to me to be barbarous only in that they have been hardly fashioned by the mind of man, still remaining close neighbors to their original state of nature" (p. 83). Are we then not the true savages for disassociating ourselves with nature in our effort to develop artifice? Montaigne concludes that our allegedly advanced society needs to embrace the fact that we are the real cannibals since "all our strivings cannot even manage to reproduce the nest of the smallest bird, with its beauty and appropriateness to its purpose" (p. 83).

In introducing readers to Queequeg, Melville's 'Moby-Dick' provides a clear example of how a cannibal can amount to be more refined than those who take pride in being civilized. Since Queequeg, who never was exposed to the complexities of our world, is free of all the artifices found in our society and therefore more in touch with nature, he becomes a model, in Montaigne's words, of the savage's "true, vigorous, living, most natural and most useful properties and virtues" (p. 83). This is why, despite his grotesque appearance which initially scares him away, Ishmael discovers a true and 'bosom' friend in Queequeg. He, in fact, admits to having found in him a more honest friend than in those cultured individuals who claimed to be so far superior to the noble cannibal: "I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy" (Melville, p. 56). It comes as no surprise then that Queequeg proves wrong everyone's suspicion that he was an uncivilized, unintelligent fellow as it turns out that his virtue and value is based on nature, and not on artifice.

Queegueg is so alienated from the artificial constructions of our world that, as Ishmael discovers, the cannibal is unable to read. This apparent disadvantage, however, does not distance him from the rest of the world as one would expect, but actually works to his benefit as he is then aware of his surroundings and consequently closer with nature. This is demonstrated in the instance when Ishmael visits the Whaleman's Chapel, where worshipers piously scrutinized the tablets on the walls, and he realizes that "the savage was the only person present who seemed to notice my entrance; because he was the only one who could not read, and, therefore, was not reading those frigid inscriptions on the wall" (p. 44). The text then suggests that reading prevents us from perceiving what takes place in our environment by focusing our attention on artifice.

Through his novel, Melville continues to deconstruct the value and importance of reading as he illustrates Queequeg systematically counting the pages of a book. Upon his return from the chapel to the Spouter-Inn, Ishmael describes how Queegueg "going to the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap began counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth page... stopping a moment" (p. 54). Having thus established that the savage is not interested in the pretense of reading, Ishmael's account of the savage suggests that Queegueg is not concerned in counting properly either: "He would then begin at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty" (p. 55). Not only is Queegueg unable to read and count, but he is not interested in learning how to engage in such activities as they appear to be mere trivialities to this cannibal. Consequently, their importance is diminished as we are forced to question whether mathematics and literature are vital to our survival or if we should regard them with the same pettiness with which Queequeg does.

Should we then raise our children to become illiterate and hope that they will fail at math? Should we rid all forms of reading from our culture so we can follow Montaigne's advice and become more like the cannibals who remain one with nature? It seems that Melville would certainly agree with Montaigne in his desire to eliminate all artifice from our society. In fact, Melville implies so when describing the sperm whale and the right whale's heads hanging on each side of the Pequod, he says: "on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's, and you come back again... Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right." (p. 261). Just like we would throw overboard the heavy weight of these philosophers' ideas, we are told to discard everything that has been artificially constructed by man because it obstructs our approach towards nature and we are thus unable to become more similar to Queequeg

It seems that both Melville's and Montaigne's hope that once we reject all these pretenses, we will then change the focus of our lives from the artificiality that our mind's have fashioned and redirect our attention to the products of nature and how they enrich our lives. By discarding math, science, and literature, Queequeg is not only able to better appreciate the beauty of nature, but he is also capable of experiencing life instead of merely reading and learning about it all. We should be more like the cannibal who is more interested in living rather than gaining knowledge about how to do so. Melville comments on the case when he writes in his novel: "perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have 'broken his digester'" (p. 55). The author suggests that the true art of living does not lie in being conscious of living and dissecting that consciousness, but that in doing away with such we dedicate our full awareness to simply living.

It should then come as no surprise when Ishmael tells us: "Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian" (p. 36). Opposite to common belief, cannibals can be more advanced than the greatest of civilizations because, unlike the latter, they are the ones who truly experience life by remaining close to nature. Based on this notion, Michel de Montaigne suggested in the sixteenth century that our society should retreat to nature in order to emulate the civilized cannibal's lifestyle. The ideas he presents in his essay 'On the Cannibals' help us understand the character of Queequeg and how through him, Melville manages to deconstruct the importance of reading. Melville expands Montaigne's ideas by demonstrating in his novel 'Moby-Dick' how we need to dispose of artifices such as reading and counting if we aspire to become truly civilized like the savages. Therefore, not only do Montaigne's essay and Melville's novel support one another's theories, but they actually provide us a better comprehension of the messages the two authors are trying to convey.

Works Cited:
Herman Melville. 'Moby-Dick'. 1851; rpt. Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Hershel Parker, Harrison Hayford. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

Michel de Montaigne. 'The Essays: A Selection'. 1993; Penguin Books. Ed. M.A. Screech, England: London.

Full Name:  Catherine Durante
Username:  cdurante@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Qualifications To Read Classics: Ignorance
Date:  2006-02-17 00:17:00
Message Id:  18168
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Movie critic Stephen Snyder once wrote that "dialogue is a bit dry and consistent foreshadowing becomes repetitive and irritating" (2002). Of course he was speaking in reference to George Lucas's 2002 second part "Star Wars" trilogy, "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones." Though no mention of Melville's Moby Dick can be found on this reviewer's page, is this statement not applicable, especially the piece regarding foreshadowing? Melville saturates his text with constant clues and hints that lead one to an expected denouement. Please do not misunderstand; foreshadowing can be an effective literary device if used in a subtle manner, emphasizing the word "subtle." Melville dispenses foreshadowing sentences as frequently as Ahab's monomaniacal anguish episodes occur to utilize the technique and ultimately intrigue the reader. As good of an intention as is, Melville's machination backfires and instead of the reader appreciating such a seductive tactic, he or she feels a sense of inferiority. Melville in his epic Moby Dick underestimates the literary capacity of the reader by including such pronounced clues making one doubt Melville's confidence in one's intelligence.

When scrutinizing the plethora of chapters Moby Dick contains, chapter forty five seems to be the most degrading for the reader. Ishmael expresses to those reading four things; the first is that he knows of "three instances where a whale, after receiving a harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an instance, has been again struck by the same hand, and slain" (170), the second is that "there have been several memorable historical instances where a particular whale in the ocean has been at distant times and places popularly cognizable" (171), thirdly, many men die whaling and land-bound men "have nothing like a fixed, vivid conception of those perils, and the frequency with which they recur" (172), and lastly the Sperm Whale "is in some cases sufficiently powerful... and judiciously malicious as with direct afterthought to stave in, utterly destroy, and sink a large ship" (173). The reader has now been given a blueprint of the last chapter of the book. The framework has been set and Melville decides to drop his cards in the poker game. Melville does divulge the reason for this revealing chapter writing how "without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise [one] might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable" (172). Must the reader be reminded that the book is fiction? There is every indication that this book should not be taken as a biographical account of actual souls; an indication that is established in the very first line. The man writing these adventures and the man living these adventures are not one in the same. The reader will buy the story with or without the assurance that Moby is not a hoax due to Melville's opening narration explaining that the events had already passed and to see Ishmael as only the narrator. These seven pages are a waste of novel space. One feels that Melville is treating one as a child, constantly reprimanded and disciplined to have a certain mind set. It is insulting.

One now finds him/herself at the end of the line, the final five chapters. After endearing over four hundred pages of constant awareness that the Pequod is fated to rest in Davey Jone's Locker, Melville decides to give the reader the last fortune cookie... another ship. Facts and the gospel truth apparently do not suffice. The reader must have external proof that the whale is real and the encounter will be deadly. Thus, Melville decides to fabricate another ship haunted by Moby Dick, the Rachel. As the Pequod drifts away from the vessel after being assailed by the white whale, Ahab's barge is described as "not quick enough to escape the sound of the splash that the corpse soon made as it struck the sea; not so quick, indeed, but that some of the flying bubbles might have sprinkled her hull with their ghostly baptism" (404). The vernacular is striking but at this moment in the novel, that is all that is striking. The reader is bored of Professor Trelawney telling Harry Potter that his tea leaves, crystal ball, and stars behold the grim. Especially after one hundred and thirty two chapters, Melville should believe one understands the gravity of the ending. It is hurtful.

This argument also leads to the question of whether the reader should respect Moby Dick. Gasps can be heard all over the world. Who would dare question Melville's relationship to the reader? This writer would. Why should the reader care about a piece of literature that does not challenge but rather hands over clues on a golden platter? Melville ran away with himself when writing Moby Dick. It is said that while writing Moby Dick Melville did not eat until four or five in the evening, only consuming tiny morsels and enthusiastically shouted out, "Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand!" (Richard Volney Chase 1949). Melville's drive seemed to parallel that of Ahab's, bordering between insanity and the uncertain being behind the insanity. He was compelled to write, to find his white whale. In a sense, the novel can be seen as a voyage, a therapeutic voyage that Melville uses to compress his overwhelming nautical knowledge. If one can assume that the character of Ahab draws on Melville's psyche, then readers are the crew and they are sacrificed at the expense of a madmen's quest. The reader is forgotten and Melville continues his selfish pursuit of writing his masterpiece. Beneath the surface, Melville cuts the rigging and one is set out to see with no land in sight.

This notion is not easy for a reader to accept. The author doubts one's abilities as a reader, which is lower in level than an interpretive reader, and has forsaken him or her to empty his head of knowledge onto the page. By including copious amounts of explicit clues Melville has hindered the reader's ability to expand his or her mind. Yes, many aspects of the book are open to interpretation; however, one's main pleasure in novel reading is to experience verbally the transition between where one began and where one finds oneself at the cusp of the book. Less than halfway through Moby Dick Melville has revealed the end location for the reader. Wolfgang Iser is on the pro team. According to Iser, "the meaning of the text is not self formulated, the reader must act upon the textual material in order to produce meaning" (Kolat 2000). Half of this job is already accomplished for the reader with Melville's constant hints. This stumbling block in the appreciation of such a "classic" novel does not live in only those who have read Moby Dick but for every generation that is exposed to any aspect of the plot. A generation of readers will also feel the same restriction the novel provides just as Culler states that "literary meaning... is not the result of the reader responding to an author's cues... but is an institutional matter, a function of conventions that are publicly agreed upon... of the assumptions shared by the group he belongs to" (Dalke 2006). Melville will forever constrict a reader's interpretation for generations.

Melville has solidified himself as the anti- M. Night Shyamalan. The ending is no "Sixth Sense." Well, why does it have to be? The argument is not whether an ending is required to be a surprise but whether the reader- author relationship is held intact. In Moby Dick there is no trust cycle. The reader confides in the writer and commends him/ herself wholly to be swept by the text. Melville does not have faith in the reader to explore the novel entirely. Instead, he provides the climax early on which reduces the point of the climax itself. Of course, one may argue that by revealing the end of the novel, the reader is allowed to focus on what is in between the beginning and end. Then again one may also argue that what is in between contains a majority of foreshadowing that can ruin the text for anyone. Was Melville aware of this effect? If so, he may have already tattooed his coffin.

