Moby Dick ~ And The Seductive Siren

By Morgan O’Neill

Call me Ishmael, or….

Call me Insane. Recently, I cannot recall how long ago, being the pauper I am, I was perusing old books at an ancient book store.  Call it the pre-Kindle, pre-e-book era.  I thought I would go on a trip, but having no income to outlay for such a venture I imagined I might escape in a story.  Then I saw, on the shelf, Moby Dick, and I decided to go to sea.  It was not without some trepidation.

The forced march through the classics in High School did little to endear me to this blubbering tale (no pun intended).  It is long and often feels as if Melville, himself, is that stiff backed and stern teacher with ruler in hand, one imagines pacing the hand-hewn wooden planks of the isolated one room school house, long ago, on the American frontier.  Why would a teenager like anything forced upon him by such a taskmaster?  Alas, I have grown up (just a little), so I decided to read one of the most intimidating novels ever written.

One hundred and thirty five chapters, plus an epilogue!  Chapters dedicated to Cetology that would leave Jonah speechless. A world devoid of women save two who appear briefly without consequence and two who are memorialized in memories but little else.  There is a homoeroticism that pervades the novel, a camaraderie that unites men as only a small ship at sea under harsh conditions in the whaling world of the nineteenth century can.  So, you ask, what does this have to do with lingerie?  Because one thing all of these men have in common is the immutable sea.

The sea!  It mesmerizes all.  Vengeful Ahab is subdued by it.  Ismael ruminates over its godlike qualities.  The crew is held in her merciless grip on one day, seduced by it translucent, ephemeral nature the next.  The sea is not sexless, at least, not to me.  It is the most feminine of all things.  Pulsing with life.  Coursing beneath with the threat and promise of what I can not see. Calm one moment.  Raving the next.  Soft and seductive.  Terrifying and deadly.  Unknown and all-knowing at the same time.  Compelling always.  Its siren’s song always calling.  So, when a man sees a woman, for example, adorned in silk or chiffon, charmeuse and Chantilly lace and little else, like the ocean it evokes sensations akin to how I feel gazing in reverie over the open sea. It buoys you up, frightens at its prospects and can turn your stomach inside out.  The sea’s siren calls never ceases to seduce.  Neither does lingerie.

It is hard to equate a great American novel like Moby Dick with the seductive nature of lingerie.  But, when I focus on the water that engulfs the story like the lingerie that envelops a woman, it seems less a leap of faith than one might think.

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