Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The flavor of words and phrases ...

Patrick Kurp considers Tasting the Language
Patrick says that "Moby-Dick is a great black comedy brought to life by the rowdy, philosophical, undomesticated, masculine voice of Ishmael. No voice, no book: It’s a tall tale told by a mad autodidact – the antiauthoritarian voice of American democracy, the counterpoint to Ahab’s ravings."
I think that Moby-Dick - at least in the person of Ahab - is a great commentary on Calvinist predestinarianism. As Ahab tells Starbuck: "Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders."
No garden variety Calvinist he, Ahab doesn't appreciate being determined:
"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event --in the living act, the undoubted deed --there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."

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