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Moby Dick - An Adult Book of a Different Kind

Moby-Dick - An Adult Book of a Different Kind

Moby Dick is strictly for adults, which is not to say it's salacious or titillating (which, after all, is really just an appeal to that which is most adolescent in us). No, Moby Dick is a book for people who have experienced something of life, felt the painful disappointment of easy answers, smelled the fear of their own mortality and searched frantically for a solution to the puzzle of being alive. The fact that this book is often assigned to adolescents to read is a crime. It's like assigning Einstein's theory of relativity to a class of basketweavers. A little more respect, please. A person ought to be fairly well convinced they're going to die some day before reading Moby Dick - which is not to say he or she ought to be glum or fatalistic. Moby Dick is neither. It's surprisingly witty and ironic, sometimes even charming, but underneath runs a somber current that carries along with it formidable questions about what it means to be human, how we all suffer, even when we do the right things, and how a providential God can be easily confused with uncaring fate.

Melville is a master of ambiguity and nuance. His characters, who seem caricatures at first, gradually reveal a depth of complexity that has had scholars hard at work for years. From Queequeeg, the agreeable savage, to Starbuck (yes, folks, the coffee shop is named after someone), whose stalwart Protestantism is put to the test, and on to Ahab, the mad, raving, conflicted Captain, and Ishmael, the clever, pliable narrator, each character reveals a depth of personality that makes you feel you know them and wins your empathy, even as their ship, the Pequod, plunges on in pursuit its unlikely objective, the destruction of a singularly vindictive whale, Moby Dick.

Is Moby Dick some mad brute, an animal driven to distraction by the harassment of its predators? Or is it, as Ahab believes, an agent of the living God, bent on punishing the sinful pride of man, or worse - a mere mask behind which hides indifferent nature, spawned by the earth to reek mayhem and destruction to no apparent end? Ahab aims to find out and hijacks the loyalties of his crew in pursuit of his answer, distracting them from the official reason for their voyage, the acquisition of whale oil,...

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