How to Read Moby Dick

a guide for first-time readers

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Reading Section 3

Chapters 43 - 65          Section 3 Vocabulary

When you finish section 3, you are half way through your journey. Are you a survivor, or will you jump ship? Chop wood. Carry water.

Pause here to think about Melville's style. He uses a variety of stylistic and structural techniques. Do you notice a similarity between some chapters of Moby and Shakespeare's style?

  1. Continue keeping notes on, especially, Ahab and Starbuck. Stubb's character/personality is also more fully shown in this section.
  2. Chapter 46, Surmises, gives deeper insight into Ahab's character and into his thinking processes.  Note his acknowledgement that he has, indeed, overstepped the boundaries of even a captain. What does he know the crew can legally do about the hunt for Moby if he does not take care to prevent it?  What does he intend to do?
  3. Recall that Starbuck was the only crew member to object to Ahab's hunt for Moby. In this section does Starbuck make any plans to prevent the hunt for the one whale? Be aware also, that Starbuck, as first mate, has the legal right and responsibility to take command of the ship if the captain becomes incapacitated (physically or mentally) or derelict in his duties.

  4. Describe the mysterious voices and the dusky phantoms (ch. 46)  that are seen around Ahab. Who are they? What seems to be their purpose on the ship? See also Ch. 50.

  5. Take note of Ishmael's observation of concrete objects or sightings and his elevation of them.  For instance, Ch. 51, The Spririt-Spout, describes an apparition that is associated with Moby Dick. Brit  and Squid  will also describe concrete images with elevated (symbolic, perhaps) applications. Remember Ishmael is a Romantic, a dreamer, a symbolist. He is not a landsman, who concentrates only on the "real." Reality for a Romantic is but a mask or symbol of what lies beyond. Reality is paradoxical.

  6. During this section, you will have the first gam. The Town-Ho's story may be somewhat foreshadowing, but do not get too involved with it.  Read it and move on. Keep moving. Chop Wood. Carry Water. Know what a gam is and take note of how the other ships compare or contrast with the Pequod. As you have other gams later, Ahab's personality will begin to change.
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