The Description Confectionery: Moby Dick

blog-picsIntro: Do you smell that glorious aroma? That, my friend, is the smell of a magnificent description. The Description Confectionery is a simple place on my blog. Here you will find the mental equivalent of a chocolate cupcake in the form of a short description from a classic book. Many people knock descriptions as dull page filler, but a well executed description, whether it be of something beautiful or horrid, is a real treat for the brain and often paints a vivid picture of the themes in the story. So sit back and drink in this first little snippet I found for you; the description of The Whale from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick…


“For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out—a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with the same shrouded hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive appellation of the White Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by his vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea, leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden gleamings.”

~Moby Dick, Chapter 41

That last bit is truly marvelous, is it not? The contrast of the pure white of the whale and the deep blue of the sea. The foam sparkling with gold light. Simply exquisite. And given the inexorable and godlike representation the Whale is meant to have in the book, one must stand in awe at the ingenious insertion of the Milky Way in the description. Not only because of the vivid image it evokes, but because of how perfectly such an image is complemented by the similarities between the vast, ink blue ocean and the endless, indigo night sky. In the imagination of the reader, those few lines of text paint a picture of the Whale as though he were a divine being, moving through creation and leaving behind him glittering stars which last but a moment in eternity…



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