Call me Ignoramus.
I love reading. I love animals. But… I… haven’t… read… Moby Dick. (A moment of silence.)
[I do know its opening line though, as you can see – that’s an old chestnut in school and college quizzes.]
Coming back, so, what I miss in books, I watch in the screen version – to figure out in 2-3 hours what the book/story is about. That way, if I like it, I try and ensure I go back and read the book.
So, while ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ didn’t work for me as a movie – found it yet another movie about American chauvinism (“Our whale, and oil, are bigger than yours”) – I could answer the question my friend posed me: “Why doesn’t he (first mate, Owen Chase) kill him (Moby Dick)?”
As an animal lover and one who believes, unlike what many people say, animals aren’t “voiceless” (they do speak, but in a language we don’t understand; and there’s also that other thing called non-verbal language), the answer to my friend’s question is simple, and based on what Moby had been doing all along.
The “whale farmers” have been plundering these giants of the sea for their gain (“to light their lamps”), and Moby, being the big bull he is (his body carries a sea of scars), fights back. “Get off the seas, stop killing my brood.” And when it becomes a matter of vendetta (One Man vs One Whale), Moby rises up and looks eye to eye with the first mate for 30 screen-seconds. “How is my family here, which you’re killing without any remorse, any different from the one you have back home, all those leagues away? What’s it going to take to stop? Seriously?” The first mate gets it. The tri-harpoon remains static in his hand. Moby goes back into the depths and the distance.
At the end, when Herman Melville, the author of the book, has got the narration he wanted from the last survivor, the cabin boy on the ship, Thomas Nickerson, the latter tells him in parting, “Someone’s struck oil in the desert. Oil from the earth… Who would have thought?”
And then, man stopped plundering the whales for oil, and started plundering the earth. No, wait, he continues going after the whales, now for many more reasons. We need another Moby Dick for this century.