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Thread: Are you an American that has read Moby Dick? Need help!

  1. #1 Are you an American that has read Moby Dick? Need help! 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Hey!

    Im writing an assignment on the essay Of the standard of taste by David Hume. ( David Hume of the standard of taste )

    My assignment is done but i have to add an example of some art that wasnt accepted at its creation BUT was accepted later, and how Hume`s writing can relate to that. A friend recommended me to read Moby Dick and to search up on how the book was received by the audience and critics at its release. According to him the book got bad critics at first but is now one of americas biggest literary works? Problem is: I cant find any good sources on information about how the book was critizised and why! And i dont have the time to read the book before i turn in the assignment.

    Could someone help explain to me the essence of why Moby Dick wasnt broadly accepted when released and got negative critics, or point me in the direction of a good source on this matter?


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    Moby-Dick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hopefully these will be of some assistance, dotcomrade.

    Moby-Dick


    Last edited by The Finger Prince; October 19th, 2011 at 01:48 AM.
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    From the latter source:

    "Thrice unlucky Herman Melville!...
    This is an odd book, professing to be a novel; wantonly eccentric; outrageously bombastic; in places charmingly and vividly descriptive. The author has read up laboriously to make a show of cetalogical learning.... Herman Melville is wise in this sort of wisdom. He uses it as stuffing to fill out his skeleton story. Bad stuffing it makes, serving only to try the patience of his readers, and to tempt them to wish both him and his whales at the bottom of an unfathomable sea....
    The story of this novel scarcely deserves the name.... Mr. Melville cannot do without savages so he makes half of his dramatis personae wild Indians, Malays, and other untamed humanities.... What the author's original intention in spinning his preposterous yarn was, it is impossible to guess; evidently, when we compare the first and third volumes, it was never carried out....
    Having said so much that may be interpreted as a censure, it is right that we should add a word of praise where deserved. There are sketches of scenes at sea, of whaling adventures, storms, and ship-life, equal to any we have ever met with....
    Mr. Herman Melville has earned a deservedly high reputation for his performances in descriptive fiction. He has gathered his own materials, and travelled along fresh and untrodden literary paths, exhibiting powers of no common order, and great originality. The more careful, therefore, should he be to maintain the fame he so rapidly acquired, and not waste his strength on such purposeless and unequal doings as these rambling volumes about spermaceti whales." --London Literary Gazette, December 6 1851

    Notice the blatant racism of the review, if you will, dotcomrade, and contrast it to Melville's description of Pip, below.

    Pip (nicknamed "Pippin," but "Pip" for short) is a black boy from Tolland County, Connecticut, who is "the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew". Because he is physically slight, he is made a ship-keeper, (a sailor who stays aboard the ship while its whaleboats go out). Ishmael contrasts him with the "dull and torpid in his intellects" — and paler and much older — steward Dough-Boy, describing Pip as "over tender-hearted" but "at bottom very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to his tribe". Ishmael goes so far as to chastise the reader: "Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets."[30]


    Last edited by The Finger Prince; October 19th, 2011 at 02:04 AM.
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    " We are apt to call barbarous whatever departs widely from our own taste and apprehension: But soon find the epithet of reproach retorted on us. "- Hume


    So it goes and hopefully all goes well, thank you for spurring this investigation.
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    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Great answer and links! Thanks for taking your time to help me out. =)
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    Because its 99% whale info. I gave up halfway through. My theory why people like it is because they can say they read it and feel educated while doing so. giving other people the idea that they also should read it because then they would be just as educated. Resulting in a downward spiral of finding something extremely good while not really understanding much of it. Since this takes some time the first people to read it didn't like it except one who infected 3 others who in their turn did the same and so increasing the numbers over time ^-^ Ofcaurse, this is just my personal uneducated theory that I apply to any tedious reading material for school purposes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell View Post
    Great answer and links! Thanks for taking your time to help me out. =)
    It was an amusing and stimulating challenge, glad you found it useful. Wishing you continued success, naturally.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argon View Post
    Because its 99% whale info. I gave up halfway through. My theory why people like it is because they can say they read it and feel educated while doing so. giving other people the idea that they also should read it because then they would be just as educated. Resulting in a downward spiral of finding something extremely good while not really understanding much of it. Since this takes some time the first people to read it didn't like it except one who infected 3 others who in their turn did the same and so increasing the numbers over time ^-^ Ofcaurse, this is just my personal uneducated theory that I apply to any tedious reading material for school purposes.
    It is also about irrational obsession and revenge- things which persist long after the whaling ships return to port.
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    I've read it three times. Part of that is I was raised the son of a commercial fisherman and love sea stories of any kind. It's not a story about whaling--it's a story of revenge.

    If you want to know where Melville got many of his ideas, read Heart of the Sea, about whale ship Essex actually sunk by a sperm whale, and the tragic tail of its crew, some of which died, some of which were killed to be eaten etc--the tragedy was common knowledge during the 19th century. It's also a great resource about the unique and powerful role of the Quakers, their women, 19th century drug trades, and how many of today's investment models were shaped by the whaling industry.
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    I've avoided reading Moby Dick forever, based on reports of tediousness and inaccuracy. Based on your endorsement I'm determined to read it now, and have just downloaded it on my Kindle. It was free too. In the Heart of the Sea is $10 but I may even go all out and get that as well.
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    Restless heart of Ahab drives him to destruction- after all, whale did not come to home of Ahab to injure him, but was innocently doing whale stuff. Is it even reasonable to harbor a desire for revenge against such a creature, ignorant of any law less primal than survival?

    Is good cautionary tale too, as crazy guy in charge destroys not only self but all loyal subordinates nearly. Would WWII have happened if more Germans had read Moby Dick?

    Probably, to read is not necessarily to heed.
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    Moby Dick is long and tedious and full of introspection. It is indeed a story of revenge and consuming pride and obsession.

    That may be the reason some don't like it. It's too much like examining one's self.
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    I read it when I was 13 or 14. I recall I enjoyed it. I still have the copy. Perhaps I'll dig it out and revisit it - a sort of fifty year anniversary.
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