Full Name:  Marina Gallo
Username:  mgallo@bmc
Title:  Doom Doom Doom Doom Doom
Date:  2006-02-17 02:38:30
Message Id:  18170
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Some people believed that destiny is part of life and everyone has a certain fate that he or she cannot avoid pursuing. That theory seemed to be one that Herman Melville portrayed throughout his anatomy "Moby Dick". Dictionary.com defined destiny as, "a predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control". That definition made me think that Melville decided to portray most of his characters as unwittingly following their destiny, while only very few recognized their actions as predetermined or predestined. Fate or destiny plays a big part in this book in many ways. It touches on the characters actions, their relationships with one another, and also the religions mentioned in the book.

One way destiny plays a part in the character's lives is in the fact that they all end up on the whaling ship that is captained by Ahab. To me Ahab is totally out of his mind. He lost his leg to Moby Dick and with it went whatever was left of the reason and the common sense he had in him. Now he only wants revenge and he feels that his fate is set when he states, "the path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run" (Melville143). Ahab knows he is a little bit out of his mind because he is willing to die for this revenge, but he can acknowledge this situation, which, to me, shows that he still has a tiny bit of sanity left even though he has succumb to what he thinks his destiny is. I feel this way because of scene where Ahab is alone talking to himself about how the men all think he is crazy and he agrees with then to a certain extent, but he also thinks that it is part of his destiny to kill Moby Dick and if he must die to do so, so be it. He knows that to other people he would appear insane to give his life to kill one certain whale, but to himself if he doesn't do this it will tear him apart.

The other unusual thing about destiny is that all of the characters accept it as if it is something real in life they must believe in. Ahab pushes for the men on the boat to believe that their destiny is to be there on the Pequod to hunt down Moby Dick with him. Starbuck is the only character who has a strong enough sense of rationalism to question Ahab. The only other incentive that Ahab gives the men is a gold Doubloon to whoever spots Moby Dick first. This entire situation is odd because the men are either greedy enough to put their lives in danger or they trust Ahab's fate propaganda fully and go along with him without question. I asked myself why all of these men, except for one, would go along with that situation and it occurred to me that there were different reasons for each man. Ishmael seems to be seeking some sort of a suicide and by becoming a whaler on the Pequod that is his way of letting whatever fate life may have in store for him arrive sooner than if he was on land. It is a combination of suicidal tendencies, a taste for adventure, education, and also the open seas. When it comes to Stubb, he has worked in whaling for so long that he has become immune in a sense to the apparent dangers of whaling; the prospect of death has come to an end of scaring him. Stubb is a fatalist, thus he believes in destiny and he calmly accepts the possibility of death from this whaling adventure. Because of Stubb's fatalistic belief he knows there is little he can do about anything that might happen to the crew, that is probably a major reason why he is so upbeat all of the time. Flask is the kind of whaler that acts before he thinks and also he takes so much pride and joy in killing whales that he hardly can think of much else such as fate and destiny or himself or the crew. All of these characters work together to draw attention to Ahab and his monomania when it comes to his idea about his destiny to kill Moby Dick.

There are also a few relationships in which the theme of fate is brought up about in this book. One relationship is that of Ishmael and Queequeg. Although neither character is much defined, Queequeg seemed to be the more spiritual and destiny driven of the two friends. He was the one that urged Ishmael to pick the whaling boat because his icon told him that was what the right thing to be done was. Ishmael, on the other hand, would rather have gone out together with Queequeg and picked out the whaling boat, but Queequeg would have none of that. Queequeg put faith in his idol that it would lead to the correct fate for him and Ishmael. That action of placing his faith in his religion leads me to believe that Queequeg was willing to risk death because he was so religious and religion may go hand in hand with some people's belief in fate, in this case Queequeg. Perhaps if Queequeg had not insisted on Ishmael to pick the boat alone they would have both ended up in a better whaling ship, maybe like the Rachel. It is ironic in the end though because Ishmael doesn't die, yet he was the character with more of a suicidal flare and Queequeg dies but he was only on the boat to be with his friend who Queequeg insisted pick the boat: Ishmael.

Another relationship that included destiny was Captain Ahab and Pip's friendship. These men were complete opposites in power on the ship; one was the captain, while the other was the cabin boy. They made an unlikely pair, yet a friendship and later a father-son like bond blossomed between them. The way I think fate seemed to touch this relationship was in the sense that Ahab felt he had to fulfill his destiny, yet when Pip wanted to stay on deck and follow the Captain around, Ahab told him to go below deck lest he accidentally hurt him while trying to catch Moby Dick. In a sense he was looking out for Pip in a fatherly way and acknowledging the fact that he still was trying to follow out his kismet. Pip would basically have followed Ahab to his death, but luckily Ahab found a soft spot in his heart for the now insane Pip. Pip only perceives things that others don't and perhaps that is his fate and role in his relationship with Ahab; it is how their fates work together. Pip can see and understand things they Ahab can't and he is a prophet of sorts for Ahab, while Ahab looks out for the insane boy as he is also fulfilling his own fate of trying to kill Moby Dick.

The religious aspect of the book is one more section in which destiny plays a part. This book was much more religious than I expected it to be. It included many biblical passages and references to religious things from many different cultures. Mainly the references were to the bible, but a lot of the men on the whaling ships were from all over the world and they were not Christian or Catholic so some of the references were not to the bible. One of the main religious experiences the crew has that has to do with destiny, fate, and prophesy, is when they encounter the other whaling ship, the Jeroboam, and meet Gabriel their so called archangel . Gabriel believes he is a prophet, but Ahab does not like what he is saying because it goes against hunting down Moby Dick, thus they part ways. This meeting shows that though both these men feel they have something special about themselves, they are contradicting and they think their fates obviously don't include each others prophesies. Fedallah is another man who is of a religious manner and feels he is a prophet. He is on the boat as a prophet of Ahab's and he is mysterious to the rest of the crew. Ahab seems to take his prophesies more seriously because he brought him on board purposely rather than chanced the encounter in the sea like with Gabriel. Perhaps if one was to juxtapose these to prophets Ahab would take Fedallah's theories as fate and Gabriel's theories as a waste of time.

Unfortunately, no matter what the men believed in, all but one of them ended up dead in the end of the book. Ishmael didn't die, yet he seemed like a character that wouldn't have minded if he did die. No matter if this truly was Ahab's fate being carried out on all of the whalers or just life taking place, the book seemed to have a very unsatisfactory, yet predictable ending. It seems obvious that a book with so much emphasis placed on fate would conclude with many of the men's fates being carried out.

Full Name:  Amy Stern
Username:  astern@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Through A Whale Darkly
Date:  2006-02-17 10:25:15
Message Id:  18172
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I don't know how to write this paper. Which is, I guess, a bad way to start a paper, except that the more I think about it, the more it epitomizes how I feel about Moby Dick. I don't know what the text means, I don't know what I got out of the text, and I don't know how to write this paper in way that encapsulates both how much is in there and how little I know I was able to glean.

I'm the type of English major who writes her papers based on what she sees that she thinks no one else does. It doesn't have to be particularly good or deep, it just needs to be that one splinter of an idea that gets stuck, that I can't shake, that wasn't discussed to death in class. My problem with Moby Dick isn't that there aren't ideas; it's that for me, the text never forms a cohesive whole; the entire text is these splinters of ideas that dig deep under the skin. The problem, of course, is that one splinter can be focused on, but millions of splinters just kind of hurt, and you can't really distinguish each individual pinprick of pain from the others digging in just as hard.

The splinter metaphor doesn't even work that well here, for one reason: the book failed to get under my skin. Part of this, of course, was my conscious decision to keep the text at arm's length. I have a deep-seated fear of fish, and whales, to my mind, are mammals that have betrayed the cause. But beyond that, maybe because the text was so long and we had so little time in which to read it, there were times I was actively fighting becoming engaged with the novel. There were other times, though, when I was glad I wasn't engaged, because then I would probably need to worry about how little I cared.

The strange thing is, though, I don't really feel like I didn't care. There are many little details that really worked for me, and I feel like if I'd let myself care about the storyline or the characters I could have really felt something strongly. But the text functioned to simultaneously pull me in and repel me, often at the same time, and I can't quite figure out how.

I have a lot of friends who consider Moby Dick to be one of their favorite novels, and over the last week I've asked a lot of them what it is that they find appealing. One person told me the story of the Essex, a ship which faced a similar fate to the Pequod several years before Melville wrote his novel; when the whale destroyed that boat, however, more of the passengers survived, and several were forced to turn to cannibalism before they arrived back home. Another reminded me of the homoeroticism between Queequeg and Ishmael; when I'd first told her I would be reading Moby Dick, that's what she had told me, and I'd assumed she was exaggerating until I started reading and could not believe how explicit the subtext was. One friend went on and on about the amazing friendship between Melville and Hawthorne; reading Melville was worth it, she said, if only so that when you read Hawthorne you could see what they got from each other. A fourth told me that it's about the struggle of a person to find meaning in life when there is no meaning, and how much within that meaninglessness the struggle can mean.

By that point, I was fully understanding the desire to find meaning in the meaningless abyss, because that was what Moby Dick had become for me. The text has managed to supersede my wildest expectations of inability to comprehend a text, and while I'm sure it's partially because I skipped any chapters about whaling (I spent three years with nightmares about sharks and whales when I was little, and have no desire to repeat these my last semester of college), I think it's mostly because of the way the text is formulated, and the way that I learn.

I've always felt that I can't write a paper, can't do an analysis, can't do much of anything unless I have enough of a grasp on the text that I can look deeper. Literary criticism only works for me when I have a firm basis to build it off of. It's not necessarily a case of knowing one real meaning of the text, but I do find it necessary to be able to decipher at least one complete meaning of the text, so that I can build off of it.

With Moby Dick, I never found a single meaning of the text that worked for me. There was no way to look at it that didn't open up several new gateways. From every angle, I could see more and more paths that I could take. After a while, the tangents became overwhelming for me; the actual content of the novel was surpassed by my ideas about it, and those ideas in turn were outweighed by the ideas I got to from them. I feel like writing any paper about my reading Moby Dick is flawed because I do not feel like I read Moby Dick; I experienced bits and pieces of the text, but never once put together a coherent whole that I can analyze.

The counter-argument, of course, is that Moby Dick succeeds precisely because it fails to be a readable text. Melville clearly set out to tell more than a simple story; if Moby Dick were merely supposed to be a linear novel, large sections could have been excised without hesitation. Moreover, the class discussions over how we can possibly classify Moby Dick have proven to me that any categorization is doomed to fail. To see it as drama neglects the humorous aspects; to see it as comedy ignores the long factual digressions. The novel succeeds or fails not through any one lens but through the sum of its parts. The inability of a reader to parse a single meaning from the text is the mark, then, of Melville's successes rather than his failure.

