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20th Century Moby-Dick Forum

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20th Century Moby-Dick
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-02-27 14:43:20
Link to this Comment: 4865

Welcome to this forum, where you are invited to post your thoughts/reactions to the range of 20th c. versions of Moby-Dick we'll be exploring: Lawrence and Olson's criticism; Naslund's novel, Ahab's Wife; the "Quagmire" episode of The X-Files; the 1956 John Huston movie version--or whatever else it is that Ngoc and Julia choose to move us into modern times...

wind-flung confetti words streaming from my hand
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-03-03 22:05:24
Link to this Comment: 4923

i really enjoyed reading the ecerpts from 'ahab's wife.' i thought the writing beautiful. i guess i am just a sucker for last lines, but i thought the last paragraph was beautiful. i thought that it spoke to the last line of 'moby dick' beautifully. while moby dick' ends with the destruction of mankind, 'ahab's wife' ends with the pointing towards land, life. but, even here there is a gargantuous entity that roles over man. here, it is time, "each day and forever by the ticking of the mantel clock and by the dark wheeling of the cosmos, we have given time a home." and then her beautiful writing, "my own wind-flung confetti words streaming from my hand." and, now, finally, i can quote the line that makes 'moby dick' worth reading, "now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago." and the sea rolls on, untainted by man's progress. the sea rolls on over man, drowning him. i am reminded of the last line of 'the great gabsby,' "so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." ummmmm....i love good writing. the power of the ocean that always beats mankind. (that was merely a uncalledfor excuse to quote good random writing.)

Ahab's Wife
Name: E'
Date: 2003-03-04 01:19:35
Link to this Comment: 4933

I also enjoyed the excerpts from "Ahab's Wife." When I looked back at the notes I wrote while reading the text, I commented a lot on the different writing styles of Melville and Naslund. I felt much more drawn into the text in "Ahab's Wife." I think it's more descriptive and less objective than "Moby Dick." The fact that it is from the wife's point of view versus Ishmael maybe can hint at women expressing themselves better then men? Aside from the writing styles, I was shocked at how scandalous the story was. Ahab's wife was with 3 men! Lets finsih this book instead of Moby Dick.

Name: Kati Donag
Date: 2003-03-04 16:05:45
Link to this Comment: 4941

I'd like to start off by just saying I really liked the excerpts of Ahab's Wife, and look forward to when I have the time to read the whole thing. That being said, I'm going to talk about some the the images that disturbed me. Cannibalism. Comparing Cannibalism to nursing. I'm not so crazy about that. Nursing to me has always inferred a compassionate, nurturing, parental/child relationship and seeing it compared to cannibalism left me feeling very unsettled. I was left asking myself what Naslund was saying when she used the word "suckling" to describe eating another human. It makes my eyes go cross and my stomach flip. The imagery that Naslund uses is so graphic it's hard for me to forget Una feeding eagerly off of that blood soaked finger. But it also raises issues of the relationship Una had with Kit and Giles. They nurtured and fed her, took care of her, probably protected her and later the image is flipped and Una is left caring for Kit. It is an interesting thought, but I don't suggest thinking on it for too long, my stomach is feeling a little queezy.

On another note, after reading Ahab's Wife I was on the look-out for images of females or children in Moby-Dick. Here are two that I can remember. The first is when Tashtego falls into the whales brain and Queequeg rescues him using midwifery skills. The second is while Ishmeal is expounding on the uses of whale blubber he says it is good for infants to suck on.

