I wrote a paper on Moby Dick in a college class after reading only three chapters (the first, the last, and the one in the middle that the teacher said was the most important). The teacher said my paper was excellent and "very focused." This was back in the day before the internet, of course. I didn't even read the Cliff Notes. I actually read the whole book a few years later and enjoyed it. There is something about an English class that can ruin almost any book.
Sarah, 4 months of MOBY DICK was indeed cruel and unusual punishment. I never had a teacher at any level spend so much time on one book. I think that my English teacher in high school probably understood that it was not a joy for the students and I am sure that at that time she was REQUIRED to teach it so she made things a bit easier by having a field trip to Old Mystic, CT to look at old whaling ships and also she would bring in historical facts and she NEVER gave a quiz on that book. She was really nice. I think that she got more excited when she moved to HUCKLEBERRY FINN and GREAT GATSBY and up well into the 20th century.
I think that she spent about as much time on the play, "Death of a Salesman" as she did on MOBY DICK--so she must have figured that nobody was doing the reading and that she needed to get us through it quickly and painlessly.
Natalie, I think that's true, and I half wonder if that isn't why I love Naslund's interpretation now. It still has some of that grim feel of MD, but I'm old enough to appreciate it, and the challenges that the main character goes through.
Even so, I believe there are few books in existence - and fewer still outside of the realm of philosophy & religion - that require a full 4 months worth of analysis in any class. That I think killed it for me more than anything.
Jeckie (aka. Sarah) - Lowell, MA - EST Half Fanatic #3032
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I think it is cruel and unusual punishment to inflict MOBY DICK on anyone under about 30. You need to have known loss, passion, and a bit of obsession to appreciate it. I, too, read it in 11th grade (circa age 16 or 17) and while I read it very very dutifully (I was that kind of student) it was not an exciting experience. But fast forward to age 50 and I can really get into Melville's description of being down:
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."
His "hypos" is his "hypochondria" and he's feeling very down and depressed. There are some books that should be put in an Al Gore style "lock-box" until a person is 30 or 45 or 60, I think. This is one of them.
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