How to Read Moby Dick
a guide for first-time readers
Allusions in Moby Dick
Chapters 84 - Epilogue>>>
- Chapter 1
- 1) Biblical--son of Abraham; an exile.
2) Ishmael ben Elisha--2nd century A.D. Jewish teacher of
Galilee; outstanding Talmudic teacher; compiled the 13 hermeneutical rules for interpreting the Torah; founded a school which
legal commentary, Mekhilta.
A Shakespearean character in Julius Caesar; committed
suicide by falling on his sword.
Seneca and the Stoics
Seneca--among Rome's leading intellectual figures in the mid-1st century AD. He and Epictetus were leading
voices of Stoicism.Stoics--1) Greek school of philosophy holding that human
beings should be free from passion and calmly
accept all occurrences as the unavoidable result of divine will.
Greek mythology--young man who fell in love with his own
image in a pool of water and either wasted away
or fell into the pool and drowned.
1) Greek mythology--the three goddesses who govern human
destiny. While one sister dictates the events of
an individual's life, another sister weaves them into a tapestry on the Loom of Life, and
the third sister stands
ready with a pair of shears to cut the thread, thus ending the life.
Tyre of Carthage
A principal port founded by the Phoenicians, among the
greatest seafarers of the ancient world.
Biblical (Acts 27:14)--the tempestuous east wind that
shipwrecked Paul off the coast of Malta.
Spice Islands between Celebes and New Guinea.
Black Parliament sitting in Tophet
1) Biblical (Jer. 7:31)--Tophet was a shrine in the valley
of Hinnom south of ancient Jerusalem where
human sacrifices, especially those of children, were performed to Moloch.
Biblical (Luke 16: 19-31)--the diseased beggar in the
parable of the rich man and the beggar.
The second largest island of Indonesia lying in the Indian
Ocean west of Malaysia and Borneo by Sunda
1) Greek--Hyperboa was one known to the ancient Greeks from
the earliest times. He lived in an
unidentified country in the far north and was renowned as a pious and divinely favored
adherent of the
cult of Apollo.
2) very cold; frigid; north wind.
Biblical (Book of Jonah)--an intolerant, unwilling servant
of God. He was called by God to go to Nineveh
and prophesy disaster because of the city's wickedness. He did not want to go and took
passage in a ship
at Joppa going in the opposite direction, thus escaping God's command. At sea, Jonah
admits to the crew
that it is his fault that a storm is about to destroy the ship. They throw him overboard.
Jonah is swallowed
by a great fish and stays inside it for three days and three nights. He prays for
deliverance. He is vomited
onto land and goes to Ninevah, as God had commanded.
Greek--the building containing a maze which Daedalus
constructed for King Minos of Crete as a place in
which to confine the Minotaur. Those put in the maze could not find their way out and were
the Minotaur. Theseus was the only one to escape.
Biblical--Canaan was the land promised to Moses and his
people by God after they fled from Egypt. It was
an opulent land of milk and honey.
Alexander the great, the military mastermind who conquered
the majority of the known world during the years
336-330 B.C. Because of his tactical genius, he was able to accomplish his conquest
without superiority of
The Pequod--also spelled Pequot and Pequoit--was an American
Indian tribe which, as Melville briefly
mentions, was destroyed by the Puritans. Read Captain John Mason's account of the
Puritan attack of
the Pequot fort.
cave of Elephanta
Elephanta is an isle off the western coast of India in
Bombay Harbor famous for its 8th century temple caves
carved out of rock, its walls sculpted with figures of Hindu deities.
Victory's plank where Nelson fell
Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was a British naval officer and
national hero. His ship, Victory, was involved in
a battle with the French. Someone on the French ship, Redoutalde, shot Nelson and broke
his spine. Nelson
died as the British won by annihilating the French.
Inhabitants of ancient Media, a country northwest of Persia
and south of Caspian Sea; an independent country
and an empire at its height; conquered Babylon and Assyria; overthrown by Persian Cyprus.
Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett died
British--Thomas Beckett was named archbishop of Canterbury
by Henry and became an uncompromising
defender of the rights of the church against lay powers; refused to seal the constitution
of Clarendon and fled
to France. Persuaded Pope Alexander III to suspend bishops who crowned Prince Henry and
force the king
to reconciliation. Beckett was murdered in the cathedral by four knights of Henry's court.
He was later
1) Biblical--a people who held the coastal area of southern
Palestine and were frequently at war with the
Israelites in the period of the judges and the early years of the monarchy.
2) A smug, ignorant, especially middle class, person, who is
held to be indifferent or antagonistic to artistic
and cultural values; boorish; barbarous.
Elijah the prophet
Biblical (I Kings)--Hebrew prophet of the 9th century B.C.;
lived during the time of Ahab, king of Israel. In
his first recorded act, Elijah appeared before the evil King Ahab and predicted a severe
drought. The drought
occurred. After more than three years, the prophet came once more to Ahab and placed the
blame for the
famine on the king's sinful policies. Later, Elijah came in the vineyard of Naboth after
the king had secured the
land through the wickedness of his wife, Jezebel. Elijah placed a terrible curse on King
Ahab and his
descendants, promising that the entire house of Ahab would be exterminated. This prophecy
Job (pronounced Jobe)
Biblical (Book of Job)--the upright, God-fearing and good
man of Uz, who was made to suffer greatly when
God tested his faith and loyalty by allowing Satan to have his way with him. Despite his
misfortunes, Job remained steadfast and faithful. In the end, God restored his substance
to him and granted
him happiness and prosperity. Job's patience in the face of suffering is proverbial.
