Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moby Dick Ch. 8: The Pulpit

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.

The minister of The Whaleman’s Chapel arrives, Father Mapple, and he is an impressive figure.  In his youth, he was a whaler and now, in his old age, he is a pastor to whalers.  His pulpit is constructed to look like the prow of a ship.  To reach it, Father Mapple must climb a mariner’s rope-ladder.  Behind him is a large painting of a ship in a stormy sea, with an angel flying above it.  “Ah, noble ship,” the angel seemed to say, “beat on, beat on.”

Ishmael reflects on the symbolic significance of the ship/pulpit: “Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”  The Whaleman’s Chapel reminds us of the other great cultural tradition of New England besides whaling: Puritan Christianity.  The first pilgrims and settlers were Puritan Christians, and this strain of tradition runs from America’s beginnings to the present day, for better and for worse.

Father Mapple

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