Moby-Dick – Chapters I-XVIII – Quick Check-In

Though dreadfully behind on Brona’s readalong, I am still plugging away at this American tome and really savoring it.  This is my second time reading Moby-Dick, the first time being nearly a decade ago.  The familiar scenes and phrases are coming back to me like old friends.

Nantucket NASA 2002
NASA Johnson Space Center – Earth Sciences and Image Analysis (NASA-JSC-ES&IA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first 18 or so chapters cover Ishmael’s land journey to his ship the Pequod, anchored at Nantucket, and meeting his unexpected, cannibal friend Queequeg.  Much has been written about the exploration of religion and culture that Melville covers in this introduction, where we see both conflict and communality between different characters, both on a broad scale and on a personal level.

What really gets at me this time is the range of emotions and “worlds,” if you will, which Melville shows us.  You feel Ishmael’s wanderlust in the first chapter, his mix of fear and humor on meeting Queequeg, and the gloomy aura of the church where Father Mapple preaches.  The whale bones which decorate the Pequod are just one detail which foreshadow things to come and which Ishmael, in spite of his irritating personality, will tell you about incessantly, like a close and endearing friend.

It is a slow and gentle descent into the plot’s ultimate chaos.  If you did not know the ending, you might not suspect it from this opening, which reads like a series of chronological vignettes. That is part of the genius of the book.


  1. mudpuddle Avatar

    it's commendable that you're reading MD… again… i don't think i'd be up to it now but i was blown away by it the first time around…


  2. mudpuddle Avatar

    is it just me? the photo looks like a large mouth, open to gobble something up: the Pequod maybe?


  3. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Long books always scare me… it does help the chapters are short! I see what you mean about the photo. 🙂 It's a pretty dramatic aerial view of Nantucket. I hadn't realized before how far it is from the mainland.


  4. Brona Avatar

    Love the aerial view of Nantucket – I hadn't realised it was so separate either – it sounded like it was just across the bay, although, of course it did take Ishmael & Queequeg a day to sail there.The joys of being in a #slowread readalong is that you have plenty of time to catch up (or not). I'm so impressed you're reading this a second time. It's a big commitment to read this chunkster once, let along twice!


  5. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Thanks, Brona! I think the pace you've chosen suits this book very well. The first time I read it all the way through, I believe it took me several months, but it's not one that should be rushed. 🙂


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