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  • From Loomings

The Daily Dick: Musings on the relevance of Moby-Dick Today

Preamble - It is time to look at the more pleasant aspects of my favorite novel and abandon the comparisons between Ahab and _rump. I found Ahab coming out ahead in every respect anyway.


"I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid."


This has always been one of my favorite lines from Moby-Dick. Melville does not create Ishmael (the everyman of the novel) as a traditional hero. Ishmael is a worker. He has not fallen from grace. He chooses to be a worker. He willingly scrubs things and takes crap from people in positions above him. The interesting idea in this passage is how the powerless are paid while the powerful pay. And although the power is said to be in the ability to pay, Ishmael hints that perhaps we can read the world in a different way. "Passengers," Melville writes, "get sea-sick—grow quarrelsome—don’t sleep of nights—do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing." The difference between being a passenger or a participant on a metaphorical journey is one the book continues to grow. What a lesson for today. Are we passengers or workers?

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