I have been reading classic whale tale lately. Actually I have been listening to the audio book created by ‘sLibrivox. If you are not familiar with Librivox, it is a library of digital recordings of books read by volunteers. All of the books read are in the public domain and are provided for free. I have thought about volunteering myself, but I imagine that all of the good books are taken by now, and anyway, I don’t have the time.
But, getting back to Moby Dick. I am only about half way through it and I find the story to be exciting. Unfortunately, Melville interrupts the action with long discourses on various aspects of whaling. The information he provides in interesting but it is a little tedious and distracting. I noticed that Victor Hugo did the same sort of thing with Les Miserables. I wonder if that is a regular feature of nineteenth century literature.
I actually don’t think that Captain Ahab is that crazy to want to hunt down and take revenge on the white whale that chewed his leg off. I have sometimes wished that I could hunt and kill every deer in North America for the damage they have done to various cars over the years. It might seem irrational to want revenge against animals acting on instinct, but I am convinced the deer are acting with a malicious purpose. What other explanation could there be for the way they jump out in front of my car.
All the same, I think I am going to have to side with the whale. Considering that Captain Ahab was trying to kill the whale, and had already killed many other whales, perhaps even Moby Dick’s companions, I would say that the whale was acting in self defense. Besides, while I do not usually get overly sentimental about animals or nature, I do not think that I would be willing to kill an animal as majestic and powerful as a whale.
By the way, Kahn in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, quotes from Moby Dick as he hunts down Kirk. They changed the locations that Khan names to sound more “science fictionish” but the last words are the same. I imagine that the intent was to present Khan as man obsessed with vengeance, just as Ahab was.
- “I turn my body from the sun” (Moby-Dick) (biblioklept.org)
- There Are Whales Living Now That Were Born Before Moby Dick Was Written (tor.com)
- “Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” (Moby-Dick) (biblioklept.org)