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Stuart C. ShermanA great American addition with features more diverse than those in any previous editions of Melville's classic.
—Stuart C. Sherman, Fine Print
For this Sesquicentennial Norton Critical Edition, the Northwestern-Newberry text of Moby-Dick has been generously footnoted to include dozens of biographical discoveries, mainly from Hershel Parker's work on his two-volume biography of Melville.
A section of "Whaling and Whalecraft" features prose and graphics by John B. Putnam, a sample of contemporary whaling engravings, as well as, new to this edition, an engraving of Tupai Cupa, the real-life inspiration for the character of Queequeg.
Evoking Melville’s fascination with the fluidity of categories like savagery and civilization, the image of Tupai Cupa fittingly introduces "Before Moby-Dick: International Controversy over Melville," a new section that documents the ferocity of religions, political, and sexual hostility toward Melville in reaction to his early books, beginning with Typee in 1846.
The image of Tupai Cupa also evokes Melville’s interest in the mystery of self-identity and the possibility of knowing another person’s "queenly personality" (Chapter 119). That theme (focused on Melville, Ishmael, and Ahab) is pursued in "A Handful of Critical Challenges," from Walter E. Bezanson’s classic centennial study through Harrison Hayford’s meditation on "Loomings" and recent essays by Camille Paglia and John Wenke.
In "Reviews and Letters by Melville," a letter has been redated and a wealth of new biographical material has been added to the footnotes, notably to Melville’s "Hawthorne and His Mosses." "Analogues and Sources" retains classic pieces by J. N. Reynolds and Owen Chase, as well as new findings by Geoffrey Sanborn and Steven Olsen-Smith. In "Reviews of Moby-Dick" emphasizes the ongoing religious hostility toward Melville and highlights new discoveries, such as the first-known Scottish review of The Whale. "Posthumous Praise and the Melville Revival: 1893-1927" collects belated, enthusiastic praise up through that of William Faulkner. "Biographical Cross-Light" is Hershel Parker’s somber look at what writing Moby-Dick cost Melville and his family.
From Foreword through Selected Bibliography, this Sesquicentennial Norton Critical Edition is uniquely valuable as the most up-to-date and comprehensive documentary source for study of Moby-Dick.
Chapter I: Loomings
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs -- commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the Battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see? -- are wedded for ever.
But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies -- what is the one charm wanting? -- Water -- there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and make him the own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus , who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. 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.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick -- grow quarrelsome -- don't sleep of nights -- do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing -- no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever to go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook, -- though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board -- yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls -- though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.
N o, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal masthead. True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tarpot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time.
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scale of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who aint a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about -- however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way -- either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid, -- what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the forecastle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way -- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I t ake it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
Grand Contested Election for the
Presidency of the United States.
WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces -- though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it -- would they let me -- since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was we lcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster Inc.
1. What is the significance of the whale? What do you think Melville intends in developing such a vicious antagonism between Ahab and the whale?
2. How does the presence of Queequeg, particularly his status as a "savage, " inform the novel? How does Melville depict this cultural clash?
3. How does whaling as an industry function metaphorically throughout the novel? Where does man fit in in this scenario?
4. Melville explores the divide between evil and virtue, justice and vengeance throughout the novel. What, ultimately, is his conclusion? What is Ahab's?
5. What do you think of the role, if any, played by religion in the novel? Do you think religious conventions are replaced or subverted in some way? Discuss.
6. Discuss the novel's philosophical subtext. How does this contribute to the basic plot involving Ahab's search for the whale? Is this Ishmael's purpose in the novel?
