Individual Projects: Tracking Your Whale

Members of previous reading groups suggested that it was helpful to be given permission to not try to follow everything in the book. That it is okay to just read. That when you have those moments when you find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again, you should just keep going. That you can always go back and read it again.

What follows is a list of possible things to track in Moby-Dick, but of course, you could invent your own. The idea is that choosing ONE thing to track throughout the novel might be a good way of simplifying your experience as a reader. 

As you go, pay extra attention to whatever through-line you are tracking. Why do you think it is important? What might it mean to Ishmael, to Ahab, to Melville, or to you?

  • Any use of the phrase “out of sight” (there are 22)
  • References to fate / Ways Melville describes fate — e.g. “presaging vibrations of the winds in the cordage” (134)
  • Descriptions of water
  • Alliterative or assonant passages — e.g. “golden gleamings” (147) or “felt a melting in me” (52)
    • e.g. tracking passages with lots of “S” sounds, like 2nd paragraph of Ch. 51, The Spirit-Spout (there are TONS of these)
  • Any use of the word “shark” (there are 86)
  • Reference to money or debt
  • The words “agent” or “agency” (there are 15)
  • Racist passages or descriptions
  • Anything you learn or can infer about Ishmael’s past or Ahab’s past
  • The pronoun “you” being used to address the reader
    • Any question the narrator asks you
  • Any reference to circles, spirals, maelstroms, vortices, rings, etc. 
  • The words “weave,” “weaver,” or “weaving” (there are 19)
  • Any reference to anything “unseen,” “inscrutable,” “hidden,” etc. 
  • Any time someone’s mood or inner life is described using weather