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Places to Go: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Written by Rachael Norris, 15th May 2020

Places to Go is a special feature that The Reader is bringing to you in the hope that it may provide some inspiration on how we can spend our time at home during lockdown. We will be posting extracts from stories which highlight special moments of travel and adventure for you to enjoy. This week Chris Lynn shares a reading of, and his thoughts on, Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

What better way to evoke the spirit of adventure in our ‘Places to go’ feature than through an extract from Moby Dick! Let’s indulge our imaginations and feel the vast space of the open ocean, especially as the usually limits of our worlds have had to shrink of late. There is something undeniable about the idea of casting out to sea and here we join the crew of the Pequod, a whaling vessel, in pursuit of a white whale, mythological in its reputation, Moby Dick.

The Natural world is a balm for so us in times of stress. There is comfort in gazing at the stars, our earthbound problems somehow shrink in a cosmic context. Similarly, the awesome power of the sea can give us a new perspective. And right off the bat, there’s a beautiful depiction of a feeding whale which immerses us in the vivid detail of the scene. And yet before long, we find ourselves somewhere much deeper…

There’s an unflinching look at the unfathomable depths of the sea in this piece where we confront the awesome beauty and ruthlessness of the natural world, interspersed with fantastic interrogations of the soul, including our relationship with animals and nature.

I’m a natural land dweller (I grew up in Yorkshire valleys, a stone’s throw away from desolate moorland) so the sea still holds something foreboding for me. I remember snorkelling once and the sea bed gave way to a huge deep chasm. The vast unknown of the sea has an unsettling and terrifying allure.

Keep with it - I assure you that out of the bleak and dark passages we hit land eventually. The last paragraph leaves us with the thought of our own personal ‘Tahiti’ - somewhere that we can find rest, respite and joy. I’m noticing how days are smearing into each other during lockdown. We may find that we have a lot in common with our protagonist Ishmael, who too makes the best of an enforced solitude at the mercy of the waves.

Land ahoy!

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