Thursday, April 7, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 85: The Fountain

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.

In this chapter, Ishmael ponders the strangeness of the whale’s breathing.  Like humans, whales are mammals and must breathe air.  Unlike humans, whales are able to hold their breath for enormous amounts of time in their huge lungs.  As he often does, Ishmael anthropomorphizes the whale, comparing the vapor which it expels from its blow-hole to the thoughts of famous thinkers and literary figures “He (the whale) is both ponderous and profound.  And I am convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act of thinking deep thoughts.”

Melville/Ishmael ends the chapter with this beautiful image: “And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that vapor—as you will sometimes see it—glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts.”

Whale vapor rainbow.

No comments:

Post a Comment