Thread: Attention Readers!

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 16
  1. #1 Attention Readers! 
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    3,269
    In another thread I mentioned that I was wading my way through Moby Dick. "Wading", indeed.

    Moby Dick is one of that group of books that many people think they have read, but actually have not. Last of The Mohicans; Uncle Tom's Cabin; most people have not actually read those books.

    But I have some knowledge of history, interest in whaling and such, so I assigned myself the task of reading - from cover to cover - Moby Dick.

    What was I thinking!!??

    Here's a sample, and will illustrate the reason that no sane high school English teacher ever assigned the book. It is simply incomprehensible by today's standards. This is one sentence:

    But, though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants have ever regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling;though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen ten and hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters; though, but a moment's consideration will teach that, however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very same impressions, man has lost the sense that the full awareness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.

    I have a sense - I think - for what Melville is trying to say. What is your sense?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2. #2  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    8,125
    Quote Originally Posted by TruckerMe View Post

    But, though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants have ever regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling;though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen ten and hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters; though, but a moment's consideration will teach that, however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very same impressions, man has lost the sense that the full awareness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.

    I have a sense - I think - for what Melville is trying to say. What is your sense?


    Famous 19th century sentence structure. Reads like legal language and needs to be diagrammed.

    But, though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants have ever regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling;
    This phrase seems to be missing a direct object, and I'm not sure if the landsmen and the native inhabitants are different people or one is the subset of the other. However, the topic of the sentence (in this context) seems to be the primal feelings that humans have towards the sea (ocean). I would paraphrase it:

    Even though the inhabitants of the land have always regarded the ocean with emotions that they can't talk about in polite society


    though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial western one;
    The key here is "terra incognita" (unknown land) and "superficial": Melville is making a comparison between the New World that Columbus found (land) and the real unknown "land" (the sea). That's why Columbus's find is only "superficial". Land is already a known quantity to humans.

    Even though the sea is such a great unknown that it dwarfs Columbus's discovery of the "New World"


    though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen ten and hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters;
    Pretty self explanatory: the sea is more deadly than land, in Melville's opinion, and it kills humans, good and evil alike.

    Even though the most deadly disasters have always happened on the sea, which does not discriminate in who it kills



    though, but a moment's consideration will teach that, however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make;
    This goes together. The general structure is: "No matter how much skill, science, etc. humans think they have, the sea will always win." But it is also part of the larger "Even though" structure, so it goes like this:

    Even though, no matter how much ignorant man brags about his current and future science and skill, the sea will always and forever insult his knowledge, murder him, and pulverize the most advanced sailing technology he has

    or, more succinctly:

    Even though the sea will always destroy the most advanced technology of the human race


    nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very same impressions, man has lost the sense that the full awareness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.
    Now we get to the punchline. The "even thoughs" up to this point:

    Even though the inhabitants of the land have always regarded the ocean with emotions that they can't talk about in polite society

    Even though the sea is such a great unknown that it dwarfs Columbus's discovery of the "New World"

    Even though the most deadly disasters have always happened on the sea, which does not discriminate in who it kills

    Even though the sea will always destroy the most advanced technology of the human race

    These are the "impressions" ("very same") alluded to in the clause:

    nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very same impressions,
    The general gist is, "Nevertheless, because these impressions are repeated over and over again..."

    Then the punchline:
    man has lost the sense that the full awareness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.

    Nevertheless, because these impressions of the sea are repeated over and over again, man has lost the sense of what the sea really is in all its primitiveness.


    In other words, the fear of the sea, its unknowability, its deadliness to humans and their advanced technology, have all been dulled by repetition to the extent that humans have really no idea what the sea really is.


    That's the kernel of the sentence.