Therefore, as a reader, all that I can do is place the pieces I have gotten into something that resembles a framework, and see what fills in. This is where my love of pop culture comes in; I have spent more time considering what Moby Dick means in a culture that has given me multiple cultural reference points while simultaneously failing to give me a context in which to understand the text, than I have spent understanding the text. Except perhaps that, in and of itself, is a form of textual analysis. If I can look at Battlestar Galactica or The X-Files through the lens of Melville's classic, am I perverting the intentions of the text, or in fact strengthening them?

Looking backwards at the novel through the lens of the media which I have consumed before reading the novel is therefore useful in the same way that any other lens is; when Melville aims to create limitless questions and interpretations, then each additional question or interpretation only allows the text to grow. My viewing of the 2003 Battlestar Galactica, for example, made me look at any references to Starbuck and "the old man" through one very specific cultural lens; Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck character, as well as the other members of the crew on the Galactica, refer to Edward James Olmos's Adama as "the Old Man" as a sign of affection. In the same vein, Scully's relationship with her Navy father in the X-Files episode "Beyond the Sea" shows her referring to him affectionately as Ahab, and him returning the compliment by calling her Starbuck. (Later, in "Quagmire", the theme is continued when it is revealed that she has named her beloved dog Queequeg.) I thus found it hard to read Starbuck's reactions to Ahab in the text without assuming some paternal impulses on his part, or a daughter's devotion to her father on Starbuck's. This is, naturally, complicated by the way that Starbuck is not a girl. The question "But what if he were?", however, is one of the many digressions that I found myself pondering at three AM, instead of the mystery of the White Whale. In fact, I probably spent more time on the digressions, of all shapes and sizes, than I did on the story of Ahab and the white whale.

I started this paper thinking that my lack of a single solid reaction to Moby Dick was a failure, either on the part of Melville or on myself. The more I consider it, however, the more I think that it's actually the mark of its success. I can't make myself understand Moby Dick within its original context. I can't independently identify the thousands of references that Melville put in, expecting people to understand them, or perhaps expecting them not to. I can, however, bring my own context to it, and that may not provide me with answers, but it certainly supplies more questions. Because of that, I am, in a way, getting exactly what Melville wanted.

Works Cited

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick (or the Whale). New York: Random House, Inc. Modern Library Edition, 1992

Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore. Perf. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff. 2004.

The X-Files. Chris Carter. Perf. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. 1993.

Full Name:  Margaret Miller
Username:  mmiller@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Masks We Wear
Date:  2006-02-17 10:37:30
Message Id:  18173
Paper Text:
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In Chapter 36 of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Ahab talks to Starbuck about pasteboard masks. He believes that, "in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask." (Melville, 140) In other words, everything and everyone wears a mask that hides their inner truth from us. Ahab argues that "if a man will strike, strike through the mask" and reveal the truth hidden by the mask. (Melville, 140) He wants to strike through the mask of Moby Dick and reveal not only the hidden truth of this formidable whale, but also to reveal his own personal hidden truths that he cannot see because the whale is masking them from him.

I suggest that a more unconventional reading of this passage will serve the reader well not only in their reading of Moby Dick, but also the way that they live their lives. This reading is that we should view the mask not as something we are looking at, but rather as something we are wearing. Our vision of reality, the truths hidden by masks in Ahab's interpretation, is altered by the way the mask allows us to see through it. The placement of the eye holes of the mask changes our perception of reality the same way that the placement of the "peculiar sideway position of the whale's eyes" means "that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more than he can one exactly astern." (Melville, 262) The placement and size of the eye holes in our masks allows us to see parts of reality. In this way, the mask serves as the lens through which we see and interpret the world. I suggest that we all take these parts of reality and construct stories about them. We construct these stories about events, other people, and even ourselves.

For example, our masks affect the way that we create stories of our feelings from our emotions. They also help us create stories about situations such as a stranger approaching us on the street with an angry expression on their face. You could have a mask that encourages you to tell the story that the stranger must be mad at you because everyone is always mad at you since you are a horrible person. In contrast, you could have a mask that encourages you to tell the story that the stranger isn't mad at you and has probably just received some distressing news. (Adopted from Developmental Psychopathology class notes, 2/8/2006) In Chapter 99 of Moby Dick, the object of a doubloon is interpreted in various ways by different crew members. (Melville, 331-335) The masks that the crew members wear affect the different stories that they tell about the doubloon. For example, the religious Starbuck's mask encourages him to interpret the doubloon as depicting the holy trinity whereas Ahab's mask encourages him to interpret the doubloon as depicting "three peaks a proud as Lucifer...all are Ahab." (Melville, 333, 332)

Experience plays a huge role in the formation of your mask. For example, the monomaniacal mask that Ahab wears was formed from his previous experience of losing his leg to Moby Dick. The experience does not necessarily have to be traumatic in order to change your mask. For example, the experience of reading Moby Dick was not a traumatic one for me, but it has altered my mask in that I am now aware of the fact that I am wearing one and that I am not able to see reality except through it. Experience may alter your mask to make it more adaptive. For example, after Pip jumps out of Stubb's boat for the second time he begins to refer to himself as being dead and a coward. (Melville, 392) It is adaptive for him to change his mask and to use this changed mask to explain his cowardly act because it is easier for him to deal with his "death" than with his failure as a whaler. (Comment in class by Laura Sockol, 2/14/2006) Even though this change in his mask is adaptive, it does not mean that it does not have its disadvantages as Pip appears to be unable to operate in the real world of the story and becomes dependent on Ahab. (Melville, 399) This dependence is interesting because Pip's new mask is almost as monomaniacal against himself as Ahab's mask is about Moby Dick, who he interprets as a mask for his inner self.

This interpretation of the pasteboard mask as being something that affects our vision of the reality of the world helps the reader understand the act of reading and interpreting Moby Dick on a completely different level. This is perhaps best explained in the doubloon chapter when Stubb exclaims, "Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You'll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts." (Melville, 333) The book Moby Dick provides the reader with the basic facts of the whaling story and with many facts about whales and the whaling profession. The mask that the reader wears can effect the way that they interpret not only certain passages in the text, but also the overall text itself. For example, it can be debated how to classify Moby Dick: as a comedy or a tragedy?(Lecture and Discussion Notes, Day 9) The mask that the reader wears while reading it may affect the way that they answer this question. If their mask is more like Stubb's, an "invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness", they may see it as a comedy and refer to the way that Melville is continually poking fun at established traditions and views of his time in areas of religion and academia. (Melville, 158) If their mask is more like Starbuck's, "mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness", they may see it as a tragedy and point to Ahab's fatal flaw of seeking vengeance, blasphemous as he is "usurping a privilege of God." (Melville, 139)

The mask the reader wears, formed by their own past experiences, can influence the way that they interpret the book and the way that they interpret events in their lives. Although I don't believe that a person can ever be mask-less, I do believe that a person can change their mask. The Penn Optimism Program at the University of Pennsylvania was designed to change the masks of children who are at risk for depression into masks of a more optimistic nature in an attempt to prevent them from developing depression. (Shatte, Reivich, Gillham, & Seligman, 1999) The program teaches the children to become "detectives" and to look at all of the possible stories that they can tell about situations. In the example discussed previously concerning the angry stranger, the children would be instructed to look at it through the ABC model. In the ABC model, A is the problem or event, B is the thoughts or stories that the person tells about the problem or event, and C is the feelings that the person feels due to the story that the person tells. In the case of the previous example, the angry stranger would be A and the story the person tells about that stranger would be B. If the person thinks "Oh, that stranger must be mad at me. Everyone is always mad at me. I must be a horrible person," they will feel sad and possibly a little frustrated (C). If, on the other hand, the person thinks, "That stranger couldn't be mad at me. We don't even know each other. Perhaps he just found something out that upset him," they will have a more neutral feeling and the event probably won't have ruined their day. The children are instructed to choose the most accurate thought or story (B) and determine this by looking for "clues" in other people's behavior and from their past experiences. In terms of the mask interpretation I proposed, complications arise as the mask may still influence B and C. The "clues" from previous experiences have also influenced the formation of the mask itself, and it is through this mask that the child looks at the options and chooses the most realistic. Due to this complication, it is probably best to have outside help when you want to drastically change your mask (eg. if you are more like the monomaniacal Ahab and want to become more like the more open minded Ishmael) so that the outside person (most preferably a psychologist or psychiatrist) can help you recognize when your mask is affecting your choice of B.

In chapter 123, Starbuck reflects that "all of us are Ahabs." (Melville, 387) With respect to the fact that all of us wear masks based on our personal experiences, we are all Ahab. However, Ahab's mask is "inflexible" and he is unable to look for "clues" and choose the most reasonable explanation for events. (Melville, 389) The character of Ishmael is correct when he says that "ignorance is the parent of fear." (Melville, 34) Ahab's mask makes him ignorant and unaware of the other explanations for his intense emotions of sadness at the loss of his leg. This ignorance leads him to create the story that it was Moby Dick's fault and, as his mask becomes inflexible due to his experiences, begins to explain all of the wrongs in his world as being due to Moby Dick. These stories include the transition of the emotion of sadness into the interpreted feeling of anger and the intense desire to destroy Moby Dick. The character of Ishmael is more flexible in his interpretations of events because his mask is less rigidly formed than Ahab's. For example, when Ishmael first sees Queequeg, he reflects on his appearance, "At first I knew not what to make of this...But then, what to make of his unearthly complexion...it might be nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning...I had never been in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary effects upon the skin." (Melville, 34) This is an excellent example of Ishmael's flexible mask because it shows that he is aware of his immediate response (doesn't know what to make of the A event), looks for "clues" (B) in his past experiences, and making a choice of action (C). In this example, he seems to be disposed to accept Queequeg as a bedmate until he witnesses another A, Queequeg's bald head, and, due to second hand experiences (B) determined that the correct choice of action (C) would be to leave the room "had not the stranger stood between [him] and the door." (Melville, 34)

The question that needs to be considered is whether Ishmael had always had such a flexible mask or if, in later reflecting of his experiences on the ill-fated voyage, became more aware of the different interpretations available. When he tells the story of Moby Dick, Ishmael's ability to use "clues" (B) has greatly expanded due to his whaling experiences, relationships with others, and the knowledge of what happened at the end of the voyage. Hindsight is often 20/20 and perhaps it is this hindsight that has made Ishmael's mask more flexible than Ahab's. Or perhaps the mask that Ishmael developed after the destruction of the Pequod is no better than Ahab's as he, too, is on an almost monomaniacal mission to tell the story of his fallen crewmates and the creature that they were hunting.

