The sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to driving sleet and mist. ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick
As I said last week, this week I will give my thoughts on two chapters at a time, seeing as how each chapter of Moby Dick is about a page or two each. The two chapters in question today, ‘The Chapel’ and ‘The Pulpit’, may as well be the same chapter. Likewise the following chapter, ‘The Sermon,’ which I will talk about in the next post, could belong to the same chapter as these two.
These chapters could very well be lumped into the reasons why I’ve stopped reading this great book previously. Melville waxes on about the deadliness of the whaling industry, the meaning of life, and spirituality. He’s stopped for the time being with the descriptions of places and people, and humorous interactions with side characters, that I’ve enjoyed so much. I don’t mind a bit of philosophy now and then, but come on Melville, your book is so long already, can we just have an adventure?
As I write this, I’m having memories of my ninth grade teacher, who introduced me to Moby Dick, and how he was adamant that everything was important. That may well be true, and maybe I’ll read this book again in a decade and think these chapters about the chapel and pulpit, laced with Romantic symbolism and heavy with pathetic fallacy (see the quote I put at the top of today’s post), are integral to the book. But at this moment, all I can say they have in value is giving us some foreshadowing of events to come.
I could feel my eyelids drooping a bit during these two chapters, and I had to focus more than usual. It’s at these moments that I’m glad I made this site, and made this commitment to record my thoughts as I read through this classic. It will be here for me to look back on, and also for anyone who might feel similarly about classic texts. Some of them are great, and some parts of them are great, but there are also the sections that show their age compared to contemporary writing styles. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to get through Melville’s foreshadowing and philosophy, so I can enjoy the rest of the book.
Thanks for reading,
‘Cave of Elephanta’ – the Elephanta Caves are a collection of carved cave temples in India, mostly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Goodwin Sands – a long sandbank off the coast of Kent, England. Supposedly there are lots of shipwrecks there because it lies near common shipping lanes in the Straits of Dover.
Ehrenbreitstein – a fortress in Germany on the East bank of the Rhine.