So disordered, self-condemning is his look, that had there been policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had been arrested ere he touched a deck. Moby-Dick (Chap. 9: The Sermon) by Herman Melville

Was Jonah black?

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He seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea Moby-Dick (Chap. 9: The Sermon) by Herman Melville

The bottom of the sea is a place of spiritual discovery. Later in the narrative, Ishmael comes to believe that one of his shipmates sees god at the bottom of the ocean after jumping overboard.

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What could be more full of meaning? Moby-Dick (Chap. 8: The Pulpit) by Herman Melville

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For the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow Moby-Dick (Chap. 8: The Pulpit) by Herman Melville

Moby Dick is concerned with questions that cannot be answered. At least not completely or simply. What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of existence? What is the structure of reality?

Religion is one of the ways we try answer such questions. It is how we speak about things that seem to defy language. The pulpit, where the preacher stands trying to make sense of the world for his congregation, is the like the prow of the ship: it’s the point that makes contact with whatever weather God is sending us.

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For example, prompted by the sight of the star inserted in the Victory's quarter-deck designating the spot where the Great Sailor fell, these martial utilitarians may suggest considerations implying that Nelson's ornate publication of his person in battle was not only unnecessary, but not military, nay, savored of foolhardiness and vanity. They may add, too, that at Trafalgar it was in effect nothing less than a challenge to death; and death came; and that but for his bravado the victorious Admiral might possibly have survived the battle; and so, instead of having his sagacious dying injunctions overruled by his immediate successor in command, he himself, when the contest was decided, might have brought his shattered fleet to anchor, a proceeding which might have averted the deplorable loss of life by shipwreck in the elemental tempest that followed the martial one. Billy Budd (Chap. 4) by Herman Melville

British Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, was killed on the deck of his ship, Victory, during the Battle of Trafalgar.

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How it is that to his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we prefix so significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him, if he but embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth; why the Life Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what eternal, unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies antique Adam who died sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city. All these things are not without their meanings

But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope
Moby-Dick (Chap. 7: The Chapel) by Herman Melville

Why do we mourn the dead and pay off their passing in life insurance if the afterlife is a better place? Ishmael doesn’t know, but he is certain that the hope of an afterlife gives religion power.

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The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all New England. It is a land of oil, true enough: but not like Canaan; a land, also, of corn and wine. The streets do not run with milk; nor in the spring-time do they pave them with fresh eggs. Yet, in spite of this, nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. Moby-Dick (Chap. 6: The Street) by Herman Melville

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No town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one—I mean a downright bumpkin dandy—a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow his two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands. Now when a country dandy like this takes it into his head to make a distinguished reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you should see the comical things he does upon reaching the seaport. In bespeaking his sea-outfit, he orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats; straps to his canvas trowsers. Ah, poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly will burst those straps in the first howling gale, when thou art driven, straps, buttons, and all, down the throat of the tempest Moby-Dick (Chap. 6: The Street) by Herman Melville

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Look there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat and swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and sheath-knife. Here comes another with a sou'-wester and a bombazine cloak Moby-Dick (Chap. 6: The Street) by Herman Melville

These men are trying to look the part of whaleman, but their incongruent fashion choices mark them as upcountry, backwoods types.

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Green Mountains Moby-Dick (Chap. 6: The Street) by Herman Melville

A mountain range in Vermont

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