In reading Moby Dick, the reader today is aware of the fact that they were not the intended audience for the book. (Class Discussion, 2/16/2006) Does this mean that they should try and read it through the mask of the intended audience and use only the "clues" available to this audience when interpreting the text? Melville himself acknowledges this challenge when he writes in the doubloon chapter that "There's another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men in one kind of world, you see." (Melville, 335) There are many ways to read the text of Moby Dick and the reality of the world because there are "all sorts of men" who come with their own personal experiences and their own individual masks. If we are all wearing masks, can any one interpretation of any text or event be considered to be "correct"? If an interpretation is given and many people agree that it is "correct", could it not still be "incorrect" because they may all be wearing masks that may be blinding them to the truth? These questions are hard to answer, but what is perhaps more puzzling is the question of how we should interpret events and texts, how we should use our knowledge of the mask we wear in our daily lives, and if there is any way to get rid of the masks and see the truth.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Shatte, A.J., Reivich, K., Gillham, J.E., & Seligman, M.E.P. (1999). Learned optimism in children. In C.R. Snyder (Ed.), Coping: The psychology of what works (pp. 165-181). New York: Oxford.

Full Name:  Laura Sockol
Username:  lsockol@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Man Who Mistook a Whale for Pure Evil: A Diagnostic Assessment of Captain Ahab
Date:  2006-02-17 11:11:44
Message Id:  18174
Paper Text:
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Diagnostic Assessment: Captain Ahab

This case was referred to me by several whalers who came in contact with Captain Ahab during his latest voyage on the Pequod. Fearing that the captain's apparent mental instability presented a danger to his vessel and crew, these various individuals came to me to see if I could determine the probable cause of Ahab's behavior and participate in an intervention. Although recent contact with the ship known as the Rachel has confirmed the fears of those who first came to me for assistance, I present the enclosed material in the hopes that it may help prevent such tragedies in the future.

The information contained in this analysis has been collected from various interviews. Much of the information was obtained from an encounter with a man who preferred to be called Ishmael. This individual was the sole survivor of the late Captain Ahab's last voyage on the Pequod. Other interviewees include Captains Bildad and Peleg of Nantucket, Captain Mayhew of the Jeroboam, Captain De Deer of the Virgin, the captain and chief-mate of the Rose Bud, Captain Boomer of the Samuel Enderby, the captain of the Bachelor, the captain of the Delight, and Captain Gardiner of the Rachel.

I present the following evidence of Captain Ahab's underlying psychological instability, prefaced by an account of Ahab's medical condition. I conclude with suggestions for possible measures that could be taken to reduce the likelihood that such events will occur in the future.

Respectfully submitted,
Laura Sockol

Known medical conditions:

During the course of his last whaling mission, Captain Ahab's leg was amputated by what other whalers have referred to as "the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat," a whale hereafter referred to as Moby Dick (Melville 72). The injury necessitated the early return of Ahab's ship to Nantucket. Ahab's physical recovery from this injury was problematic (Melville 156). It is probable that Ahab suffered from a severe infection, accompanied by fever-induced delirium and hallucinations, during this time (Melville 78, 157). Although Ahab visibly recovered from the physical trauma of the wound and resulting infection, it is likely that the experience contributes to his current psychological difficulties.

At the time he shipped for his last voyage, Ahab seemed to be in sound physical health. A member of his crew noted that "there seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the recovery from any" (Melville 108). Although he appeared abnormally thin, aside from the prosthetic leg and scar resulting from his encounter with the whale, Ahab's physical health was satisfactory. Ahab suffered from moderate insomnia during the voyage on the Pequod. He was frequently not in bed during the late hours of the night. It was estimated that he was not in bed "more than three hours out of the twenty-four" (Melville 112). The physical results of this sleep deprivation may have been a mediating factor in the development and intensification of his psychological difficulties.

Psychological symptoms:

Irrational obsessions and dysfunctional cognitions. Ahab's most salient symptom was his obsession with Moby Dick. Ahab expressed a desire to chase and kill the whale at all costs. He expended a great deal of energy, both physical and psychological, in this pursuit. He spent a considerable amount of time predicting the possible locations in which Moby Dick might be located and adjusting the ship's trajectory accordingly (Melville 167). Ahab expressed a willingness to "chase [the whale] round Good Hope ... the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before [he gave] him up" (Melville 139).

Ahab's obsession with the whale was rooted in the irrational belief that Moby Dick was the physical embodiment of an unidentified, malevolent force. Ahab attributed all of his hardships to this particular whale. A crew member noted that Ahab harbored a "wild vindictiveness against the whale" and blamed him for "not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual aspirations" (Melville 156). He believed it was his mission to hunt down and eliminate the whale.

Ahab's cognitive function and ability to make rational decisions seems to have been impaired by his obsession with Moby Dick. He was not open to "reasoning . . . remonstrance [or] entreaty," but only "flat obedience" from his crew (Melville 387). This inability to consider others' perspectives and challenge his own distorted cognitions prohibited Ahab from rationally assessing his own behavior and making sound judgements.

Ahab also expressed marked paranoia toward the latter end of the voyage. He did not trust those standing watch to report sightings of the whale and suspected the crew of disloyalty (Melville 402). These beliefs were not grounded in reality, as the crew participated fully in Ahab's quest for vengeance.

It is interesting to contrast Ahab's beliefs about the whale with those of Captain Boomer of the Samuel Enderby, who had a similar encounter with Moby Dick. Captain Boomer also suffered an amputation and difficult physical recovery. However, Captain Boomer accepted that the loss of his arm was an accident and not the result of malicious intent on the part of the whale (Melville 340). In addition, he expressed no desire to seek revenge or to encounter the whale again (Melville 340). This clearly illustrates that Ahab's response to the loss of his leg was not an inevitable result of his encounter with Moby Dick, but rather the result of pathological cognitive interpretations of the event.

Delusions of grandeur. Ahab expressed an heightened sense of his own importance and purpose. This was frequently evident in his interactions with others. Ahab was heard to say, "I'd strike the sun if it insulted me," which indicates not only a very low threshold for conflict, but an irrational estimation of his own abilities (Melville 140).

Ahab believed that his quest to kill Moby Dick was divine in origin (Melville 143). He believed the whale to be an incarnation of the devil and believed his role was to vanquish the evil force (Melville 156). He expressed the belief that he was "the Fates' lieutenant" and that he acted "under orders" from a divine force (Melville 418). Upon sighting Moby Dick, Ahab expressed the belief that fate ordained that he should be the first to spot him, despite the ostensible simultaneity of Tashtego's sighting (Melville 408).

In addition, Ahab's interpretations of ambiguous stimuli indicate a tendency toward grandiosity. Ahab's description of the image upon an Ecuadorean doubloon, which was to be the reward for the crew member who first sighted Moby Dick, illustrates this propensity. Ahab appeared to express the belief that the images upon the coin portended his ultimate battle with the whale, and that the "mountain-tops and towers" engraved upon its surface represented "Ahab, the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious" (Melville 332). In the absence of professionally-administered diagnostic projection tests, this encounter provides evidence that Ahab's cognitions were greatly shaped by an expanded sense of self and irrational preoccupation with Moby Dick.

Ahab's delusions of grandeur extended to a belief that he was "immortal" and could not be killed by Moby Dick (Melville 377). Ahab seems to have interpreted an ambiguous "prophecy" by a member of his crew to mean that he could not be killed during a confrontation with the whale. This expanded sense of self and irrational belief in his own invincibility probably contributed to Ahab's recklessness in his pursuit of Moby Dick.

Maladaptive emotional responses. Ahab was subject to intense emotional reactions and periods of moodiness. He was noted to swing violently from one mood to another (Melville 78, 158). In addition, his experiences of and expressions of various emotions, particularly violent emotions, seemed to be intensified. Ahab was unable to regulate his emotional responses to anxiety-producing stimuli, particularly those that remind him of the occasion upon which he lost his leg. He was also prone to periods of dysphoria (low-grade depressive symptoms). Particularly toward the end of the voyage, when he became frustrated with the fact that he had yet to encounter Moby Dick, it was noted that Ahab "manifested the gloomiest reserve" (Melville 194).

Anhedonia (loss of pleasure) was also evident in Captain Ahab's behavior. Previously an avid smoker, Ahab noted that smoking was no longer a soothing habit and threw away his smoking paraphernalia (Melville 113). In addition, Ahab refrained from engaging in social contact with other whaling ships. Ahab was not observed engaging in any recreational activities during the voyage.

Impaired social functioning. At the outset of the voyage, Ahab secluded himself from the crew, not emerging until the ship had made significant progress southward (Melville 109). Although this tendency to recluse himself became less apparent over the course of the journey, Ahab remained uncomfortable in his interactions with the other men on his ship. At dinner with the officers, he insisted upon a rigid hierarchy and adherence to a set code of conduct (Melville 128). This avoidance of personal interactions and reliance upon codified standards of behavior suggests an underlying anxiety regarding interpersonal interactions.

Ahab's irrational obsession with Moby Dick reduced his ability to empathize with others. The captain of the Rachel, Captain Gardiner, recounted that, upon entreating Ahab to aid him in the search for his son and other lost members of his crew, Ahab refused because Moby Dick was in the vicinity (Melville 398). Ahab placed his own desire for vengeance above the value he placed on human life. Ahab's quest for Moby Dick also led him to treat members of his crew as tools, rather than individuals. He saw the crew of his boat as "not other men, but [as his] arms and legs" (Melville 423). This disregard for the needs of others would have greatly impeded Ahab's ability to function in social situations.

In addition, Ahab's persistence in his quest for Moby Dick led him to act recklessly and with disregard for the safety of himself and his crew. The captain of the Jeroboam recalls that Ahab, despite being warned of an epidemic aboard the other ship, was willing to risk the health of his men in order to discuss the Jeroboam's encounter with the white whale and gain information about his possible whereabouts.

Impaired ability to function:

Ahab's symptoms interfered with his ability to perform his duties as captain of the Pequod. The primary goal of the voyage was to hunt sperm whales in order to obtain oil for sale. The proceeds from this enterprise were to provide the compensation for the crew, as well as the owners of the ship. Ahab's pursuit of Moby Dick hindered his ability to manage the economic needs of his vessel. Although Ahab was aware that he needed to provide food for the crew's "more common, daily appetites" for "cash," it is probable that his actions prohibited the Pequod from realizing its full economic potential (Melville 178). Ahab's determining the Pequod's route based on the probability of finding Moby Dick, rather than where the best whaling was to be had at the time, may have reduced the Pequod's chances of encountering sperm whales. Furthermore, his single-mindedness when interacting with captains of other vessels is likely to have prevented him from obtaining valuable information regarding the latest trends in whaling, which doubtless impeded the Pequod's ability to compete in the global whaling market (Melville 196). In addition, the recklessness engendered by Ahab's madness led him to be extremely vigorous in the pursuit of whales, which often resulted in the destruction of property aboard the ship and the threat of harm to members of his crew (Melville 418).

Recommendations: Based on the above assessment of Captain Ahab's psychological difficulties, I propose that the loss of the Pequod and her crew could have been prevented. The indirect cause of the ship's sinking was her captain's madness. The fact that Ahab's instability was not recognized before he was allowed to leave harbor with the Pequod enabled him to use the vessel in pursuit of his own pathologically-oriented goals. In addition, those on-board the vessel were ill-prepared to deal with the severe psychological disturbance of their captain.

