Thar She Blows!: Chris Reads Moby Dick

I know that title sounds dirty but it was unintentional.

I’m taking on a Big Project. I’m going to “read” Moby Dick. By read, I mean listen to at work. This already has varying success. If there is juicy gossip happening around me, I’m all “Moby Who?”

mark and moby dick

Here’s What I Know About Moby Dick:

There’s a dude named Ishmael. He’s the narrator. His captain is Ahab. He’s obsessed with a white whale. That’s it.

Why am I reading it?

Because everyone says I should. It seems like a big deal. I’ve read some other big deal books: Les Miserables, War and Peace. I’d like to add this to the list of Books I Have Read That People Claim To Be a Big Deal. Also, Moby Dick is referenced so much in pop culture. My blog posts are going to be filled with Moby Dick gifs!

Let’s Get Started!

Getting to Know Ishmael:

Ishmael starts things off with, “Aw, the sea! Where a man goes to be free!” Since he’s a man, he can go wherever he pleases and the sea pleases him. I wondered- does Ishmael have a wife and ten kids somewhere and he’s running off on them? Hmm.

So Ishmael looks for lodging at The Spouter-Inn (*elbow nudges* Get it? Spouter?). There’s no room at the inn, but Ishmael can share a bed with someone. This is totally not weird, I guess. The innkeeper tells him he can sleep with a guy named Queequeg, a harpooner. He wonders what kind of name Queequeg is, but after thinking about it decides he doesn’t want to sleep with a stranger. That would be my call also.

No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a good deal rather not sleep with your own brother. I don't know how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to sleeping with an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a strange town, and that stranger a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely multiply.

The alternative is an uncomfortable table and after a while, that stranger’s bed seems like a good idea. The only problem is Ishmael is sleepy and Queequeg hasn’t returned from his errands. Which are? he asks the innkeeper. Selling his head, he says. This doesn’t go over well. Ishmael thinks this guy is messing with him, and he does seem to get his giggles here. Ishmael flips out. Calm down, says the innkeeper, he’s literally selling a head, one he bought during his travels.

Ishmael has enough of this nonsense and goes to bed, only to have Queequeg arrive and start noodling around the room. Ishmael gets a look at his face and sees marks there. At first, he thinks he’s been in a fight, but comes to the conclusion that he’s tattooed. Also, hmm, his skin is not white. All this time Ishmael has been staring at Queequeg and hasn’t said boo. He begins to realize that this isn’t polite but how to introduce himself now?

This is solved when Queequeg tries to get into bed and reacts like anyone would when finding an unwanted stranger in our bed. He’s all. “Eek! Who are you? What are you doing here? Get out!” He also makes threatening motions with his harpoon. Ishmael yells for the innkeeper.

The innkeeper makes introductions. Queequeg politely offers his bed to Ishmael and after these thoughts he accepts:

What's all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man's a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” should be cross stitched on a pillow. That’s some good advice. In the end, Ishmael has the greatest sleep of his life.


This is an excellent start. “Call me Ishmael.” Obviously, the narrator. That’s direct and to the point. Ishmael doesn’t like being teased, but he is a tolerant guy. He has the ability to look at his preconceived notions and challenge them. Queequeg is a man like him. They are in the same business. They have different ways of looking at the world but, hey, who doesn’t? This is a likeable guy.

I know Moby Dick is going to get complicated, but for now I’m enjoying it. I’m hoping that by blogging about it, it will force me to pay attention and get as much out of it as I can.

Have you read Moby Dick? What did you think? Maybe you haven’t read it. Are you bananas enough to read it with me?

Next post: The friendship of Ishmael and Queequeg.



  1. Replies
    1. Probably just Moby Dick gifs, though I can't promise there won't be dick jokes.

  2. I read about half of this one this summer and then, well, it's just been sitting there on the nightstand ever since. I think I got enough of it to know what's what with Moby Dick. But, then again, I kind of like to finish books. We'll see ...

    1. If you feel like picking it up again, I'll be here.

  3. I hosted a read along for MD and it was quite interesting! I think 6 people survived, including myself. I had no idea that parts of the book were so funny, but it was soooooo lonnnnnng.

    1. I missed that. I was probably reading some other monstrosity. I hope I can last this one out.

  4. I have read Moby Dick twice for school and it was way too many times and I am never going to read it again. However, if you're reading it for leisure, and you are able to skip over the whaling parts if you feel like it, I bet you will enjoy it a lot more than I did.

    1. I've already did that! There was a whole chapter on what a whale is that I skipped. I live in the 21st century. If by some chance, I don't know what a whale is, I can Google it. I got this, Melville.

  5. Good luck! If you survive, you might inspire me to finally tackle this behemoth (hehe).

  6. Yep, it blows alright. Good luck with it.

    I found it a painful experience. Every 2nd chapter is a how to hunt/gut/de-blubber a whale. But the story, when Melville stays on track, is good. Then, you read Les Miserables and survived the long descriptions of the sewer, so I'm sure you can do it!

  7. I read Moby Dick last year and loved it. I'm convinced that a large factor in my loving it was listening to the audiobook version. What narrator are you listening to? I chose the Anthony Heald version, and it made the entire experience of reading the book so much richer. I love his voice, and I felt like I was setting off for a whaling adventure too.

    Here's a link back to my post / review of Moby Dick, where I mostly just quote my very favorite passages:

    I hope you end up enjoying the experience! I think the audiobook is the way to go.

  8. It took me a couple of tries after a lot of resistance, but I finally read it and loved it.


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