I hate it when I find out the ending to a story, even if it is a classic and part of the popular culture, so if you intend to read Moby Dick and don’t want to hear what happens at the end read no further. The last 60 pages were fantastic and I particularly liked the ending of the book so that’s why there are spoilers. Part of me thinks that this book could have been condensed to about 200 pages if you took out all of the descriptive chapters about whaling. But, I was thinking that most people at the time probably didn’t know much about whaling. And of course neither did I, so why would I think I didn’t need that information? It was just that the timing for a few of the chapters was infuriating. Often times after reading the detailed descriptions, I still didn’t understand what Melville was talking about. But, if the descriptions weren’t there, I would have been even more in the dark. Melville’s craft is subtle. These chapters allude to the fact that there is something rather absurd about whaling. When he was talking about how they go after the whale in the little boats and all the men are attached to the harpoon line, I thought he had to be kidding. After reading about the tasks that crew-members had on a whaling ship you might draw the conclusion that you would have to be a little bit crazy to sign up for that kind of life for 3 or 4 years. Ahab being the extreme example.
As the bulk of the novel is very slow, I wasn’t prepared for the end of the book that I read in almost one sitting. I’m not sure if Moby Dick actually dies, but I’m guessing so. And, when the whole ship sank, I had to re-read it because I was so shocked. I figured that Ahab would die, but all the other characters that I had gotten to know and care about, didn’t deserve to suffer the same fate. Particularly Starbuck, who seemed like the only rational person on board. I guess this ending quote that gave me the shivers says it all. The bird is a hawk that gets dragged down with the ship, but the quote could refer to the fate of Ahab’s crew as well:
…so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.
I still should find some reader’s companion to Moby Dick, because I know I missed much of the religious imagery. I’d also like to watch the film with Gregory Peck just to see what they kept in and what they cut out. I think I’ll steer clear of anymore tomes for the time being.