There are several points at which an appropriate intervention could have occurred, which may have prevented the loss of life and property. The best measure that can be implemented to reduce the likelihood that such an event is repeated in the future is to adequately assess the psychological state of all whalers before they depart on long voyages. Given the strenuous nature of whaling voyages, and the psychological stressors associated with long periods of isolation, more rigorous screening of officers and crew is warranted. Screening for captains should be particularly rigorous, as they are responsible for the health and welfare of an entire ship. The best support for this recommendation can be found in the fact that Captains Bildad and Peleg expressed doubts about Captain Ahab's psychological state before the voyage was underway. Had Ahab received professional intervention at this point, it is likely that the tragedy could have been prevented.

In addition, all crew members planning to join whaling expeditions should be educated as to the circumstances in which it is appropriate to disobey one's captain. The rigid power hierarchy that exists on whaling ships likely contributed to the crew's inability to intervene in Ahab's ill-fated quest. The establishment and publication of guidelines for crew members as to the appropriate course of action to follow when one's captain has been incapacitated, whether the captain acknowledges the incapacitation or not, may help facilitate the intercession in such circumstances by those on board who may be more capable of making sound decisions.

Although my own efforts have come too late to save the crew of the Pequod, I hope the information contained herein may be of use to others. It is likely, given the frequency with which whalers are subjected to stressors similar to those faced by Captain Ahab, that such an event may occur not too far in the future. Hopefully the lessons learned from the tragic demise of Captain Ahab and his crew will serve to educate whalers about the potential psychological pitfalls associated with the profession and alert them to situations in which an individual's mental health difficulties may pose a threat to the safety of others.

Works Cited

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Full Name:  Laine Edwards
Username:  ledwards@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Loving and Hating the White Whale
Date:  2006-02-17 12:29:01
Message Id:  18177
Paper Text:


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All emotions, whether love, hate, joy or sadness, are characterized by the existence of their opposite. To know love is also to know hate, and to feel joy is to also feel sadness. In my opinion, emotions are defined by their opposites, as it is impossible to feel one without having knowledge of the other. As applied to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, the existence of opposite emotions is best embodied in the character of Captain Ahab. Aboard the Pequod, Ahab is consumed with his hatred for the white whale and his animosity towards the animal drives him to the point of destruction. Ahab's hatred is so intense that it destroys his ability to feel anything but anger. This hatred, however, must be countered by the love Ahab must have once felt towards someone, or something. His ability to express wrath and loathing confirms that he at one point in his life could also express respect and admiration. In order to hate Moby Dick with such conviction, Ahab must also loved Moby Dick with such conviction. The relationship between the two embodies the quintessential love/hate relationship. Ahab cannot live with the white whale, and he cannot live without him. Although throughout the entirety of the novel Ahab vehemently denounces Moby Dick as a hellish creature, I believe there are moments when Ahab shows love towards the white whale, if only we can look beyond his pasteboard mask.

As Ishmael describes in the chapter entitled "The Honour and Glory of Whaling" there is a long and illustrious history of the sport of whaling. He believes there to be a fraternity of whalers that includes "heroes, saints, demigods, and prophets" (315). All the men in this fraternity have participated in the adventures that ensue from hunting whales and the excitement that resonates in their tales is mirrored in the tone of awe with which Ishmael speaks of whaling. Captain Ahab also belongs to this fraternity and therefore it can be assumed, that like many of the young men who came before him, he was attracted to the whaling ships because of the thrills they promised. His hatred of Moby Dick was not created the day he first stepped upon the deck of a whaling ship, but was instead born out of the loss of his leg at the jaws of Moby Dick.

During his speech to the crew in which he rallies them to his cause, Ahab uses the metaphor of the "pasteboard mask" in response to Starbuck's assertion that Ahab's obsession with revenge on Moby Dick is foolish. Ahab responds, "All visible objects [...] are as pasteboard masks [...] If man will strike, strike through the mask!" (143). Ahab's reasons for seeking revenge on Moby Dick are not as transparent as Starbuck alleges. His crew assumes that Ahab's hunt for the white whale stems from the loss of his leg alone. As Ahab asserts through the metaphor of the pasteboard mask, however, the truth of his emotions can only be realized by striking through the mask and seeing what is behind it. Ahab's mask exists in the form of his ivory leg. The leg is a visible object that, to most, represents his reason for hunting Moby Dick. Yet, as Ahab tries to explain to his crew, the emotion driving his revenge is far more complex than the simple philosophy of "an eye for an eye". The love and admiration for whales Ahab developed as a young man was scorned by the most magnificent whale of all. Moby Dick rejected Ahab's offer of mutual respect and crippled him at a time when he was most vulnerable. The resulting behavior of Ahab is that of a lover scorned. He sulks at the loss of his love and gradually replaces one emotion for its opposite.

In the chapter entitled "Sunset", directly following Ahab's "pasteboard mask" speech, Ahab sits alone in his cabin contemplating the arduous mission that he has undertaken to hunt and kill Moby Dick. As he watches the sunset from his window Ahab laments

"Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned most subtly and most malignantly! Damned in the midst of Paradise! Good-night -- good-night!" (147).

Ahab is no longer the irate ship captain rallying his crew to his cause. When he is alone his hatred of Moby Dick is tainted by the love that he has lost. Gone forever is the time when Ahab can enjoy the beautiful scenery of being on a whaling ship. The admiration that he once had for whales has been replaced by depression and anger towards the beast that betrayed him. Ahab feels betrayed by Moby Dick, betrayed by his love of an animal that cannot or will not return his feelings. Following Ahab's own advice and striking through his pasteboard mask, it seems that his hatred of the whale is so deep and painful to him because of the deep emotions of respect and love that he had for Moby Dick. In this chapter, just as in the rest of the novel, Ahab begins his tirades by expressing more melancholy than anger. As it progresses, however, his sorrow mutates into blind and unbridled anger finally culminating in destruction.

The hatred that Ahab feels towards Moby Dick is characterized and qualified by the love that he once held for the animal. He believes that he is bound to the whale by an unbreakable bond forged when the two previously battled and Ahab lost his leg. Ahab hates the white whale because he loves him and loves the white whale because he hates him. One emotion is impossible without the other and it is because of this that his emotions are so intense. Ahab cannot control the intensity of the emotions he feels towards Moby Dick due to the constant back and forth between love and hate that he experiences. His hatred is tainted by the fact that it is a constant reminder of the love and admiration he once felt for Moby Dick. He cannot experience the true hatred that he desires because he has already experienced a feeling of love for the whale that cannot be ignored. Ahab performs his hatred of Moby Dick in a way that makes it appear as if he is willing to go to the depths of hell to hunt the whale. When he is alone, however, Ahab acts much differently and shows that his hatred is the result of its contrasting emotion. The space that his respect for the whale once filled must now be occupied with an emotion that is similar in intensity, but opposite in feeling.

The passion behind Ahab's emotions ultimately leads to his destruction with Moby Dick. The force of his hatred combined with the lingering feeling of love and admiration that Ahab once felt for the white whale have pushed him to the edge. He is so consumed with his emotions that he is blind to the voice of reason and equates himself with God, saying "There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod" (410). Ahab is so conflicted within himself that he assumes a position of authority that is not rightfully his. He consistently refers to the fires of hell and seems to believe that he has come to inhabit such a space. Moby Dick is his torturer and he will not rest until the white what is dead.

The intensity of Ahab's hatred must be characterized by the intensity of his opposite emotion. It is impossible for Ahab to experience such loathing if he has not also experienced the contrasting emotion of love. Ahab began his career as a whaler belonging to the fraternity of which Ishmael is so enamored, however, through his experiences with Moby Dick he is transformed into a man of a completely different caliber than those who belong to the fraternity. Gone is the Ahab who enjoys the adventure and thrill of whaling. That Ahab has been replaced by an overzealous captain who will stop at no cost, both in terms of himself and his crew, to achieve his goal. Ahab is aware of this transformation in himself, however, and expresses it when he describes the metaphor of the pasteboard mask. In that passage I believe Ahab is offering the best explanation he can give as to why his hunt for the whale is so consuming. As readers of Moby Dick it is the responsibility of the reader to follow the instructions of the characters, and when Ahab asks us to strike beyond his mask to see the truth behind it, I believe that we will find love of the whale, not hate.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. London: Aldine Press, 1975.

Full Name:  Emily Feenstra
Username:  efeenstra@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Prophets and Fate of the Pequod
Date:  2006-02-17 15:24:25
Message Id:  18178
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Ishmael decides to go on a whaling voyage, meets Queequeg at an inn, and decides to board the Pequod instead of the Devil-Dam or the Tit-bit. The crew agrees to join Ahab on his quest to hunt Moby Dick, and ignores, or tries to ignore, all bad omens they encounter along the way. The captain of the Rachel looses his child, and pleas for Ahab's help in finding him, thus giving Ahab an opportunity to change his course. The characters, the voyage, the entire plot of Herman Melville's Moby Dick seems to be set up by chance. Is it fate that the characters should end up on the Pequod? Is it fate that the Pequod should end in doom? Or is it a decision? There are numerous moments of prophecy, in which only bad ends are predicted, but is that to say that fate itself caused the Pequod's bad end? The driving force in the story seems somewhat unexplainable, surrounded on all sides by "what ifs." The prophecies embedded in the story provide predictions of the Pequod's bad end without revealing its exact fate, while fate itself is used as an irrelevant excuse for the actions that lead the characters to their end.

The first, and very framing, prophecy of the story occurs directly after Ishmael and Queequeg have signed on the Pequod, when they meet Elijah. After learning that Ishmael and Queequeg have already signed aboard the Pequod, Elijah declares, "what's to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all...Some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose...God pity 'em!" (126). Elijah seems to predict the fate of the Pequod. Declaring that God should pity the sailors who board the ship is to say that something terrible should befall the voyage. Elijah makes a prophecy, thereby predicting fate. But his prophecy is very vague, and could mean any number of things, from mutiny, to a bad storm, to the suicide of Captain Ahab. Conversely, fate has no wiggle-room. Fate simply is, and always will be. Elijah's prophecy thereby acts as an ambiguous prediction, creating an ominous sense for the future of the Pequod.

Fedellah, likewise, provides a prophecy. He tells Ahab, "Hemp alone can kill thee" (572). Ahab takes this to mean that only the gallows can kill him, and declares that he is immortal. Because his prophecy is so ambiguous, much like Elijah's, it is misinterpreted. Being killed by hemp could mean being killed by the gallows, true, but one could also be strangled to death by a murderer, fall off a cliff from a hanging rope, or be killed in any other number of ways. Like Elijah, Fedellah's prophecy holds true, but is so vague that it could have proven true in a number of circumstances. The reader realizes the gallows are unlikely to be the death of Ahab, but still can't understand how hemp will. Both prophecies predict the ultimate fate of their subjects, but their subjects fail to see it because of their ambiguity. As Fedellah predicts, in the end, Ahab is killed by hemp, but not the hemp of the gallows.

