Chapter 9. The Sermon.
by Buxton Brown
With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne;
A choice line from Father Mapple’s glorious maritime sermon. It’s actually a line from some hymn, which I will assume very real. I like the imagery of these Christians. Dolphins are known affable and intelligent creatures, so it comes as no surprise that, if the lord were to deliver one from evil, (s)he would arrive upon the back of such a delightful creature, glowing with divine awesomeness.
Hermano Melville, through our portly friend Father Mapple, seems to be hinting at some awesome sinning that should unfold in later chapters. I can’t wait. Father Mapple tells us the story of Jonah and the whale, how Jonah was a vile sinner and blah blah blah he tried to run away from the lord and then got et up by the whale and and it’s dark and moist and terrible and smelly so Jonah was all like, ‘I deserve this lord, for I am a sinner,’ and the lord is like ‘okay, you are delivered from evil.’ In accepting one’s punishment as just, one is delivered from evil. I think.
It’s hard to say where Hermano Melville stands on sinning, but he certainly seems to know how it works.
“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”
This chapter has got me thinking about our dear narrator Ishmael. Is he fleeing some terrible sin, some atrocity committed in the city of New Yawk? Can Ishmael be holding back on some very essential detail that drives him to a life at sea? I’m no scholar (and grateful that no scholars are present to demean my plebeian interpretation of this rock-star-pile-o-pages) but Hermano Melville seems to be building something rather sinister here.
“Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known.” Yes dude. So dark.
One thing is becoming clearer, and that is that while very little seems to be happening in terms of action (a friend recently told me that almost nothing happens throughout the entire novel) every element, which becomes a chapter, is a platform for commentary on some universal theme. Heady.
“While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking, slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who when describing Jonah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.”
That’s how I feel about you Hermano Melville.
“Delight is to him, whom all the waves of the billows of the seas of boisterous mob can never shake from the sure Keel of Ages.”
This book is BAD ASS. So BAD ASS that the next chapter is titled “A Bosom Friend.” Just you wait. NeXXXt!