Moby Dick. What was I thinking? To be honest, I wanted to see the movie “In The Heart Of The Sea” and thought it would be cool to read the book first. The books are always better, right? Well, it took me over 30 days to finish reading this classic piece of literature after I began and can honestly say, one I will never forget!
With my Kindle in hand, I dove into the story of Ishmael thinking I’d read this grand adventure of hunting whales on the open seas. The story itself was right up my ally. I would give it five stars. The thing that I didn’t anticipate was a complete education on “whaling!”
Yes, I believe I learned everything there is to know about Sperm Whales from this book! From their sculls being 20 feet in length to the length of each rib, the duties of a harpooner on board a whaling ship, how a whale is attached to a ship during the process of retrieving the blubber once the whale is dead and even how a whale can’t digest any part of the human body if swallowed or bitten! Yes, I even read how when a whale dies from natural causes and not the hand of man, it will sink at first, but then float after a period of 24 hours because of the gases being released in the body after its death. Oh, and a whale found like this does not produce as valuable blubber and perfume like one that was harpooned. Then, there are the bones… used for women’s bodices, yes, those came from the tail and well, you get the picture! I would say about 50 % of the book was an education on whales of all kinds, but more specifically, the Sperm Whale. (Did I mention that a full grown man could sit in the cavity of a whale’s tooth and fit comfortably, just like a hammock? Anyway…)
On the other hand, the story was delightful. Ishmael, the character telling the story in the book, gives a play by play description of what the whaling life is all about. Also, a detailed description of every person on board the Pequod is given at the beginning of the book. If you wanted to skip the “education” part of the book and just dive into the story, read the beginning and the end. Before the Pequod sets sail a prophet by the name of Elijah warns Ishmael from sailing on a ship that’s “doomed.” The Captain, who goes by the name of Ahab, gives us an idea of what kind of man he is when the Biblical example of who this character is built from is taken into consideration. Ahab, a broken man, is obsessed with killing Moby Dick because the White Whale took his leg years before. To accomplish his purpose, Ahab lies, tricks and treats his crew unfairly to gain his objective. He’s given many opportunities to turn back and “live normally,” but he refuses. In the end, it cost everyone on board the Pequod their life, except Ishmael, who lived to tell about the tragic experience.
To me, the lesson in Moby Dick is this: Like the loss of Ahab’s leg, there are things in life that happened in the past that can become an obsession for us if we let them. Any wrong done to us, deep pain or grudge can quickly become something that drives all meaning of life from us. These kind of unhealthy obsessions destroy the people who follow them. Moby Dick was unbeatable. Why? Because a whale is stronger or smarter than man? No, because of what it represented. If you feed that grudge you’ve had for 20 years, you’ll never move on or get over it – but in the end, it will destroy you. If you let a past wrong doing fester inside for long periods of time, it, like Moby Dick, is not something you can conquer by heaping hate and animosity on top of the situation. What Captain Ahab never learned was beating Moby Dick was not killing him – it was letting him go. Don’t hang on to things you can’t change!
Conclusion: Moby Dick was an educational read. There were many references to Biblical characters and verses that no doubt, have great significance if you want to unravel deeper levels of meaning in the story. The story itself wasn’t so bad of a read, but when you get into the blubber, ribs and scull size, it gets what I call, “hard reading.” If you, like me, want to understand the whole meaning behind a new movie – dig into Moby Dick. Details that would have been lost on me when watching the movie came alive in ways only someone who read the book could understand. You’ll learn a lot and maybe even enjoy the storyline. But if you’re not into thinking too hard about the debate behind why a whale’s skin is or is not 12 inches thick, this may not be the book for you! *wink*
The version I read can be found here —> Moby Dick