Chapter 99, "The Doubloon," offers a unique glimpse at how the sailors view prophecies. One day, a few members of the crew look deeply at the gold coin, trying to read meaning into it. Ahab sees the coins as the world, where "man should live in pains and die in pangs" (500). Starbuck sees the coin as a religious symbol, telling him that "in this vale of Death, God girds us round; and over all our gloom, the son of Righteousness still shines a beacon of hope" (500). Ahab and Starbuck hold very different, almost contrasting views, of the same object. One sees it as the inevitable suffering of the world, and the other as a symbol of hope in a time of darkness. As the scene goes on, Stubb sees it as a zodiac sign which predicts sleeping with the fish, Flask sees nothing but money, and most strangely, the Manxman sees it as a sign that Moby Dick will be caught in a month and a day (500-502). For each person, the doubloon takes on a different meaning. Perhaps it is Ahab's fate to suffer in life, Starbuck's fate to keep hope in times of darkness, and Stubb's to die at sea. Flask's inability to see beyond the monetary value of the coin carries little importance, and it is never revealed whether or not the Manxman's prophecy is correct. For a third time, prophecy is used to predict the fate of the Pequod. In a sense, they all combine. The crew dies drowning in pangs, sinking to join the fish at the bottom of the sea, while never losing hope in killing the whale. But the prophecies the crew makes from the doubloon are ambiguous enough to not predict the exact fate of the Pequod.

Fate itself is what Ishmael and Ahab blame for their actions. Soon after the narrator declares that he is to be called Ishmael, he explains his decision to go on a whaling voyage. This he ascribes to fate. Ishmael explains, "But wherefore it was that...I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who...influences me in some unaccountable way-- he can better answer than anyone else" (31). The book begins with what Ishmael believes is an act of fate, fate that he should end up aboard the Pequod. However, it is important to have a clear understanding of fate. By definition, fate is something that is "unalterably predetermined" (Fate). A life experience might be fate, such as a devastating storm, a fatal accident, or the birth of a child. A decision cannot be fate; it is a choice. Here, Ishmael makes a decision to board the Pequod. It might be fate that he survives the voyage, but his decision to board the Pequod is not fate; rather, it is simply a decision. In fact, there is a reasonable explanation behind his decision. Ishmael could easily have decided to go on yet another merchant trip, but instead decides to go whaling. Considering his description of a "damp, drizzly November" in his soul, and the decision to go to sea as a "substitute for pistol and ball," he is probably leaning towards suicidal, and looking for a way to encounter death without having to directly implement it (27). Whaling, being incredibly dangerous, is a sensible substitute. Although fate plays its hand in Ishmael's survival, it is not involved in his boarding of the Pequod, despite Ishmael's own explanation.

For Ahab, fate becomes a complicated and convoluted idea. The question is, is it his fate to hunt Moby Dick, or is it simply his fate to die at sea? Ahab believes the former, but I believe in the later. As Starbuck tries, for a second time, to convince Ahab to stop the hunt, Ahab replies, "'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before his ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fate's lieutenant; I act under orders" (641). Somehow, Ahab has decided that it is his fate to hunt Moby Dick, and that nothing can change that. No one can convince him otherwise, not even poor Starbuck, try as he might. But what Ahab believes is his fate could easily be changed. Starbuck could have shot him, the crew could have mutinied, he could have been tied up and physically forced to stop the hunt. If his fate were to hunt the whale, it could not be stopped by any human interaction. Granted, he is not stopped, but he could have been by a single person. Fate is unstoppable, unalterable. Ahab's hunt is alterable, and therefore it is not his fate, but his decision.

With Ahab, there is also the question of madness. He is consumed by his revenge; nothing matters to him but the death of Moby Dick. The first time Starbuck confronts Ahab about the insanity of the hunt, Ahab response, "What is it...commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing...myself. Is Ahab, Ahab? Unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. Fate is the handspike" (622). In this passage, Ahab himself wonders what is causing him to proceed with this hunt. In this moment, he seems to realize the illogic of hunting Moby Dick, of being consumed by revenge, and notes that any sensible man would stop the hunt and return to his "natural lovings and longings." Because he cannot understand himself, he blames his actions on God, and the fate that God must have in mind for him. However, I believe Ahab has simply let the revenge consume him. No god is controlling him, and no Moby Dick fate is his. He is killed hunting Moby Dick because he chooses to hunt Moby Dick. His fate may have been to die at sea, but this could have happened in the event of a storm, an accident on ship, a shark, or even murder. Being killed by Moby Dick is a means to his fate that Ahab chooses.

Through these prophecies and reflections on fate, Melville creates an ominous story, full of loose ends and unanswered questions. The prophecies provide allusions to the fate of the voyage and its crew without spoiling the story. Rather, they enhance the story with insight into the different perspectives of outsiders, Ahab, and the crew. With these prophecies, we can better see Ahab for what he is: a crazy old man consumed with revenge. Because these prophecies are so ambiguous, nothing is given away as to the fate of the individuals or the true ultimate fate of the ship. Ishmael and Ahab believe that fate is controlling them, and believe so to a fault. Ishmael abandons logic for fate, while Ahab declares himself unaccountable for his actions, acting as a puppet of God's intended fate for him. This belief in fate is what drives the Pequod to its watery end, an end that could easily have been avoided with the implementation of a bit more logic.

Works Cited
"Fate." Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.
Deluxe ed. 2001.
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Barnes and Noble, Inc.: 2003.

Full Name:  Allie Eiselen
Username:  aeiselen@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Ahab's Fable
Date:  2006-02-17 16:35:54
Message Id:  18181
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Ahab's Fable

Janie rolled forward and back in the big wooden rocker on the store porch. She was re-reading Moby Dick. Although Janie had never seen a New England winter, she now knew what Ishmael meant when he said he felt a damp, drizzly November in his soul. That mule had gone and died and Jody had left her sittin' there alone to mind the store. A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from her great leaf trees, far away from things and lonely. It wasn't just being left out of the funeral that made her feel this way though; Janie felt like an outsider in Eatonville and the more she obeyed Jody's orders to act like Mrs. Mayor, the more she felt like an outsider in herself. Jody was aimed at changin' the whole Negro town and her too.

Although Jody hadn't lost his leg to no white whale, he had lost his manhood and dignity to the white folk who had taken, or rather prevented him from having, generations of freedom and pride. Janie knew that building-up Eatonville and having a big voice everyone listened to was Jody's way of asserting power and vengeance over the white men who kept him down on the inside. And like that crazy Captain Ahab, Jody was on a mission to hunt down his soul and make himself a whole man again. She knew that when Jody made her tie up all her thoughts and dreams with her hair and stay quiet and
workin' the store, he wasn't acting no better than a slave owner his self. In this way Janie could see in Jody Starks the selfishness she hated in Captain Ahab, considering the way he'd done and taken all their lives to the bottom of the ocean.

Before Ahab ever hobbled on deck, his name was powerful and his description surrounded by intrigue, fear, and respect. There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town in the same way that Captain Ahab cowed the Pequod's crew. It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter. His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the things more tangible.

Buying the mule to was a way for Jody to show everyone he had the power to grant freedom them all, to prevent them from being beaten. It was also a way for Jody to feel like he was buying his own freedom. At the funeral Jody soaked up even more praise and power from the Eatonville folk as they awed at the grandeur of his pomp and circumstance for a common work mule. Crazy as he was, that captain Ahab had a way of making a hard and dirty job have a noble cause and his followers praiseworthy and courageous. Janie thought that maybe Jody Starks was gathering respect and a following in the same way that Ahab could instill in his crew his hatred of the white whale and keep them goal driven and away from mutiny.

Despite their leadership, Jody and Ahab they was ignorant of the same thing. Neither knew that freedom was something internal. Something found deep inside the soul. And no ol' dead mule nor big white whale could take the place of facing reality and staring truth square in the face. Janie knew that no matter how many mules Jody bought or how big of a house he was living in, he would still be shackled to his insecurities.

The sun hung low in the summer sky. There hadn't been a customer since noon. Everyone was at the funeral and Jody knew it too. He had kept Janie there because looking into the beauty of her eyes reminded him of his dreams on the backburner.

While thinking of how Jody had tied himself down to Eatonville rather than follow his heart to achieve greatness and explore the world around him, Janie took notice that she was still following her captain's orders to stay and mind the store. Why should she after all? Here she was a grown and literate woman, and she was hiding her thoughts and herself, just rocking away her time on the porch. She didn't need the clothes or the house or the store to be happy. Janie hadn't been happy for a long time. She wasn't happy following the orders of her mammy, she wasn't happy following the orders of Logan, and she certainly wasn't happy following the orders of Jody at all. In fact, Janie didn't even know if Jody was happy having everyone follow his orders, because maybe Jody knew that his grandiose orders was wrong.

What is the point of living if only to sail in the winds of another man's dreams? Janie knew the sad truth about what would happen to Jody and the people who obeyed him. They were being blown about by white man's glory. They would be just as sad and broken as before they had a general store or white picket fences because the possessions they had on the outside, wasn't doin' noting to change their souls on the insides.

By the sight of vultures circling in the distance, Janie supposed that funeral was near its end, but she wasn't. Janie wasn't about to wear out the groves of her spirit in
that porch or ever allow herself to be Jody's mule again. The man himself must make his own emancipation and the woman too! Janie was determined not to be like Starbuck who saw the truth and turned his head. She believed that there are two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves.

Whether or not the rest of Eatonville worshiped Jody, Janie refused to allow him to keep her chained or to allow him to have the satisfaction of knowing he had power to unlock her either. Janie set down the volume, lifted herself up out of the rocker, and she pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

Janie untied her kerchief and felt as if a weight had been lifted. While shaking out her long hair, a young man's whistling caught her attention. She defiantly stepped off the porch to introduce herself to the stranger. Being that he didn't want to be overly heightened by the name Mr. Woods, he told her to call him Tea Cake.

Works cited:
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Full Name:  megan sky stegall
Username:  mstegall@bmc
Title:  Microcosms from a Microcosm: Various Leadership Styles in the Whale-Boats
Date:  2006-02-17 16:40:38
Message Id:  18182
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Herman Melville's Moby Dick portrays a very specific social order aboard the whaling vessel, the Pequod, captained by Ahab and described by Ishmael, but this is not the only social order present in the book. Other boats are mentioned in histories and in the gam chapters, and of course during Ishmael's time on shore at the start of the story we observe several varieties of social interactions and pecking orders among people. About halfway through the book, in Chapter 48, The First Lowering, we first see the three mates of the Pequod, that is Starbuck, Stubb and Flask, captaining their own individual whale-boats, and a whole new set of social orders comes in. The question of why the men aboard the ship follow "crazy Ahab" or why they behave the way they do can be (and is) debated endlessly, but perhaps it is also illuminating to look at how the three mates lead their boats and how the men in their respective crews respond to this new leadership.