Ahab's Wife
Name: barbara
Date: 2003-03-04 16:47:58
Link to this Comment: 4942

Everything seems to be a mirror image: Ishmael's sleeping in the bed with Queequeg and talking as though they had a marriage, to Una's finding Susan under her matress as she is giving birth, having her come out to warm her and also speaking of a marriage,also sleeping embraced. I remembered Anne speaking of the two subjects that had influenced Melville's writing, abolition and cannabilism, and that is brought together in a much more open way in Ahab's Wife, almost as an introductory statement, so one is aware of both undercurrents when reading the book. The mirroring also continues with Ishmael leaving the island and going out into the dangerous sea, while Una leaves the danger present in her Kentucky cabin to the safety of the island. I wish I had more time to read all the book. Hard to draw conclusions with excerpts.

erasing information
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-06 01:12:51
Link to this Comment: 4964

I want to follow up on a comment Sebastian made in class on Tuesday, about all the energy involved in holding on to something (a memory, a grudge, some anger...) I've been mulling over his observation, juxtaposing it w/ a contrary notion, all that I've been learning in the faculty working group on Emergence about the energy needed to "erase" information, a thermodynamic cost which....

well, go explore a little about the dissipation of energy that is the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the overall direction of change in the universe from less probable (more organized) states to more probable (less organized) states....

and then tell me what you think (and what you think this has to do w/ Moby-Dick!)

second law
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-03-08 09:18:53
Link to this Comment: 4990

The destruction of ships relates directly to this law, since 'energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused or dispersed and spread out.' Thus, the opposite, a ship coming being healed after coming into contact with a sperm whale such as Moby Dick is completely improbable.

This website talks about how this law relates to time, stating that, "Our psychological sense of time is based on the second law. It summarizes what we have seen, what we have experienced, what we think will happen." This site actually uses the example of the titanic hitting an iceberg to illustrate this point.

The Language of Peace?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-17 16:19:54
Link to this Comment: 5028

I had posted this message @ The Place of the U.S. in the World Community but wanted to be sure that you saw it here, as my understanding of a "contemporary" version of Moby-Dick:

Franklin Roosevelt said, "All we have to fear is fear itself." In my Meeting last week, someone said something even better--because more hopeful, and more action-oriented:

"All we have to fear is...

the lack of creativity."

I'm a Quaker, and/but when "There is No Way to Peace, Peace Is the Way" signs went up downtown, then outside my own Meeting in Radnor, I was conflicted: I think the language of assertion (of certitude, of declaration, of dogmatism) is too often the language of war-making; it is the language of question-asking which, for me, constitutes the language of peace ...

& I have been trying very hard, since September 11th, to use "the language of peace," to try out what that sounds like, and see what effect it has.

During Meeting for Worship yesterday morning, the messages were once again about this difficult dance between "conviction" and "openness"--how to take a stand for what we believe in, w/out shutting off conversation w/, and learning from, people w/ whom we disagree. It took that worship session to get me to sign the pledge that Jane and Jim had sent 'round to the faculty a few days before, to realize that (as Jim said in an e-mail to me later), "this is not an oath, but a declaration of action. For me, oaths are to external bodies, and I only take oaths to myself, but pledges, like the AFSC Pledge of Resistance, is a declaration of intention. "

Quakers eschew oaths, since we try to tell the truth equally in all situations (rather than promising to do so particularly in particular situations, such as in court). But, for the reasons Jim describes, we do make pledges...

...and so I join the pledge to spend my first class, after we go to war, talking about WHY we have done so, inviting my students to think about ways in which our doing so harkens back to the either-or judgments and Puritanical retributions of Chillingworth (in The Scarlet Letter, which we are reading in one of my classes) as well as to the monomania of Ahab (in Moby-Dick, which we're reading in another):

The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil; -- Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, where visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it. (Chapter 41)

(If you're still reading), I also want to make sure that everyone knows about the work of The American Friends Service Committee, which has been engaged for decades in activities for peace and reconciliation. You'll find on their website a range of ways in which you can act, from making the Iraq peace pledge to assembling hygiene kits--as well as a range of activist resources (posters, brochures, fact sheets) that you can use for your own local organizing. You'll also find there the words of Pope John Paul II:

"Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. Building peace requires creative and courageous action. "

Anne Dalke

A CNN parallel
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-03-17 20:45:17
Link to this Comment: 5036

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri ruled out the possibility that President Saddam Hussein would go into exile to avoid war with the United States and its allies, saying Monday that President Bush should resign, instead.