7. Discuss the role of women in the novel. What does their conspicuous absence mean in the overall context of the novel?
Posted June 9, 2004
If there were ever a seeming 'complete companion' to the understanding and appreciation of Herman Melville's 'master work' /Moby-Dick/ then this Second Edition of the Norton Critical Edition, edited by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford (pub. 2002) must surely be it. Not only does the volume contain the text of the novel (actually a 'romance' as defined by Hawthorne), but it also includes sections titled: 'Melville's Reading and /Moby-Dick/: An Overview and Bibliograpy', a glossary of nautical terms, a pictorial account (with drawings) of the parts of a whaleship, the mast parts, a typical whaleboat, the harpoon and lance, a drawing depicting a large slice of blubber being hauled onto a ship, contemporary engravings of whaling, articles about Melville's works written in his own time about his novels (romances)before /Moby-Dick/, reviews and letters written by Melville (including his famous paean to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 'Hawthorne and His Mosses'), analogues and sources, reviews of /Moby-Dick/ from his own time and from the modern era (1893-1897), and 'A Handful of Critical Challenges' (a selection from insightful and provocative essays which analyze the novel and its possible meanings). The text of the novel (romance) itself has been well foot-noted with helpful information about Melville's textual citations and allusions (example: from text -- '...a terrible prestige of perilousness about such a whale as there did about Rinaldo Rinaldini' [note -- 'Knight in Italian Renaissance epics -Orlando Furioso- (1532) by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1535) and -Rinaldo- (1562) by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)'). This novel has been endlessly analyzed and sliced up, picked apart, minced, boiled, strained, reflected upon, peered into, introverted, controverted, inverted, subverted, psychoanalyzed, Marxized, Freudianized, mythologized, anthroplogized, sociologized, mythopoeticized, Biblecized, homoeroticized, and even read for enjoyment. More gain comes from chopping down wood by the acre than whittling by the stick, so the analyzers seem to think. The novel can be read as satire, as allegory (like Spenser's moralistic warning allegories), as love-token (to Nathaniel Hawthorne) with Melville capering about trying to impress his beloved as much as he capered about on those rocks on the top of Monument Mountain back in August 1850 when they first met, and as revelation of Melville's inner self -- actually selves. The ship may be taken as the allegorical symbol of the individual psyche, and thus each of the characters aboard the -Pequod- becomes one of the multiple aspects of Melville's own awarenesses and inclinations. As for the chapters on whales and whaling, the reader will need to absorb those as atmosphere and Melville's ego-intellect wanting to show off. Read them closely for irony and humor and self-jesting at his own predilections for omnivorous reading and extract gathering, as well as an 'outsider's' jibes at academic fussiness and lexicographical loquaciousness. Take your time with this novel...you will learn much the more you think about it and the deeper you plumb its depths. And when you go a-whalin', mind them mouths and jaws, lined with sharpy teeth -- lest you lose a leg and founder in the deep.
13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 1999
I HAVE JUST STARTED READING THIS BOOK AND SO FAR IT IS VERY GOOD.IF YOU LIKE TO READ THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ BOOK.IT MAY TAKE YOU A WHILE TO READ.SEEING THAT THERE ARE 135 CHAPTERS MAY MAKE YOU WONDER IF IT IS WORTH IT,BUT DON'T WORRY THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 601 PAGES IN THE WHOLE BOOK.ANYWAY LIKE I SAID,IT IS WORTHWHILE TO READ THIS BOOK,AND IF YOU LIKE TO READ GET A COPY TODAY.
10 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2011
Posted March 9, 2012
I love Moby Dick. It is a good book and I recomend it 10 and up unless you are beloe ten and is a good reader. I wont get this book if you do not like diolog and a long confusing begining. MOBY DICK RULES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 30, 2011
Posted September 4, 2012
Yes, Moby Dick is a classic, but having picked it up for the second time (the first time, about 30 years ago, I fell asleep after only 6 pages) I managed to work my way through it.
I found it a good story, but Melville is a very wordy author. His storyline, I found, meandered to and fro so much I found it hard to keep up. It's no wonder that the book has over 1000 pages.
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 8, 2013
Posted August 17, 2012
I would give this book less than one star if it were possible. Why
review this book? It's a classic. Why touch something that has endured
centuries of bad criticism, good criticism, mediocre criticism, and
English lit thesis papers? I hate this book. I hate this book. I hate,
hate, hate, hate, hate this book. it is a waste of paper. It is a waste
of memory. It is a waste of precious, precious time. I read this book
first in 6th grade and I hated it. I read it again as a college
sophomore and I hated it. I won't even both to summarize it, because why
waste the sentence structure? I. hate. this. book.
3 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2012
Posted March 29, 2013
An unbearably bloated narrative, streatched out as thin as paper, physically painful to complete. And all because some lunitic wanted to kill a whale. Such a hopelessly linear plotline...
2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2013
Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it!!!!!!!!"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITS TO LONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2013
Posted June 3, 2012
this is a great book and it sucked me in immedietly and im 9 this book doesent deserve to be a lousy 99 cents! its great a good but thats just not wat its worth! every one who reads the sample and thinks its some old boring it gets really good near the middle! spoil alert:ITS AMAZING READ IT!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2012
Posted April 29, 2012
Posted April 9, 2012
Posted March 6, 2012
Posted February 25, 2012
This book is a true classic. Judging from TV game show questions about
Moby Dick it continues to be popular reading.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2012
Posted November 17, 2011