Read Moby-Dick – Why? and How? (Includes Reading Schedule)

Why You Should Read Moby Dick – Ligonier Ministries

Its greatness may be seen not in its sometimes cumbersome literary structure or its excursions into technicalia about the nature and function of whales (cetology). No, its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism. This symbolism is sprinkled abundantly throughout the novel, particularly in the identities of certain individuals who are assigned biblical names. Among the characters are Ahab, Ishmael, and Elijah, and the names Jeroboam and Rachel(“who was seeking her lost children”) are given to two of the ships in the story. Continue reading at Ligonier.

Excellent concise summary of the best reasons to read this classic! When our co-op studied American lit two years ago, we did read it because two respected reading friends – one of whom was my pastor – said we must. And also, Anthony Esolen. I will admit that it was a reluctant choice on my part. Was I ever wrong. I absolutely loved it and enjoyed every page (even the cetology!), and it was a big hit with our high schoolers.

I thought I’d share our five week schedule for reading Moby-Dick. In addition to the Reading Journal assignments below, we have regularly weekly assignments for one or two commonplace entries, and a “Making Connections” Reading Journal entry. See Literature Study ~ Reflection, Connections, and Commonplace for more on these.

Five-week schedule for Moby-Dick:

Assignment 1

Begin reading Moby-Dick by Herman Melville this week. Read Etymology, Extracts, and Chapters 1-4. Enjoy the beauty of Melville’s descriptive genius!

Assignment 2

Read Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, Chapters 5-42. In your Reading Journal:

  • Note what you learn about the character of Ahab.
  • Note what you learn about the attributes of Moby-Dick.
  • Read Chapter 41-42 at least twice. Write down the attributes of the whale.

Assignment 3

Read Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, Chapters 42-81. In your Reading Journal:

  • Make additional notes on the character of Ahab
  • Make additional notes about the attributes of Moby-Dick
  • Make notes on the character of Starbuck
  • Copy the quotation from Ahab in Chapter 36 which begins: “Aye, aye, I’ll chase him round Good Hope . . . ”

Assignment 4

Read Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, Chapters 82-130. In your Reading Journal:

  • Make additional notes on the character of Ahab
  • Make additional notes about the attributes of Moby-Dick
  • Make additional notes on the character of Starbuck

Assignment 5

Finish Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, Chapters 130-135 and the Epilogue. Do this early in the week, and leave much time for the final review:

  • Review, meditate, and journal on Moby-Dick, using Pastor Biggs’ handout (Note: Pastor Biggs particularly credits Dr. Sproul with guiding his interpretation and understanding of the book.) Read the entire handout, then reread the sections which he particularly mentions so that you are ready to discuss in class!
  • Make notes in your Reading Journal about all the things he asks you to meditate upon, compare, contrast, etc. Some of these things you have already been considering or making note of in your Reading Journal, but pull it all together in new journal entry for this week.

Lecture on Moby-Dick by Pastor Biggs

If you are interested in hearing Pastor Biggs’ lecture at Providence Prep on Moby-Dick, contact me. Admitting my lack of techno-expertise – can’t figure out how to upload and link it here. WordPress says the file is too big. Any help with that would also be appreciated!

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