The Cocktail: Moby Dick Cocktail
This week’s cocktail is pretty specific to our literary selection. Like all sea faring scoundrels, Captain Ahab was rumored to throw back some rum every once in a while. What else are you gonna do on a smelly ship filled with smelly men?
2 ½ oz dark rum
½ oz Galliano
1 oz triple sec
3 oz lemon juice
2 oz sprite
Wedge of lemon for garnish
Directions: Combine the first four ingredients in a mixer with ice and give it a good ol shake. Pour your liquid into an ice-filled highball glass, and top it with the sprite. Garnish with a lemon and enjoy!
The Book: Moby Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville
“Call me Ismael!” don’t do that. My name is Jenna…call me Jenna. Though you probably knew that line. It’s one of the most famous when it comes to books. It’s line 1, page 1 of what has been described as the great American novel…although other books also get that label too. I guess it’s all based on opinion. My opinion? It depends on what part of America we’re focusing on. In the spirit of getting serious for a moment; one of my favorite parts of literature is tapping into the identity of the author, their character, and their place of origin. The American novel speaks to so many identities, it’s impossible to choose just one single novel that captures the full identity of our nation. In fact, as time goes on, our nation’s identity changes and that plays through in our literature. So is Moby Dick THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL? In some ways yes. So let’s make like the Pequod and jump off the deep end.
There are a few basics to Moby Dick. The book is as deep as the ocean itself and we will only run our hands over its salty surface. In a college lit class, there are a multitude of issues this book brings to light. The American economy, racism, homosexuality, animal rights, psychology, religion, women (or the lack there of), etc. The list goes on. You can read this book 100 times and still find something new each time. It’s quite miraculous. We’re going to focus on the plot and see what happens.
Ishmael starts his journey on the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts in the mid-1800s. Once a lowly merchant sailor, little Ishmael had big dreams of joining a whaling crew. Upon his arrival in Nantucket he checks into an inn and because there is almost no room at inn, Ishmael must share a bed with a harpooner. Harpooners were huge and often not American. This particular harpooner’s name was Queequeg. So Queequeg and Ishmael are forced to become fast friends. In fact, they wake up cuddling one another. They decide that they will choose a ship together so off they go to the docks! And although there are so many ships to choose from, they choose the notorious Pequod. It’s important to note that rumors floated around Nantucket like they float around the halls of high schools. What was so bad about the Pequod? Its captain. Captain Ahab was probably at one time a nice man. There are a lot of theories and speculations about his past. But the Ahab that we come to know has gone mad with obsession. Over a girl? Nay, a whale; the whale. Moby Dick, an albino sperm whale that bit off the leg of the wrong captain. The best part of the book, Ahab’s peg leg is made of whale bone. So every time he takes a step, he’s reminded of the beast who took his leg. I think that’s hilarious. Moving on!
So the two friends choose the Pequod and they meet the crew one of them being Starbuck as in Starbucks coffee. That’s right folks the coffee every white girl can’t operate without is named after the first mate of the Pequod. You cannot escape literature people! They all set sail for the dark open waters. Once they’re all trapped on the ship with a madman, Ahab makes them promise to join him on his quest to kill Moby Dick.
Let’s just be clear here. Whalers had a sort of code. They would hunt whales and use the remains for their resources. To just go murder a whale for sport was not acceptable. So put yourself in the sloshy shoes of a sailor upon Ahab’s ship. You can no longer see the land and all of a sudden, your captain tells you that you’re on a murderous pursuit for a whale. You’d be scared shitless. So the crew drunkenly agrees to join Ahab’s cause. Of course our narrator the geeky and thoughtful Ishmael tells only the reader of his concerns.
A lot happens between this point and the end of the book. The life of a whaler was horribly exciting. They catch some whales and Ishmael writes a detailed analysis of the process. They run into other ships from different areas of the world and Ismael writes down the details of the encounters. They find a small boy out at sea and take him in. Again, Ishmael records everything. In fact, it’s argued that Ishmael was just as obsessed as Ahab. Only, Ishmael’s obsession was with capturing the essence of the beast. In the middle of the book there’s a chapter called “The Whiteness of The Whale.” Ishmael ponders on the color and what its symbolic significance. It’s a great chapter because while you read it, you can think about literally anything else. Just kidding. It’s a really important chapter and if my professor asks, I read it. There’s another chapter all about the size of Moby Dick and how it’s impossible to measure a whale or accurately paint a whale. Again, riveting things.
About three fourth of the way into their journey, Queequeg gets sick and has the ship’s carpenter make him a casket. But he gets better just in time to die. The chase for Moby Dick took a total of three days. But just before the big chase, the Pequod sales through a calm sea at sunset and around them are a family of whales and their young. They’re peaceful and kind and it’s a beautifully emotional sight. Does it phase Ahab? Only for like three seconds.
The chase is on! Whaling is a strange practice. They would take these little life boats out to where the whale was and surround the whale. And from there the harpooners would throw their spears at the whale in hopes of capturing it. Kind of a crazy strategy when some of these whales were larger than the ships. So finally, on the third day they go out to where Moby Dick is and they cast their harpoons at him. But guess what. Whales have memory! Moby Dick knew it Ahab so he wages war on the Pequod. In an expected turn of events Ahab gets caught in the harpoon rope and becomes coiled around Moby Dick with the rest of the rope. He dies. Everyone else dies and the ship is destroyed. The only one left to tell this horrid tale is Ishmael and he is left floating on top of Queequeg’s empty casket.
So what’s the lesson here? For one, don’t go Whaling. It’s illegal now. Second, if you’re curiously annoying and over analytical, you’ll survive! Have a great week everyone! Thanks for reading!