Close Reading of Chapter 32 in Moby-Dick

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1035 Words
Date:  2022-04-14
Categories: 

Introduction

Chapter 32 in Moby-Dick is a famous chapter titled Cetology. This is a significant chapter in the novel because the narrator tries to explain the study of marine mammals such as porpoise, whales, and dolphins in a scientific order. He tries to make the readers and himself understand whales through scientific means of classification and observation. He develops a systematic overview of the types of whales where he classifies them into three books. He accepts that whales are difficult to classify if one does not study them closely. He feels that those who view that whales are difficult to define are people who study them at far. He disagrees with others opinion that a whale is not a fish. According to me Melville a whale is "a spouting fish with a horizontal tail" (p 134). Although there have been several authors who studied and wrote about whales, Ishmael brought a clear definition by dividing them according to observation and classification.

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The chapter contributes to the overall meaning of the book since it talks about whales and their classification which is also the other title of the book. In the chapter, the author tries to explain to readers that whales are not difficult to define if studied closely. The author begins by approaching few writers who have contributed to Cetology. These writers did not present a clear definition of whales since they felt that they are "incomplete" .... "Unfathomable "or ..."utter confusion" (p 34). It means that the eminent writers could not provide enough information about whales because they could not study them completely. There are limited books that describe the sperm whale and therefore if "lives not complete in literature" (p, 136).

The contradiction can be located in this chapter where the Melville defines a whale as a fish. According to a Swedish zoologist and botanist of eighteen-century, whales are not classified as fish. Linnaeus laid out the foundation of the classification of biological system and whales are not reptiles since they are warm-blooded. Whales do not breathe with gills as fish do because instead, they have lungs. Melville agrees with this classification but he insists that whales are fish anyway. In a specific category, he defines fish as a spouting fish with a horizontal tail. In this case, the author brings out a contradiction when he defines whales as fish yet he agrees that they are warm-blooded and have lungs. Melville contradicts himself when he defines classify whales into several classifications of books and chapters. Whales cannot be classified into chapters because they are animal and not literature. By defining them into three books he treats whales as novels.

"Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught - day, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!" (p, 144). Melville has done his work well but in this quote he demonstrate how uncertain he is about the quality of his work despite the fact that he helped his readers to understand the classification of whales. His definition and classification of whales have not been written by anyone else yet he claims that his book is a draft. This is contrary to what his readers would expect and it makes one double his work as an author.

He complicates the process by categorizing whales into three books which include the Folio whale, Octavo whale and the Duodecimo whale. He names the three categories as book 1, II, and III. He complicates the process by defining them as the three old books of the nineteenth century which were categorized according to their sizes. The size of each book depended on the number of times one had to fold a large standard sheet of paper while making different pages. Melville would have just written that he is defining whales according to their sizes but he make the state more intricate by dividing them as book sizes which were categorized according to their sizes. The author ha six chapters of the book I which he names "Folio Whales". These are the largest whales and they include the fin-Black, sperm whale, sulfur bottom, humpback, right whale and the razor whale. He insists that sperm whale are the best and the biggest whales across all the seas. Sperm whales produce "spermaceti,"a very valued oily substance which many think that it is the Greenland's semen. The most hunted whale is the right whale because they get whale oil, whalebone and baleen from it. Octavo whales are mid-small and swim on their back. They also use their tail to swim backwards while others use them to swim forward. The last category is the Duodecimo Whales and is the smallest in seas.

Conclusion

Ambiguity in the novel is well demonstrated when the author defines whales as fish. He does not rely on one side of classification which states that reptiles are cold-blooded and have no lungs. He defines whales as fish with spurting tails. Whales do not breathe with gills as fish do because instead they have lungs and therefore they cannot be classified as fish but Melville does not depend only on this classification to define them. His definition is based on the fact that whales have spouting tails. Melville agrees with this classification but he insists that whales are fish anyway. In a specific category, he defines fish as a spouting fish with a horizontal tail. In this case, the author brings out a contradiction when he defines whales as fish yet he agrees that they are warm-blooded and have lungs. Melville contradicts himself when he defines classify whales into several classifications of books and chapters.

Work Cited

Melville, Herman. "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. 1851." Ed. Harrison Hayford et al. Evanston: Northwestern UP and the Newberry Library (1988).

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Close Reading of Chapter 32 in Moby-Dick. (2022, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/close-reading-of-chapter-32-in-moby-dick

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