"He should go away from the presidency and let the Americans lead an ordinary life with other nations, not a life of aggression, a policy of aggression against other nations," Sabri said. "This policy has brought about disasters to the U.S. So for the U.S. to live properly with the world and for the world nations to live in peace, this crazy man should go."

This sounds eerily familiar to the paragraph in Anne's posting about "crazy Ahab" and his limitless passion to kill Moby Dick. I never fully considered the possibility that Bush wants to fight this war because of a "hate felt by his whole race from Adam down" towards the Iraqis. This same idea in Moby Dick shows how a deep, irrational passion for something can bring someone to act in impassioned, heated ways, "burst(ing) his hot heart's shell upon it," not stopping to think on rational terms, such as the repercussions and outcomes of a war on Iraq.

Moby Dick, Bush and Saddam
Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-03-18 04:35:52
Link to this Comment: 5049

It's pretty intense to compare Bush with Ahab. I'm not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand - I disagree with Bush's course of action. I think that ignoring the decisions of so many other countries is possibly more than verging on being monomaniacal. However, I'm not sure that beneath all the terrible reasons that are very likely the real reasons this war is being pushed - money, oil, powertrips, pride, etc. - there remains the fact that Saddam is dangerous and a threat to both Iraq and the rest of the world. One thing that happens too often at our wonderful liberal arts utopian school is that in our earnest desire to find the truth we wind up turning issues into black and white. No matter how opposed I am to war of any sort, and certainly this one, I don't think that we should continue to fall into the trap of applying such overarching parallels to the issue.

bush-ahab analogy
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-03-19 14:42:04
Link to this Comment: 5089

I agree with Bernadette for the most part on this issue. While Moby Dick could not be classified as 'evil,' a tyrrant such as Saddam can. Thus Bush's fanaticism is less misplaced than Ahab's. However, discounting this important disparity, the analogy is pretty solid. Bush has pursued the Iraq issue with a general disgard for the international community. More importantly, he is ignoring countries which also pose large threats to our national security, which is extremely detrimental to the nation as whole. Iran has a chemical weapons arsenal and nuclear weapons program. Even scarier is the fact that North Korea currently has medium-range nuclear weapons and has become a potential plutonium factory for terrorists. Unfortunately, though these threats are as large if not larger than the threat posed by Saddam, they have been virtually ignored as the Bush administration pursues Iraq. Additionally, the fact that the Bush administration failed solve the Iraq issue via diplomacy does not bode well for future disputes. I think that Bush's blindness on these issues very much parrallels the blindness displayed by Ahab.

Name: o minder
Date: 2003-03-19 15:22:59
Link to this Comment: 5092

i smelled the moist dirt of spring the other day, saw the first crocus spear its way to the top of the thawing soil, heard the swarms of birds singing, singing. But, tonight a man blind to all these things is going to send us to war. vacum spring, insert static. my ears are empty of life and i listen. how can i save the world? if there was ever a moment the world needed to be saved it is now. But how? bleed my life into, replace the killed, spring. i once saw myself at the bottum of a black hole that reached up to blackness. i once went to war. hummingbirds are going to die and the inscape of things will be no more as each crumbles into himself.

who is this man who is sending us to war?

"Yonder, by the ever-brimming goblet's rim, th warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. Th diver sun- slow dived from noon, -goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then, the crown too heavy that i wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright with many a gem; i, wearer, see not its far flashings; but darkly feel that i wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. 'tis iron-that i know- not gold." (moby dick ch. 37)

unseen revision
Name: o minder
Date: 2003-03-21 16:18:03
Link to this Comment: 5127

i suspect that this forum section is done with and no one will read this, but i will write here anyway....secluded cave scrawling to be found in thousands of years...hehe.

