How to Read Moby Dick

a guide for first-time readers

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Reading Section 1

"Etymology and Extracts" and Chapters 1 - 21             

Vocabulary for Section 1

  1. Ishmael reveals much about himself. He arrives in New Bedford. Take notes on his reasons for wanting to ship out and his basic morality, his personal world view, (his philosophy of life) at this time.  
  2. What does he have to say about the differences between landsmen and seamen? And which are you? A landsman or a seaman? 
  3. What is his attitude toward religion and spirituality? Is there a distinction to him? 
  4. What conclusion(s) has he drawn about the ideal of the Noble Savage and Christianity? 
  5. Does he seem to believe in Free Will, Fate, or a combination of the two, such as Machiavelli supports in the closing chapter of The Prince ?
  6. By the end of Section 1, does he seem to take a particular philosophical stance, or is it too early to determine?
  7. Take special note of the chapters entitled, The Pulpit  and The Sermon. What is the preacher's lesson?
          *The Chapel is still active today in New Bedford. Read about it and see pictures
    Scroll down to see the inside of the chapel. Compare the actual look of it with Melville's description.

          *If you are not familiar with the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, please read about it here.
    *See a contemporary art piece of Jonah and the Whale.

click pix for larger view         pequod_piix               mobyrises