Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?
Actually I sympathize mostly with Captain Ahab. From Ishmael narration, we can see that Ahab is an experienced and talented captain. I think, if I was a passenger, I would feel safe when I know a captain with Ahab’s qualities is leading the ship. It’s so pity that he cannot let go of his anger; he cannot make peace with the bitter past. When the whaling voyage is approaching the end, Ahab feels the divine atmosphere which encourages him to share his noble thoughts to Starbuck. He knows that he can’t receive salvation if he keeps fighting the more powerful power than his. Nevertheless, he keeps on his plan, and it leads him to doom.
What does the setting of the book tell you about the way human beings are shaped?
I can only think of one thing: how men can often be so stubborn (and foolish). When he knows very well that there is only one way to achieve salvation, he choose the other—darker—way that will certainly lead him to death. That’s human beings’ weakness: arrogance; they think they can fight (and win from) God, their Creator.
What exactly is the writer telling you?
Men often blame God for their misfortune, and they foolishly want to contest God for it. It is as foolishly as taking revenge to a whale which has snatched your leg. And why did it do so? Because you have hunted it first. If you let the whale in peace, it would not have hurt you. And why must you hunt the whale? Isn’t it because of your own greediness? So when we have misfortunes, we should reflect our own past. Perhaps we have done wrong or wicked things to God and/or to others? Perhaps we did not obey Him? Perhaps the misfortune is intended to lead us to repentance? By fighting God, not only it would have been vain, but you put yourself farther from Him and your own salvation.
In what sense is the book true?
In man’s stubbornness and foolishness to pick the wrong way only to justify his misfortunes. How often it is, when we get through bitterness or hardness of life, that we accuse God for not loving us; for not being just. Instead of asking His forgiveness and let Him help us, we nourish our wound and won’t let it go before we get even with someone/something, or…..sometimes, with God! It is so true, and I have read in Ruth’s post that Melville, in a way, has been through the same path himself, that inspired him to write this wonderful book.