Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Ishmael condemns me

Look at this passage from chapter 65:
"... It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras."
You're looking at 1 of those people guilty of eating, and enjoying, pâté de foie gras.

PS: I've spotted a place in Oslo that serves whale meat. Never been there. 


  1. It's enough to make someone a vegetarian! (Note: I remember a thriving whaling industry and menu-items when I lived in Iceland; I thought it was appalling to eat another mammal, but my dimwitted short-sightedness did not put a stop to my murderous consumption of meats. Perhaps your posting now pushes me over the edge into the world of vegans.)

  2. Never tried pate de foie gras, but that's mostly because of lack of opportunity.

    All or most, anyway, living beings survive by consuming other living beings. It's the way evolution or the Creator, take your pick, set it up. Humans are omnivores because of Creation or Evolution.

    Those who wish to restrict their diets in any way are free to do so, and I won't try to convert them to my preferences. I wish for the same consideration from them.

  3. Ishmael's anthropological theories are highly questionable. I suspect the first man who killed an ox (to kill is an action, to murder is a judgment) was probably considered a savior by his people and most likely was awarded first choice from the carcass.

    I should have to read the entire chapter to be sure how serious Ishmael is being here. Is he being ironic?

  4. I just read Chapter 65, and he is being satiric here. One clue is the suggestion that God won't punish cannibals as severely as It will punish those who eat meat from animals. Why would it do this?

    There is no blanket condemnation of eating meat in the Bible, at least as best as I remember.

    1. Moby-Dick is full of comic digressions from Ishmael. But I think this goes along with the general portrayal of whales (whose oil is used even to anoint kings) as being victims of mankind, the white whale a demon Ahab swears to kill actually being a tortured and pursued animal. Not that Melville gives us a fully integrated and coherent metaphorical picture in the novel. But think of Flask, spearing that already-harpooned whale in an open sore, just to be cruel, just for sport.

  5. Ah yeah, Ishmael's being satiric. I should have quoted a longer passage, I guess.
    Pâté de foie gras is great, Fred. I eat it whenever in Paris. Can't find foie gras here- banned in Norway, I think.

    Hello. This is the 1st time I've seen you on my blog. I think I'll get back to your point later. Where's that scene, though? I might have missed it.

    1. Ah no, I didn't miss it. It's chapter 81.