Moby Dick Chapter 9 The Sermon
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Author:  Robert Tulip [ Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Moby Dick Chapter 9 The Sermon

Chapter Link: ... m#2HCH0009

There is a sense of absurdity at the start here where the preacher opens with clanging maritime orders and then is described as "so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea". The real depth of the sea and the imagined depth of prayer make an interesting contrast between reality and fantasy.

Dwill has already started on this chapter in the thread on The Pulpit.

The theme of the sermon is Jonah and the Whale, a very appropriate one for Moby Dick. Jonah has been mentioned already in the extracts, and in the wizened dispenser in the New Bedford bar, as the great archetype of human engagement with whaledom.

The story of Jonah spending three days and nights in the belly of the whale as a precursor to delivering his prophecy of the doom of Nineveh is a main type for the resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days and nights in hell (actually 40 hours), and also, as Melville indirectly alludes, to Paul's survival of his shipwreck on the way to Rome. So Melville is setting up the association with the whale as an understanding of planetary reality that has a prophetic truth to it.

The book of Jonah is worth reading - here is a link - ... ersion=NIV

As Parson Mapple explains, there is a universal psychological message in the exposure of Jonah as a liar. His conscience is eating him up, and the sailors can easily see it. He has a moral duty to God as a prophet, but he is a coward and shirker. Only the fortification of three days in the belly of a whale enables Jonah to finally live with integrity.

There is something of an irony in the lesson that "In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers." It says something about whaling, the first truly global industry, which freely raided all the high seas in the name of profit.

The preacher takes the brief Biblical text as a launching pad for his imagination, vividly describing Jonah's cabin, the doubts of his shipmates, and Jonah's state of mind as a restless tormented fugitive.

We get this magical sense of God intervening in the world to prevent Jonah's escape from his destiny, and His use of the whale as an instrument of His will, perhaps similar to how Moby Dick will become the instrument of a divine will in the face of Ahab's dark desire for vengeance against nature.

Author:  Chris27 [ Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Moby Dick Chapter 9 The Sermon

Wondering about what's going on in these 'religious' chapters, I think it's useful to remember that it's Ishmael talking, not Melville (so to speak). I've got no idea about Melville's beliefs, but in any case he's imagining Ishmael's at this point, doing it sympathetically enough so that I imagine they're not way off from his own, but not necessarily the same.
I'm always intrigued by author/narrator debates.

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