In Chapter 48, after meeting Fedallah and his "tiger-yellow (181)" crew, we find ourselves in a whale-boat on the sea with Flask. He is upbeat and excited, and speaks directly to his oarsmen, specifically Archy (181). His language is positive and designed to motivate his men: "... cheerily cried little King-Post... 'Lay back!' addressing his crew... 'Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy' (181)." He exhorts his crew to pull hard on their oars (hence, lay back), but what sets him apart from the other boat-leaders is his emphasis on the whales themselves. A little later, Flask says "...beach me on their black backs, boys... (185)" and promises his men his own fortune and family if they can do it. Of him, Melville next writes "the repeated specific allusions of Flask to 'that whale,' ... were at times so vivid and life-like they would cause some one or two of his men to snatch a fearful look over the shoulder (186)." What also defines Flask as a leader is his literal and metaphorical need to climb as high as possible for a better vantage point in the boat. He gets as far up as the shoulders of his massive harpooner, Daggoo, and even says "only I wish you were fifty feet taller (184)" to emphasize his need to get the best possible view of the whales. Flask, who is "vivacious, tumultuous, ostentatious (184)" and small, raises himself up to focus not only his own eyes but also his energy, his commands, and his rowers' efforts directly on the path of the whales. He is almost Ahabian in this "monomaniacal" pursuit of the whales, but without the obvious frenetic inner conflict or permanent state of tunnel-vision that mark Ahab.

The next mate we see addressing his crew is Stubb, with a drastically different approach to the business at hand. He calls his rowers all sorts of things: "...my fine hearts-alive... my children... my little ones... my boys... my heroes... you rascals... you dogs... ye ragamuffin rapscallions... (181, 182)" and more. Stubb continuously but "drawlingly and soothingly (181)" tells his rowers what to do, alternating between encouraging them and insulting them. Every few lines he mentions something else, like the mysterious fourth crew, or the sperm-oil which is their ultimate goal, or the White Whale himself (182, 183). Melville calls Stubb's technique "peculiar (182)" and says that he makes use of the "religion of rowing (183)." The truly peculiar thing about Stubb, he says, is the tone he uses when talking to his crew. He is so relaxed, it seems, and contrary to the very things he says, that "... no oarsman could hear such queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing (182)." Stubb, as a leader, is relaxed and unusual; he commands incessantly but in such a way that it never gets old to the ears of the rowers, and so that one apparently cannot help obeying him. It seems that this is characteristic of Stubb generally: "...as to put all inferiors on their guard in the matter of obeying him (183)." Stubb speaks briefly to Starbuck, without losing control of his crew, and later talks to them about Flask, which would distract a rower under anyone else's command; however, Stubb follows up his comments with a characteristically bizarre segue back into rowing-talk by saying "Pudding for supper, you know; – merry's the word. Pull, babes – pull, sucklings – pull, all (185)" and manages to keep their focus and their bodily exertion up.

Next and in several places we encounter Starbuck, whispering intensely to his boat-crew. When Stubb addresses him (182), Starbuck responds but never turns around, intersecting exhortations to his crew between his comments and replies to Stubb. His whispers are even put in parentheses, to make them stand out as very personal for his rowers: "'Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong, boys!)' in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again (183)." Some of his comments sound like some of Stubb's, especially the way he calls his rowers "my boys... my lads... (183)" and the like, but his style is vastly different. He is fixed in purpose, like Flask, but focused, it seems, entirely on his men, more like Stubb. He speaks of the purpose of the lowering, of course (183), but most of his words are just to make the rowers go. Starbuck speaks "in the lowest possible but intensest concentrated whisper to his men, (185)" and keeps his eyes fixed determinedly on the whales ahead, his whispers "... now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty (185)." Interestingly, he is portrayed visually as being perfectly level, "coolly and adroitly balancing himself (184)" despite the hard work, the rough water, and the jolting movement of a boat being rowed. Starbuck, however, leads his crew directly into the squall in pursuit of the whales, saying "there is time to kill a fish yet... Spring! (186)" His men respond exactly to him, driving themselves straight into the storm. Queequeg, as Starbuck's harpooneer, obeys his commands precisely and immediately, and very nearly kills a whale because of it (187). It seems odd, perhaps, that the leader most obviously balanced – physically in the boat and verbally, between Stubb's queer soliloquizing and Flask's whale-fixation – is the one who drives straight and fast into the squall with no thought for safety. He does, however, light the lantern once his men are collected back in the boat (187); perhaps Starbuck plows on ahead like Ahab and then sets himself apart, not by his foresight or his regard for his men's lives going into battle, but by his return to hope in the will to survive: "... holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty darkness (187)."

Of Ahab's leadership in his whale-boat, all we know is that we are not to know of it, as we "live under the light of the blessed light of the evangelical land (186)" and should not be subjected to such language by Melville. All we can infer is that Ahab drove his crew on with no thought but killing the whale and without the kind of speech his mates used, and that his men plowed through the water with his same determination and maniacal desperation. In this chapter we cannot directly contrast Ahab's leadership to that of his mates, because we do not get to hear him speak – we merely see him balancing solidly on his real and peg-leg, "with one arm, like a fencer's, thrown half backward into the air (183)" to steer his boat the way he has done thousands of times before. His rowers are described simply as strong, fast and efficient – "...how potent a crew was pulling him...like five trip-hammers... with regular strokes of strength (183)."

So within the strata of the Pequod, we have leaders and the men who follow them, and each leader distinguishes himself from the others by his words and actions. Ahab is characteristic with his surprising appearance, not to mention balance in single-minded pursuit, and by the very lack of words we get from him. Flask is also focused on the whales, but he is set apart by his bodily raising himself for a better view, and by his excited encouragements and commands. Stubb is the "peculiar" one, mixing a bizarrely relaxed and funny tone of voice with constant and commanding words, making his statements effectively uncomfortable for his men. Starbuck bridges between the other two, focused both on the whales and on his men; he urges them in a low, intense voice straight into a squall and danger. All four whale-boat captains are obeyed implicitly, and all the crews are deeply engaged in the task at hand as presented to them by their leaders, but I would say that Starbuck's leadership is the most effective and frightening, since he drives his men into an extra-dangerous situation; not only are they chasing deadly sperm whales, but they run into a squall in pursuit. Starbuck further distinguishes himself as a leader by not losing any of his men and by lighting the lantern that gets them saved eventually. He displays some of the craziness and monomania of Ahab, but unlike his captain, Starbuck remembers his men as people whose lives are worth something and, in the end, treats them as such.

Citations from Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Norton Critical (Second) Edition, 2002

Full Name:  Alison Reingold
Username:  areingold@brynmawr.edy
Title:  The Search Behind James's Pasteboard Mask
Date:  2006-02-17 18:30:20
Message Id:  18183
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"Hark ye yet again,--the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough." Moby Dick Chapter 36

The "visible object" that confounds me most about "The Turn of the Screw" is the language that acts as a pasteboard mask to the text's significance. The mask is sometimes interesting to look at but is unchanging. James's style of writing acts as a barrier between me and the story, preventing me from reaching into the text while discouraging and boring me as well.

Skimming has always interfered with my reading, my eyes floating down the page waiting for strange new words, conversation, or plot points. For "Turn of the Screw," I made an effort to look at every word. However, while reading this story, again and again I would see the individual words but never link them together in a relationship, much less give them a nuance or purpose. Frequently, I only see significance in a certain phrase paragraphs later, making me double back and wonder what other pieces of interest I had missed. The following passage is one example of words I took in without seeing the motive behind them, an interesting problem as they are the Governess's thoughts in the middle of her first encounter with Quint;

"The great question, or one of these, is, afterward, I know, with regard to certain matters, the question of how long they have lasted. Well, this matter of mine, think what you will of it, lasted while I caught at a dozen possibilities, none of which made a difference for the better, that I could see, in there having been in the house – and for how long, above all? – a person of whom I was in ignorance." (p 311, Signet Classic)

After reading, rereading, and typing these two sentences with great care, I still cannot see their value and special position within the score of text. So many commas, so many qualifiers, and so many prepositions. If I were skimming the words, my brain would only alight on "lasted," "dozen," "house," and "ignorance." After what is supposed to be the first great shock of the story, I cannot see how James can give the narrator such bland words. Trying to break past the mask of the text, I could translate the words and condense them to "How long did the encounter last? It continued while I realized there was a stranger in the house." However, I feel a strong opinion in literature academia that translating text to one's own vernacular is vulgar and missing the author's intentions. After I puzzle out a translation, I wonder if there is a tone in the phrase that should signal the character's opinion that will give these words weight. However, James inserts so many qualifiers that the Governess seems to have no distinct opinions about what she is saying. I jump further from the words to look for James's motivation for choosing these words and placing them. The most I can postulate is that James wants the Governess to appear a timid storyteller, which sounds obvious and shallow.

Having such a small conclusion about the words makes me feel like I must have missed something or am lacking the sophistication to see something greater. I always take my difficulty retaining or "appreciating" the text as my personal failure rather than any fault of the author. To say that Henry James bores me sounds so presumptuous because James's mastery as an author has been confirmed by thousands of intellectuals, while my intelligence is still debatable so I readily admit stupidity rather than say, "Yes, I understand what James wrote and I don't find much of it noteworthy." In the classroom environment, we debate the author's motives and influences but we give the text a special glow of purpose that cannot be debated. I do not believe any student and most teachers would ever say "The Turn of the Screw" is a terrible story because rejecting James looks like disrespecting our distinguished superiors.

"The Turn of the Screw" is not a useless story that people respect out of habit and for pretentious reasons. The plot is reasonable, the characters are detailed, and the pacing is appropriate for a nineteenth century story. The book allows for discussion of its ambiguities which is interesting for modern audiences who may not relate to the setting easily. I am frustrated because I feel there is merit in the story but James is purposefully blocking it with a style and language. Though I understand his style, I certainly do not think it is what makes the story noteworthy and see it only as an obstacle to getting to what makes "The Turn of the Screw" a Classic.

Some authors are lauded for their language specifically, some for their intriguing subject matter and others for their command of plot devices. After punching through the pasteboard mask of language, I want to see what makes "The Turn of the Screw" special but the rules for what makes a classic is still unclear to me. Behind the mask I see carefully chosen ambiguities, intriguing frames, and interesting characters. Is that combination what makes this story so special? I still cannot help feeling that I have missed something crucial. To me, reading "The Turn of the Screw" should provoke intense feelings of like or dislike, with an underlying layer of respect. Though I have respect for the story and its author, my reaction is mostly bland boredom with a touch of annoyance. I will continue to wonder about what people find in "The Turn of the Screw" until I can see the root of their passion for it.

