Moby Dick on the Brain: The Snow Whale

June 27, 2012 § 6 Comments

Soon after posting on Monday, I realized that I’d based my whole article on humor and subtext on the decidedly less than hilarious Moby Dick.  I guess I shouldn’t say that about Mellville’s classic, since I read it when I was a precocious ninth-grader trying to impress people by the advanced level at which I read; I probably understood half of the book and wonder if I went back now, I’d clue into some hidden jokes.  Or maybe not.

Regardless, I feel the need to explain that I had Moby Dick on the brain because I’d just finished John Minichillo’s The Snow Whalea satire that uses Mellville’s familiar frame to humorously explore modern conceptions of race, consumer culture, and environmentalism.  There are lots of great moments of the sort of humor I like to talk about on the blog, those jokes that make you think about how your laughing, so I hope to use it as an example in future posts, possibly on satire.

In any event, next week I’m planning on finishing up our discussion of humor and subtext with one last example from Leaving the Atocha Station, so you should have plenty of time for the assigned readings.

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§ 6 Responses to Moby Dick on the Brain: The Snow Whale

  • Evan, as a random aside– maybe it’s not so decidedly less than hilarious. This caught my attention because I am currently reading Moby Dick for the first time, and was just remarking on how f u n n y it is. I’m not that far along in the book yet, but so far Ishmael reads to me as one of the funniest narrators I’ve read in a long time!

    • Hi, Kelly. Thanks for reading and commenting! I suspected that might be the case, as my overall thesis for the blog is that you can’t effectively write about important issues without being at least a little funny. I guess I just didn’t want to believe it because now I feel obliged to go back and read the monstrous thing.

  • I agree with Kelly. For example, read the chapter called “Chowder”. Ishmael and Queequeg together are particularly funny. Once Ahab shows up, however, I think the funny goes away.

  • Bayla says:

    So my father in law told his family that when he died they would find his last will and testament in his copy of Moby Dick. The instructions also said they were to read the last paragraph of the the 49th chapter, which is about setting your affairs in order for tomorrow you might be dead. My father in law and many incarnations of this last testament and was quite verbose about what he thought and felt.

    I however, thought of the beginning of that chapter when I read your blog this week. I have quoted it below:

    “There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke. There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object.”

    As always thanks for writing Evan!

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