Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Only Partially a Narrative

A while back Erica (who seems to have disappeared, by the way), in a comment on Veggienerd's blog, asked what we think the point of the Cetology chapter and others like it is in Moby Dick. Scott answered nicely that it is to give the readers enough background knowledge to understand the action when it comes, and I have to agree that the information is necessary for us non-whalers. I still have to wonder if there's not more to it than that since Melville seems interested in doing so much more than telling a simple tale, but he seems to indicate Scott's theory is correct at the start of chapter 45, The Affidavit:
So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter [about the charting of whale patterns, which I found quite interesting], in its earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the leading matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood, and moreover to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural verity of the main points of this affair.
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1 comment:

Erica Reynolds said...

I'm still here..I was trying not to get too far ahead in reading/posting, but then I got caught up working on the Science, INC parntership grant with KCPT and Science City and others...I'm addicted to writing grants, but I've promised the team I won't do another one that pulls me away for this long...(no snickering on idea that the Web Content Team would miss me, please...)

But, back to your post...I think you're right...there's still more to the Cetology chapter (and others like it)...In part, I think he's exploring what writing is...what is a story...what is the point of it all...