Full Name:  Laci Hutto
Username:  lhutto@bmc
Title:  Group Psychology and Analysis of the Pequod
Date:  2006-02-18 21:54:22
Message Id:  18196
Paper Text:
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Our understanding of the behavior of the crew of the Pequod, as they follow their maniacal captain on his suicidal vendetta can be aided by a reading of Sigmund Freud's Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. This work considers the effect that being part of a group has on a person's subjectivity, and ways in which the leader of the group can easily manipulate the group members into acting in ways uncharacteristic of their individual selves. Freud's Group Psychology gives one possible explanation for why the crew of the Pequod would follow Ahab on such an insane quest.

At the beginning of Ahab's introduction to the readers, in chapter 34, we see him at a meal with the the crew, seeming to be a completely separate entity. After having a lot of time to see the crew together at sea, the introduction of Ahab comes at a point in which we realize that although he too is part of the Pequod, he is not a part of the group mind that Freud discusses. What we see in Freud is a lot of what we no know through common sense, about how mob mentality may take over a group and cause them to act in unusual ways. This mind, he says, is produced "under a certain condition," in which an individual "thought, felt, and acted in quite a different way from what would have been expected." (Freud, 6) We could easily read the crew members' time at sea as being enough of the right kind of condition to produce a group mentality among those on the Pequod. Why, then, is Ahab exempt from this binding of minds?

Freud describes a group as "an obedient herd, which could never live without a master." (Freud, 17) It is not enough for group psychology that men will band together in this way when left at sea for long periods of time; there must be a leader to govern this group. Ahab is the obvious choice for a leader in the context of Moby-Dick because of his role as ship's captain. More than this, however, he meets Freud's criteria for who must be the leader of a group. Ahab "possess[es] a strong and imposing will, which the group, which has no will of its own, can accept from him." (Freud, 17) Ishmael notes, after the crew has agreed to chase the white whale, that Ahab is very conscious of the fact that he must use the men of his ship as the tools by which to accomplish his mission. Ishmael also points out that Ahab recognizes that using money to keep the men in line would be very effective, since without the promise of it, the men will surely mutiny and "cashier Ahab." (Melville, 178) Ishmael's chapter-long discussion of the means by which Ahab will manage to keep the men of the crew under his governance shows Ahab's effectiveness as a Freudian group leader. He knows how to act in such a way to give the men just enough of what they want that they will not turn against him.

We see this kind of effectiveness throughout the book, beginning in chapter 36, when Ahab first convinces the crew to help him in his singular mission. He leads the crew in getting excited about their whaling quest, by becoming so excited himself that "the mariners began to gaze curiously at each other, as if marveling how it was that they themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions." (Melville, 138) We see from this moment the ways in which Ahab gains control over the crew, even later in this chapter, when he performs a sort of binding ritual, so as to seal the group mentality and thereby his rule over it. From this point on, the crewmen are so hooked into their roles as part of the group led by Ahab, that they would dare not question his authority. He plays into the "sentiment of invincible power" that the group has acquired that stops them from recognizing the inherent dangers of being led on this quest for vengeance by a madman.

The members of the crew, once bound together in this group mind, lose their sense of subjectivity. Freud claims that the member of a group "readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collective interest," and that, furthermore, once in a group mindset, "no personal interest, not even that of self-preservation can make itself felt." (Freud, 10 and 13) If this is so, it is clear why the members of this crew would see no further than the directives handed down from Ahab. They have no personal interest; everything they seek to do is for the good of the group-- or, to put it more accurately than Freud does, for the good of the leader. The group believes the leader is leading them for their own good, and in this case, does not realize that their leader is actually on a completely self-centered mission for revenge, on which they are merely tools. Stubb, for example, decides the best way to deal with the decision to chase the whale is to sing and laugh, and later insists that the crew of the Pequod is in no more danger than any other whaling ship on the sea, despite talk of Ahab's insanity. (Melville, 145 and 385) Ishmael himself points out that "this pertinacious pursuit of one particular whale, continued through day into night, and through night into day, is a thing by no means unprecedented in the South sea fishery." (Melville, 413) Stubb's and Ishmael's claims, rather than proving the point that the Pequod's mission is not that unusual, serve to show that they are under the effect of the group mentality, being convinced by Ahab that it is right to hunt the whale.

One person on the ship who is not part of this collective mentality succumbing to Ahab's governance is Starbuck. Starbuck is under Ahab's influence, but this relationship is different from that of Ahab and the rest of the crew. They are in a two-person group mentality, known in Freudian terms as hypnosis, led by Ahab. The effect of Ahab over Starbuck is the same as his effect over the rest of the crew, but Starbuck is alone in his mental processes, and is not governed by a group mind telling him to forget all thoughts of self-preservation. He protests from the very beginning, claiming that Ahab's plan is insane, and that it is not right to change the intended mission of the whaling ship. His protestations continue right up until the end, when Starbuck begs Ahab to quit, saying "Oh!Ahab... not too late is it, even now, the third day, to desist." (Melville, 423) There is a personal bond between these two men, but the overwhelming dynamic still ends with Ahab's control over Starbuck.

Ahab knows how to treat the men of the ship to keep them under his control, but his control over Starbuck is not acted out in the same way. He points a musket at Starbuck and threatens him, a kind of action he would not use so readily on any other member of the crew. Starbuck in return considers killing Ahab with the same musket in his sleep, but cannot. These events separate him distinctly from the other crew members, proving that while he is under Ahab's thrall, he is not part of the group mentality as it applies to the other members of the crew. Ahab's pull over him is personal, magnetic. The pull is so complete that "Starbuck's body and Starbuck's coerced will were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck's brain." (Melville, 177) This aligns with Freud's account of the leader's effect over others, so we see that even though Starbuck is not mentally part of the crew in this way, he is in another kind of Freudian group psychology in his relationship to Ahab, and as such is also unable to pull away enough to stop the ship from searching for Moby Dick.

The sad irony of this whole situation is that the poor crewmen who have been deluded into following Ahab, along with Starbuck, who similarly could not go against Ahab, are proven wrong in their trust for their captain. Throughout the voyage they convince themselves that Ahab is not leading them into any excessive danger. They believe that he will look out for them, since he is their leader. In the end, however, Moby Dick turns his rage on Ahab to the ship, killing every trusting man aboard the Pequod just before Ahab himself is taken under the water.

Full Name:  Jackie O'Mara
Username:  jomara@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Sailing to Self-Discovery
Date:  2006-02-21 14:07:47
Message Id:  18273
Paper Text:


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What moves a person? What, when faced with only one's innermost emotions, rises to the surface? Ishmael, in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, puts himself in a situation that provokes questions such as these. There was some discussion in class regarding Ishmael's choice to sail on the Pequod – did he want to keep himself from committing suicide, as he would most surely have done on land, or was he hoping that he would die during the voyage? Perhaps Ishmael himself did not have an answer to these questions. Perhaps the decision to go whaling came from something subconscious in Ishmael, some need to be alone with his thoughts and emotions and away from the distractions of land. Death could be an option for him, but it was not the cause of his voyage. In his moments aside from Ahab and the White Whale, Ishmael experiences something we all, on some level, long for – freedom from the confines of the mind.

The story begins with Ishmael claiming that there is "nothing particular to interest me on shore" (18). He speaks of the "ocean reveries" of people on land gazing out to sea (18) and of the "mystic vibration" felt by boat passengers "when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land" (19-20). By beginning this way, Melville sets up the ocean as a vast, indescribable mystery that calls to those of us on land (19) as if there is something in each of us pressuring us to explore the sea.

Ishmael makes a decision to leave the land and go on a whaling ship. These descriptions of the ocean and of the water are his simple justification for what he is about to do. Ishmael is stuck in a "damp, drizzly November" and feels the need to escape to the sea. But why does the ocean cause this feeling in Ishmael? Why are people drawn to the water as Melville has claimed? Ishmael cites Narcissus attempting to "grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain"(20). We all see that image:

But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. (20)

It is an image of ourselves that we could not see, or would not have seen, without looking into the water. Narcissus sees his own reflection in the fountain, suggesting that when we look into the "rivers and oceans", what we see there is ourselves, but a part of ourselves that is both dangerous and essential to life. In these opening pages, Melville sets a perplexing tone for the remainder of Moby Dick. What in each of us would we see in the water? Ishmael may be subconsciously going to find that out for himself when he decides to go whaling.

Ishmael's description of the experience of being a lookout on the mast-head illustrates the effect that open water has on a person. Sailing has a unique and unfailing way of almost forcing the sailor to reflect on her own life and emotions. As Ishmael states of his own abilities as a lookout:

With the problem of the universe revolving in me, how could I – being left completely to myself at such a thought-engendering altitude, – how could I but lightly hold my obligations to observe all whale-ships' standing orders. (135)

Far from the distractions of the shore, with nowhere to go, and nothing to look at but the boundless ocean around, one hardly has any other choice than to work out one's own "problem of the universe", whatever that may be. All of the thoughts and emotions stewing in the back of Ishmael's mind have the chance to come to the surface and eventually dissipate. What results, other than poor scouting skills, is a freedom from the boundaries and limitations set up by the mind.

Ishmael portrays a young philosopher at his mast-head post as being "lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that as last he loses his identity" (136). This describes, for many, the appeal of being out on the ocean and, for many more, the fear it brings. On shore there are too many people, there is too much happening, too much to think about from day to day, that having or seeking out a moment to turn the focus inward is very rare. The opportunity to be out at sea, as Ishmael has, is a welcome one to people who feel confined by their surroundings on land – both physical and emotional. The solitude found sailing allows one to truly see who he is as an individual, so much so that sometimes "he loses his identity". This can be a welcome experience to the person who feels suffocated by his identity and by the mental walls he has put up for himself. For other people, this can be a chilling, unnerving thought. They will shy away from anything that might cause them to lose their identity, as they know it, preferring to stay on land where comforting distractions abound.

If, as was discussed in class, literature at the time of Melville and Moby Dick was meant to be acted upon and not interpreted, what are we to do with these characteristics of Ishmael's story? It is difficult to suggest that we all go whaling and find our own Captain Ahab to lead us on a crazed voyage so that we may reach a better understanding of ourselves in the off time. But the suggestion raised by this reading of Moby Dick is not that far off. In today's society, we are constantly bombarded with things to think about, things to do, people to meet. And this is only intensifying. Our way of life is limit creating: we would sooner choose to define ourselves than to experience life without an identity. The more definitions we form for ourselves, however, the more we close ourselves off to a life of mental freedom and acceptance. If we are to act on some of the messages in Moby Dick, an option is to find our own Pequod on which to sail. To live in a boundless way, we must seek out our own voyages and allow ourselves to make self-discoveries such as the ones possible to Ishmael and the other lookouts. While keeping a "weather eye open" (135) towards the future, we must not resist the impulse to explore the thoughts and emotions that are deep within us.

What could be found when looking into the depths of one's own being? It can be very terrifying to expose one's innermost self – there is no telling what you might discover. Ishmael finds himself in a position to truly explore his thoughts and emotions. Did he put himself in that position intentionally? Ishmael was searching for something when he joined the crew of the Pequod. In a way, we are all searching, and the freedom that comes in escaping – whether on the ocean or not – can help us find what we are looking for.