Thursday, September 22, 2011

What do we know about Ishmael?

Herman Melville
Starting the reading/study of Melville's Moby Dick!
From Novels for Students:
"Moby-Dick; or, The Whale chronicles the strange journey of an ordinary seaman named Ishmael who signs on for a whaling voyage in 1840s Massachusetts. A thoughtful but gloomy young man, Ishmael begins his odyssey in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a prosperous whaling town and crossing point to the island of Nantucket. Arriving on a dark Saturday night in December, he finds cheap lodgings in a waterfront dive called The Spouter Inn. There he is forced to share a bed with a South Sea islander and "cannibal" named Queequeg, a fierce-looking harpooner covered with tattoos and carrying a tomahawk and a shrunken head. After some initial uncertainty, the two become close friends and decide to seek a berth together on a whaling ship. Before leaving for Nantucket, however, Ishmael decides to visit the local whaleman's chapel, where he sees memorial plaques to lost sailors and hears a disturbing sermon about the prophet Jonah and the terrors of the whale."
Markham is so excited to be discussing his favorite novel of all time. What do we know about Ishmael from the first chapter?
Call me Ishmael (an imperative)
Tormented young man
in exile
Uses the sea as therapy
We see water as an escape
Connected to water
Loves to explore
Does not want power
Wants to work
Perceiving horror; intuition
Concerned with the ungraspable phantom of life
Doesn't have money
Trying to figure out about the living essence of the whale

Ishmael - biblical allusion --son of Hagar and Abraham is the forefather of the Arabs

How does he come to become part of humanity by the end of the book?
At the end of the novel, when Ahab and his crew are all killed by Moby-Dick, Ishmael is the only one to survive. Finding a coffin (carved with the secrets of life which nobody can read) that had been built for Queequeg when he had become gravely ill, Ishmael manages to survive the sea until he is rescued by another ship.

Biblical story --Fall of Man:  God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden
Losing our idyllic status  is reflective of our inability to grasp the phantom of life

Ahab - his reason to stay alive is to get revenge on the White Whale

Epistomology - addresses the questions: * What is knowledge? * How is knowledge acquired? *

These questions inevitably come up when you seriously reflect on who you are:

What are you?  Where are you?  What are you for?  If you realize that the ungraspable phantom of life - everything becomes a wonder, an amazement.

Chapter 1 Loomings:  Fates are weaving

Three Fates in Greek Mythology
Clotho - Clotho was responsible for spinning the thread of human life.
Atropos - chose the mechanism of death and ended the life of each mortal by cutting their thread with her "abhorred shears." Lachesis - measured the thread

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