so, i have been thinking about my last posting and realized that i was wrong. i wrote about how the fact that we are at war drains the beauty of spring...vacums it. but, that's not right. i am reminded of a folk song by malvina renolds, an old folk singer whom my hippie parents filtered into my little baby ears from day one. she sings, "god bless the grass that grows through the cracks. they roll the concrete over it, to try and keep it back. the concrete gets tired of what it has to do. it breaks and it buckles and the grass grows through and god bless the grass."
so...i must marvel now at the ability of nature to ignore that there is a war going on, to ignore death, and the utter state of despair that this world is in. the crocauses ignore war and spear their way through despite the stench of war and corpses that will rot. the miracle is that summer will come. and if this is world war three, if this is the end, then i bet that after years of fallout the spring will return, because nature prevails, moby dick sinks the ship even if the pequod does have harpoons and atomic bombs.

Mike Morril/Bush/Ahab
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-05-14 14:04:04
Link to this Comment: 5660

A few weeks ago I attended a talk at Haverford given by Mike Morril of the Green Party. His talk touched on subjects such as the death penalty and gun control, before getting to the main thrust of his talk: regime change. As he described a repressive, hypocritical regime, it become slowly apparent that he was not speaking of Iraq or another 'rogue state,' but of the United States and George W. Bush. He expressed his frustration with the hypocrisy of so much of the Iraq issue; that Bush has vowed education and homes for every Iraqi citizen, while he has never made such a pledge to the American people. He also pointed out the hypocrisy of our use of depleted uranium weapons, weapons which I had thought we had stopped using after the Balkan conflict. He also referred to the so-called 'bunker-buster' bombs as weapons of mass destruction and mass terror, due to the way they brutally incinerate people from the inside out. Much of this was new to me, but it reminded me of our discussion of the Bush-Ahab analogy.

Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-05-15 12:38:22
Link to this Comment: 5683

I enjoyed the excerpts from Ahab's Wife for while they were written about his wife and it would seem that it therefore be a topic that women would enjoy more (Emily) I thought that it was still written with the idea of Moby Dick in mind. The cannibalism aspects were especially cool :) I also enjoy spinoffs that are developed and help you get a different perspective on the story thast it originated from and I feel that this story really did that.

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-16 12:04:21
Link to this Comment: 5702

A few months before we went to war I was askeed to go to a NION meeting which is an abreviation for Not In Our Name. I attended this national meeting for the weekend. Here many leftist groups that do not agree sat in the same room trying to find a way to stop the war from happening. They were all very passionate, and organized many demonstrations throughout the country. There were people from as far as Hawii and California. College students, High School students, leaders of communities,organization heads all gathered in one room to find a way to keep peace. Some of them were church groups others were individuals that believed that violence was the only way. As phil mentioned in this meeting i also met members of the Green party. There are so many organizations throughout the country that are against the war it is a shame that thier voices were not heard or accknowledged by Bush.

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-16 12:11:11
Link to this Comment: 5703

Ahabs Wife adds an entirely new perspective on Moby Dick. It is creative and magnificent. Moby Dick is indeed my favorite text and wouldn't mind reading it again because it seems as though there will always be something knew that maybe I didn't think about the first time.

Moby Dick Resource
Name: Jack
Date: 2005-04-03 22:23:16
Link to this Comment: 14261

I have a related Moby Dick website.

This has the full text. It also contains a synopsis, plot, and character description page. Other Herman Melville works and Public Domain Literature is available at

Send me feedback and let me know what you think. I am interested in what other types of Moby Dick related content viewers would be interested in. Thanks.

Name: Jack
Date: 2005-04-03 22:26:15
Link to this Comment: 14262

Correction to Previous Post: I have a related Moby Dick website. MobyDick.PublicLiterature.Org This has the full text. It also contains a synopsis, plot, and character description page. Other Herman Melville works and Public Domain Literature is available at PublicLiterature.Org. Send me feedback and let me know what you think. I am interested in what other types of Moby Dick related content viewers would be interested in. Thanks.

How to read Moby Dick. A Diary of a rain and noodl
Date: 2005-04-27 15:45:07
Link to this Comment: 14896

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