Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moby-Dick Chapter 5: Breakfast

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.  This will (hopefully) culminate in a large book report on the whole book.  I will also include illustrations I find on the internet or in books.

In the morning, all the sea-men staying at The Spouter-Inn gather together for breakfast.  They are an impressive, motley crew.  Ishmael is surprised by the fact that these great whale-men, who have seen more of the world than most, eat together in almost total silence.  He describes the scene in this way:

"I was preparing to hear some good stories about whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man maintained a profound silence.  And not only that, but they looked embarrassed.  Yes, here was a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas--entire strangers to them--and dueled them dead without winking; and yet, here they all sat at a social breakfast table--all of the same calling, all of kindred tastes--looking round as sheepishly at each other as though they had never even out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green Mountains.  A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid warrior whalemen!"

This scene reminds me of veterans of World War II, many of whom were reticent to talk about their war experiences.  The implication is that, what they experienced away from polite society was too intense and profound to discuss over a meal.  The scene also implies that these whalemen are cut from a different cloth than the rest of society.  They are men of action, not words, and find themselves out of place, fish out of water if you will, when home among the comforts of shore-life.  Queequeg, humorously, uses his harpoon to spear helpings of rare beefsteak.

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