Alfred the Great
Ruler of Wessex, 870's, who drove the Norse out of England.
He is famous for his cleverness, as he paid the
Vikings to leave England for a certain period of time, during which he raised the proper
military to defeat them.
English politician in the time of King George III; famous
for defending liberty and justice.
1628-1688; English preacher; author of Pilgrim's Progress;
one of the greatest literary geniuses of the Puritan
movement in England.
A soldier until his hand was maimed by gunshot wounds and he
was unable to fight; afterward, over his next
twenty years, he became a brilliant author of novels, plays, and tales.
Seventh President of the U.S.A. (1829-1837); the first poor
man to rise to become President; known as
the "people's President."
book formed by folding a sheet of paper once; size of book
is usually about 11 inches.
1) One who accepts and adheres to the philosophical thought
2) Abstractionist .
1) Descartes the philosopher believed that everything had to
be proven rationally; he based his proof of
identity on the theory, "I think; therefore, I am."
2) vortice--situation drawing into its center all that
surrounds it (i.e. whirlpool effect).
One who believes that God is all forces and powers of the
universe; God in Nature, or God is Nature.
Iron Cross of Lombardy
An ancient crown, supposedly made from one of the nails from
the True Cross, used notably at the
coronation of Holy Roman Emperors and at the coronation of Napoleon in 1805.
Melville gives this descriptive
reference to Pirohitee's peak in Omoo, Chapter 18:
"Tahiti is by far the most famous island in the South Seas; indeed, a variety of causes has made it almost classic. Its natural features alone distinguish it from the surrounding groups. Two round and lofty promontories, whose mountains rise nine thousand feet above the level of the ocean, are connected by a low, narrow isthmus; the whole being some one hundred miles in circuit.
From the great central peaks of the larger peninsula—Orohena, Aorai, and Pirohitee—the
land radiates on all sides to the sea in sloping green ridges. Between these are broad and
shadowy valleys—in aspect, each a Tempe—watered with fine streams, and thickly wooded.
Unlike many of the other islands, there extends nearly all round Tahiti a belt of low, alluvial soil, teeming with the richest vegetation. Here, chiefly, the natives dwell."
Loom of Time
Greek mythology (see Fates in Chapter 1).
Mark Antony and Cleopatra
One of the most famous romances in history. It is said that
the marriage ruined Mark Antony's life and
ultimately caused him to take it.
the giant Holofernes and Judith
Judith is the title of a book in the Apochrypha as well as
the name of a Jewess from Bethulia. Holofernes
was a general of the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar. To save her city, Judith killed
Holofernes in his
drunken slumber and showed his head to her countrymen. They then drove off the
In 1776, Mother Anne Lee established the first settlement of
American "Shakers" (the Millennial Church
or United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing) at Niskayuna, a village in
New York, on the
Hudson River near Schenectady. The shakers observed celibacy, held all property in common,
believed that Mother Lee was Christ reincarnated. Their nickname, Shakers, derived from
bodily movements during religious meetings. (Information found in editor's note Moby Dick, edited
Feidelson, Jr., MacMillan 1985, ISBN 0-02-336720-2, p. 409.)
Biblical--masculine given name meaning "man of
God"; an archangel who acts as the messenger of God.
Immanuel Kant vs. John Locke
Kant and Locke both
expressed agreement with the idea that the State is formed by a social
contract--Individuals must give up some of their rights to enter into a social
contract in society. However, they differed on the application of the
Kant does not
recognize the right of individuals to revoke the contract.
Locke maintained that the state formed by the social
contract was guided by the natural law, which guarantees inalienable rights. He formulated the doctrine that
revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation.
If the State fails to protect the individuals' inalienable rights, then
revolution is a duty.
1) Egyptian mythology--a figure having the body of a lion
and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.
2) Greek mythology--a winged monster having the head of a
woman and the body of a lion that destroyed
all who could not answer its riddle.
Greek--Andromeda, the daughter of a king, was tied to a rock
on the sea coast and a whale came to carry
her away. Perseus killed the whale and married Andromeda.
St. George and his Dragon
Probably third century A.D. Christian martyr. Nothing
definite is known about his life. In time of Edward II
adopted as patron saint of England. Among legends developed about him was that of his
conquest of a
dragon to rescue the king's daughter, Sabra.
Biblical--"Son of man, take up a lamentation for
Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art like a
young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with
thy rivers, and
troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers."
I Samuel 5:2-4
Biblical--"Then they carried the ark into Dagon's
temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the
next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark
of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the
following morning when they rose, there was Dagon fallen on his face on the
ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off
and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained."
Chapters 84 - Epilogue>>>