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 Post subject: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:15 am 
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Journeyman
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Not that far into this book and I came across a section that might be pretty scandalous (especially for its time).

Ishmael is at the Spouter Inn hotel and it turns out he'll have to share beds with the man who will be the harpooneer on their whaling voyage. He's never met this man before.

He inquires to the owner of the hotel as to where this harpooner is since it's getting very late.

The owner replies that he's out "Peddling his head".

Now, I've already been able to surmise that this harpooner is a black man. So, "peddling his head" I didn't know if it meant selling voodoo shrunken heads.... because the other interpretation seemed a bit nasty and pretty improper for a black man (or any man) to try to pull off at that time in history.

But, the more I think about it it seems like it might be the more scandalous interpretation.... that the harpooner is selling his "services" to other men.


Anyone know if he's actually having relations with people in this whaling town?

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:38 am 
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p.falk wrote:
Anyone know if he's actually having relations with people in this whaling town?



No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. You were right the first time, the character in question sells shrunken heads to tourists. If there had been an explicit reference to homosexuality in Moby Dick it would never have been published, even as late as the 1960's authors were forced by their publishers to omit references to homosexuality if they wanted their books to be published, and books that didn't do so were commonly banned.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:57 am 
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Journeyman
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Thanks Doom.

In that same passage there's a reference about how he's even doing it on a Sunday morning... I thought they were alluding to the fact of doing such a sin even on a holy day.

It just made me think they were hinting at something licentious.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:56 am 
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p.falk wrote:
Thanks Doom.

In that same passage, there's a reference about how he's even doing it on a Sunday morning... I thought they were alluding to the fact of doing such a sin even on a holy day.

It just made me think they were hinting at something licentious.


I have no idea why :scratch: Although, Hermann Melville was an agnostic, and there is plenty of irreligion and whatnot in Moby Dick if you're looking for offensive content, but nothing sexual.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:19 am 
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Is Moby Dick supposed to be God?

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:55 am 
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p.falk wrote:
Is Moby Dick supposed to be God?


Literary critics have claimed to have found all sorts of symbolism in the novel. I guess that the whale symbolizes whatever you want it to, whatever is meaningful to you. It has never occurred to me that the whale symbolizes God, but thinking about it now, I don't find the theory implausible.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:48 am 
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I noticed that somewhere around chapter 25 the narrator has changed.... it's not and can't be Ishmael narrating.
One chapter clearly has another deck hand narrating.


Anyone know the meaning for that?

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:24 pm 
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p.falk wrote:
Is Moby Dick supposed to be God?


First, head peddling. Modern language, modern interpretation. Not Melville's language, not a modern interpretation.

Now, the Whale.

When the entire ship's company were assembled, and with curious and not wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike the weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew, started from his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him resumed his heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have summoned them there for the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long.

Vehemently pausing, he cried:- "What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?"
"Sing out for him!" was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices.

"Good!" cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically thrown them. "And what do ye next, men?"
"Lower away, and after him!"

"And what tune is it ye pull to, men?"
"A dead whale or a stove boat!"


This passage was a ritual in a group in which I was once a member. The context is not important. The import was the appeal to the hunt. A hunt that ended in death...to the target or to the hunters. I have a particular fondness for The Whale.

Thus, I conclude, based upon various literary pretensions, that the symbolism of the whale is entirely in the mind of the character in Moby Dick. Pretty much a mirror to the viewer. Ahab is somewhat insane and his vision of the Whale is complex, contradictory, admiring, vengeful, divine and devil, but, in the end, deadly. He or the Whale will die. A dead whale or a stove boat.

But, no, not God as such. Perhaps, the unknowable. The unknowable that can enter one's life and recast it in an instant. The unattainable. The unattainable which can be brought within a fingertips distance, but never touched.

Oh, and the symbolism of the Whale is also in the mind of the reader. Melville did well.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 4:32 pm 
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p.falk wrote:
Anyone know the meaning for that?


I don't understand the question.

There are a few chapters of the novel that are not narrated by Ishmael, this is because there is information that is important to the narrative which Ishmael could not provide, and the most natural way to provide this information to the reader was to have different character narrate a few chapters.

It is fairly common, in 18th and 19th-century literature for a novel to have more than one narrator. The way this was usually done was by writing what is called an 'epistolary' novel, which is a novel which is presented as a series of letters, or journal entries of several different characters. Dracula is an excellent example of this kind of novel, in Dracula, there are, if I remember correctly, four different narrators, Johnathan Harker, his wife Mina, her friend Lucy, and Abraham Van Helsing. The novel is presented as being supposedly 'true' by excerpting selections from diaries written by the characters, and letters exchanged between the characters.

In the 20th century, it became more common for authors to use a third person omniscient narrator and not rely on the device of writing chapters from the perspective of different characters. But writing in the third person has its limitations and one of the biggest that it becomes difficult to justify withholding information from the reader. When writing in the first person, it is easy to justify leaving out details simply because the character who is narrator could not possibly have had the information.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:59 am 
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Thanks for the info....

One thing I found funny is that Ishmael introduces 2nd mate Stubb as being a really carefree, hardly excitable, supremely confident man.
But, less than a couple of pages later a few words from Captain Ahab has him both doubting and arguing with himself. Acting in a way completely contrary to the description that Ishmael had just given to him. And that was the only mate that he did that with: Starbuck and Flask didn't get a similar treatment.

Maybe it was just to show that Ahab has that profound effect on people who interact with him.... opposed to being an unreliable narrator.

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 Post subject: Re: "Moby Dick" - Melville... "peddling his head"
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:11 am 
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Highlander wrote:
Thus, I conclude, based upon various literary pretensions, that the symbolism of the whale is entirely in the mind of the character in Moby Dick. Pretty much a mirror to the viewer. Ahab is somewhat insane and his vision of the Whale is complex, contradictory, admiring, vengeful, divine and devil, but, in the end, deadly. He or the Whale will die. A dead whale or a stove boat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYPsoxpt0BU

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