    The 19th century writers studied poetry as well and used language in a multidimensional way. We have lost the knack for reading prose in several dimensions at once.
    Last edited by Elspeth; 10-05-2011 at 04:14 PM.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  3. #3  
    Senior Member JB's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    7,768
    Quote Originally Posted by TruckerMe View Post
    I have a sense - I think - for what Melville is trying to say. What is your sense?
    The ocean can kill you, m'kay.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #4  
    Senior Ape Articulate_Ape's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    NJ, Exit Only
    Posts
    7,948
    Moby Dick is one of my favorite books and I have read it at least three times. Like other works of the period, a lot of people have trouble with it because it was written at a time when people could speak their native tongue. It is a powerful and profound yarn and an eloquent masterpiece of the written word.
    "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." ~ Albert Einstein
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #5  
    Drive-by Poster ABC in Georgia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    2,430
    Quote Originally Posted by TruckerMe View Post
    I have a sense - I think - for what Melville is trying to say. What is your sense?
    Trucker ...

    It all boils down to this :
    the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make ...
    This is the kind of stuff that I used to love way way back in high school, yet! When studying for English Lit exams.

    After having read the required book, the first time round ...just "wade your way through" all the verbiage, past the feelings and crap and get to the main verb.

    This is what in the old days I would underline with a ruler and pencil for studying purposes. Now of course, would be much easier use a yellow hi-liter! AAARGH! :D

    ~ ABC
    Last edited by ABC in Georgia; 10-05-2011 at 04:09 PM.
    American By Choice ~ 1980
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #6  
    Drive-by Poster ABC in Georgia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    2,430
    Quote Originally Posted by JB View Post
    The ocean can kill you, m'kay.
    Love it JB! :)

    Is exactly what I was trying to say, only took me longer to do it!

    ~ ABC
    American By Choice ~ 1980
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #7  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    8,125
    Quote Originally Posted by ABC in Georgia View Post
    Trucker ...

    It all boils down to this :

    This is the kind of stuff that I used to love way way back in high school, yet! When studying for English Lit exams.

    After having read the required book, the first time round ...just "wade your way through" all the verbiage, past the feelings and crap and get to the main verb.

    This is what in the old days I would underline with a ruler and pencil for studying purposes. Now of course, would be much easier use a yellow hi-liter! AAARGH! :D

    ~ ABC
    Actually, it's a little more complicated. The real kernel of this thing, taking into account all of its structure, is:

    "The the fear of the sea, its unknowability, its deadliness to humans and their advanced technology, have all been dulled by repetition to the extent that humans have really no idea what the sea really is."

    It's man's general ignorance of what he was dealing with that Melville wanted to stress here. In Moby Dick, he brings back the sea as a character, an elemental force.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #8  
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    3,269
    And all this is what I love about Moby Dick.

    This started back when I was driving and listening to an abridged audiobook version of Moby Dick done by George Kennedy. It was great! Of course, they went around all the chapters where the anatomy of the whale is discussed and the particulars of whaling are detailed. They just told the story.

    And then I got to reading and researching (I almost dare not use that word) the tale and how it was taken as a precautionary tale about obsessions and etc.......

    Really got me going....:)

    One mystery:
    The name Moby Dick. Where did it come from? Evidently, many whales had nicknames and most of the nicknames reflected the geographical location the particular whale frequented. Did this in some way apply to Moby Dick? Or was there a use of the word 'moby' that I am missing?
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #9  
    Drive-by Poster ABC in Georgia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    2,430
    Quote Originally Posted by Elspeth View Post
    Actually, it's a little more complicated. The real kernel of this thing, taking into account all of its structure, is: ...
    Hmmm ... Yes and no. Sorry, I have to disagree just a tad. :)

    Is not all that hard to grasp the full meaning of the words that I quoted.

    "the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; "
    I really do think the inclusion of the word "insult" used in the author's personification of the mighty sea itself's feelings toward man, in Melville's opening ... covers it. Did for me anyway.

    ~ ABC
    Last edited by ABC in Georgia; 10-05-2011 at 08:05 PM.
    American By Choice ~ 1980
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #10  
    Power CUer NJCardFan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    15,319
    Moby Dick, quite simply, is what happens when you don't know the meaning of the words "cut your losses". In the end, Ahab is so blinded by vengeance that it not only inevitably costs him his own life, but the Pequod, and all of those serving aboard. As for how it reads, it's the sign of the times. Read Dickens, same kind of reading.
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •