Friday, March 11, 2011

Moby-Dick


Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville, starts out on land with the narrator Ishmael. He decides to go whaling to get away from his depressing thoughts; he says the sea always helps him. At an inn, he is asked to share a room with Queequeg, a savage covered in tattoos. This makes him uneasy at first, but he soon finds that he is a good friend. Queequeg is a kind, generous man, even if he does have "savage" ways. They board the same whaling vessel, the Pequod. The captain of this ship is Ahab. Ahab, while doing his job, has another motive to go whaling. He hopes to catch the white whale; it had taken off his leg a while back, and he wanted revenge. For a long time no whales are spotted at all. On the first hunt Pip, a cabin boy, goes crazy after a harrowing experience. He becomes a prophetic, symbolic character. Soon, Queequeg falls ill and expects to do. He orders a coffin made for himself, but he makes an amazing recovery and the coffin is not needed. Ahab becomes crazy about finding the white whale and killing it. To him, it represents all evil in the universe that he must destroy. Even after being warned by other ship captains, he refuses to forget about his vengeance. When they encounter the whale, it ends in disaster. Ahab insists on pursuing the whale as it flees. This turns out to be a terrible mistake, and Ahab does not think clearly about what is best for all the crew members. He is described as a monomaniac throughout the novel. In the end, Ahab leaps out of the boat to attack the whale. He uses a special harpoon that was made to be cruelly painful for the whale, but it ends up being to no avail. Ahab gets caught and tangled in the ropes while on the whale's back. The white whale drowns the caught captain and destroys the ship. Ishmael ends up being the only survivor of the disastor; he uses the coffin as a lifeboat. This is an ironic ending; the thing that is meant for the dead becomes a tool for survival.
1. Ahab dies as a result of his battle/revenge against the whale. This symbolizes Melville's belief in man's insignificance in the unverse and that he will inevitably be defeated by it. Is man significant? Does one human's will mean anything?
2. At first glance, Queequeg seems like a foreboding man. He has dark skin and is covered in tattoos. During the time this novel was written, the Civil War was taking place; slavery was soon to be abolished. What is significant about Ishmael's respect for Queequeg?

13 comments:

Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

1. I think one man can still be significant in the world. I think if someone puts there mind to something they can accomplish it and what they do could end up changing the world.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. I believe that every human will eventually be defeated (death). However, in one's life, man can be significant if they put their mind and heart to something. For instance, finding the cure for cancer or something important like that will change the world forever, making one human's will important.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. I believe that every human will eventually be defeated (death). However, in one's life, man can be significant if they put their mind and heart to something. For instance, finding the cure for cancer or something important like that will change the world forever, making one human's will important.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. I believe that every human will eventually be defeated (death). However, in one's life, man can be significant if they put their mind and heart to something. For instance, finding the cure for cancer or something important like that will change the world forever, making one human's will important.

Joe K. 11-12 said...

I think man is very significant and if successful will never be defeated. Although all humans do die, their legacy has the potential to live for ever. If one is able to make such a profound impact, living up to all their worth, they can live through others for ever. Therefore, human's will is very significant as it does not necessarily ever die.

Sydney C.13-14 said...

To quote Gandhi, "Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it" To expand on this idea, I believe that very rarely do our personal actions seem to affect the whole world, but collectively, if everyone chose to do nothing, maintaining life as we know it would suffer heavily. As a group, men are significant and since a group of men is made up of many individual men, it can be argued that every man holds significance with his life's actions.

Hayley D 11/12 said...

1. I think that every single person's life is significant. Even though everyone might not impact the world on a global level, they are still significant. Each person impacts someone in one way or another. Therefore, I think that everyone is significant.

Megan L.11-12 said...

To answer number one, in my opinion man's will is only significant to other mankind. As stated by Mrs. Boyle, "In the grand scheme of things I mean nothing." To mankind, one man's will can make a difference, but in reality in the eyes of nature, one man's will doesn't mean anything. Once a man dies, he dies, nature does not care that he is dead, nor does it care that he made something of his life while he was living. It's objective.

Kaitlyn H 11-12 said...

2. It is significant that Ishmael respects Queequeg because during the civil war not many people had respect for people with darker skin than them. Even though Queequeg may seem intimidating from the outside, he is still a good friend and a good person. It's what's on the inside that counts.

Justin B. 11-12 said...

1. Man is extremely significant considering we are the only known "intelligent" life form in the universe currently. One human's will also definitely means something because look at former president Kennedy. It was his will to beat the Russians to the moon that resulted in one of the greatest achievements in mankind's history, the moon landing. A human's will to do something could change the world (for better or for worse) and that is why it is significant.

James F (11-12) said...

1.i believe that man is very significant. we are the only form of life on this planet that has done anything worth noting. humans do have a will but fate controls this.
2.the fact that ishmael respects someone with this persona shows that any kind of person is worth some respect. at this time of slavery blacks were looked down upon and were never respected. the fact that queequeg gets respect means a lot.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

I don't think man is very significant in the big picture, despite what everyone is saying. The world existed before us and it will exist, in my opinion, quite happily without us. So I believe if we are talking about time as an infinite whole, man is simply an overtaxing guest on a planet that will one day be destroyed. I feel, however, that a man can be significant during his time. A person, or a group of people, can change human society for the better. One obvious example of this would be Gandhi.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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