Is anyone else struggling with this?
I am nearly half way through this book and it seems to veer between quite gripping and exceedingly frustrating. Some of the passages are so florid as to be almost unreadable.
As much as I am ashamed to admit it I am glad I have seen the movie (many years ago) as it is helping me through.
What does everyone else think?
Yes, I agree. The style sounds 'florid' (high-flown, old-fashioned, stilted). But when I read more, I got used to it and just concentrated on the characters and their problems (not just Ahab but Starbuck and the rest). It's like reading poetry (most of it), difficult at first but much clearer the second time, and usually worth the trouble. So...my sympathy and a bit of advice: don't give up, but read on, especially now that you've read half of it.
Feb 3, 2007 4:11 pm
Thank you for the encouragement!
Feb 5, 2007 2:45 pm
One of the good things about Moby Dick is that the chapters are modular - that is, you can read one chapter without have read any of the others (though your appreciation of the plot may be diminished). My vegetarian aunt was thus able to skip the chapters which detail whaling, and which turned her stomach.
The technical chapters have little if any plot relevance, so if you're finding them tough going, you might find it helpful to skip ahead to the next chapter and then come back to them later.
Feb 15, 2007 1:33 am
Yes, that was one thing I was starting to notice the further I got into the book. I must admit I skimmed the Whale chapter although I think that might be common as I have heard several other people admit the same thing.
I do find myself often clicking to receive the next fragment whenever the story is about Ishmael or the Pequod and waiting for the next day whenever the fragment has not advanced the plot.
In terms of age this is one of the oldest novels I have read (outside of the Greek plays and poems I read at University) and I look forward to seeing as I read more on this site whether this style is symptomatic of novels of the time.
Feb 15, 2007 9:23 am
ok i am in segment 1 what is he saying about the water is he thinking it is his only escape and that he knows he will die out there?
May 25, 2007 12:21 am
...but Ishmael is narrating the story himself which makes me think he survives to tell his tale.
I'm up to part 189 now and it has gotten easier to read. Maybe I have just become inured to the the language.
May 25, 2007 8:14 am
It has been a long time, some 20 years, since I read this. I did not like it when I read it last, but recently was reading another book who upheld Melville as a moral voice for American thought. I'm intrigued to read it again with that overlay. Here I come Great White Whale. It's good to have others with whom to discuss this.
Jun 28, 2007 11:20 pm
The best way to truly understand this book and why it is such a classic is to read the Cliff Notes immediately after you finish the accompanying chapter in the book. When I did that, the book started making much more sense.
Jul 4, 2007 11:38 am
I don't believe Moby Dick could get published today. It's not that it isn't a good story, and its message is probably quite profound. But the writing (which I believe *IS* characteristic of its era) is so ponderous, I couldn't stick with it. Although it has a famous opening hook ("Call me Ishmael"), by today's standards it gets off to an unforgivably slow start. A pretty hard and fast rule of writing modern fiction is to open the story as far into it as possible. In Moby Dick, we wander around New Bedford for what seems like days while nothing much happens, plotwise.
Jul 13, 2007 4:56 am
Alexis, you might be right. I think it could get published, but I think it would have been edited a great deal. There are many passages that stop the forward motion of the story and can be difficult to get through. The whole middle part about different species of whale, for instance. Don't get me wrong; where it's great, it' great, but Melville does get bogged down in some places. I made a similar mistake with something I wrote once. I wrote a whole paragraph describing men loading cargo on a ship because I had spent some time researching medieval shipping and wanted to show off what I knew. My editor told me to strike the whole paragraph. I think about that paragraph a lot as I read Moby Dick! I think in many places Melville was kind of showing off what he learned when he was a sailor.
Jul 16, 2007 10:44 pm
I am now only a few episodes from the end and looking back it has been an exceedingly informative book. But I agree with what you have both said above.
Moby Dick is half novel and half treatise on whaling and that is what makes it so fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
But I am glad I am going to finish it. It might have taken me 9 months with the daily chunks but if I were reading this as a physical book I would have put it down several times.
Jul 18, 2007 9:39 am
The middle sucks. I found the first quarter to third of the book fascinating, the middle was an enormous effort to push through, with minor highlights (like the spermicetti diving). Picked up a bit by the end.
Aug 1, 2007 2:54 pm
This is a late posting, but I want to share an experience I had in November of this year. Ray Bradbury, the screenwriter for the movie, spoke at a local library. He basically voiced the same observations that a few of the above posts state. But, he had a revelation. That was, Herman Melville was Shakespeare! Moby Dick is much like Richard III. It was then that he was able to finish the book, and continue to the end of the screenplay.
I'm no further than 10 dailies, but I'm eager to experience the same revelation as Mr. Bradbury.
Dec 8, 2008 11:19 am
That is very interesting. I must admit I am not that familiar with the play beyond a very basic knowledge but can you expand on that at all?
Please post here again if you ever reach the same conclusion and explain how you feel they are similar because I am interested in your thoughts on it.
I hope you stick with the book though. I won't say I enjoyed it but I am certainly glad I read it.
Dec 9, 2008 12:18 pm
I also found 'Moby...' demobilizing, though not due to its archaic style. I'm fine with Austin, Dickens and Elliot. Meeting a couple who were worried about 'the language' in a Stratford production of 'King Lear', I said, "Just watch as well as listen, get the story straight from the action and then read it with a dictionary." From the same time and place as ‘Moby…’ came Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter' that is stimulating. It's here. Try it. If vocab's a problem, scan the chapter for it, find the meanings, write them in the margin and then read normally.
If you can read Jonathan Swift, you’ll have no trouble.
Jan 7, 2009 5:26 pm
Ishmael is the most interesting of the bunch; a schoolteacher who wants to go whaling--must have issues. He's an intellectual intensely interested in details that would be arcane to many--the 'ponderous' language and excruciating detail, exhausting as they may be, clarify the perspective of the narrator.
Feb 2, 2009 5:07 pm
I can sympathise. I've started the book a couple of times, and haven't been able to get through more than about 10 chapters without putting the book down in boredom. Maybe a carefully abridged version would help, one in which all the technical stuff that is irrelevant to the action is removed. Although in my case it was more Melville's writing style (rather than just the writing of that era, which Alexis referred to) that put me off.
Jun 9, 2009 6:51 pm