Commonplace "Book" Gracie Whitaker

January 17th

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Passages: from "The Poet"
  • "The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth" (cite). Here Emerson communicates not only why the poet is to be respected but also for which reason.
  • "The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression" (cite). This made me think about how much of the time of one's life is spent thinking about himself and the rest pondering other things and what is important to him. I tend to think about other things much more than I try to figure out myself.
  • "Every man should be so much an artist, that he could report in conversation what had befallen him" (cite). This quote uses the word artist in an interesting way (as most of the essay does actually), essentially claiming it to be a talent, an art, to be able to understand your surroundings and situations in a full way and tell of them.
  • "Life will no more be a noise; now I shall see men and women, and know the signs by which they may be discerned from fools and satans. This day shall be better than my birth-day: then I became an animal: now I am invited into the science of the real" (cite). I appreciate the wording in this. I think calling life "noise" until you understand it is profound, and implying that the difference between noise and whatever it becomes (perhaps music) is being able to discern evil from ignorance is a necessary lesson for everyone to learn. It's a freeing sentiment, which is reflected in Emerson saying he was born an animal but was released into the real when he came to this realization.
  • "No wonder, then, if these waters be so deep, that we hover over them with a religious regard. The beauty of the fable proves the importance of the sense; to the poet, and to all others; or, if you please, every man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of nature: for all men have the thoughts whereof the universe is the celebration" (cite). This seems to foreshadow what we'll read in Moby-Dick. It also simplifies the term poet some more, saying anyone who celebrates beauty is a poet, and if there is beauty in nature and everyone appreciates nature, then everyone can be a poet.
Passages from "Nature"
  • "In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair." This could perhaps be suggesting that the evils in life stem mainly from other humans, that we are imperfect and therefore have some evils in us. Nature has no natural evil?
January 17th continued

Emily Dickinson

Passages: from various poems
  • "How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog" (cite). This predicted modern celebrities really, and told of the celebrities of her time as well. Made me think of Jennifer Anniston and her ugly divorce.
(cite) This thought was interesting to me, that something had to die for "Sense" to break through.

"Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me –" (cite). Using the word "kindly" is unexpected in a personification of death but it makes sense, death can be a release from sickness or hardship sometimes. A helpful hand.

(cite) I like this comparison, and it rings true. It really capture the feeling you have before something big is about to happen, in the moments where all you can do is wait.
January 19th

"How It Feels to Be Colored Me" by Zora Neale Hurston

  • "No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife" (cite). I like the care-freeness of this quote. Why let things bother you when there are good things you can take advantage of too?
  • "Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, overswept by a creamy sea. I am surged upon and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself." (cite) Her strength and self confidence are palpable in this, to call herself a rock is inspiring.

/Song of Myself/ by Walt Whitman

This reminds me of "The Poet" in that he is speaking of the need to celebrate the earth, and the importance of expressing its beauty in poems.
This reminds me of something that might be in the bible, that you cannot have light without darkness. To have half of a whole is to not know the whole, so what do you really know? You don't have the whole story.
This is an exhalation of self confidence, and it denounces those without it. Basically he is saying that other people hide themselves but he embraces himself.
This part of the poem to me hints at the various way in which people thing; one person can see something and think of it in one way and another person could see it and have a totally different perception of it. I think talking about it in this was was more interesting than just stating that fact.
January 24th


by Herman Melville

Chapters 1 through 6
  • "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship," (18). This suggests that the sea is a sort of cure for this dreadfulness that he is feeling but in a way it also sort of equates going to sea with death.
  • "Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it," (19). Here Ishmael touches upon the feeling people, almost everyone I believe, get around water. It is something that I had never thoughtfully considered myself but I can't think of any arguments against it and it seems as something I would agree with myself.
  • "And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid," (21). I definitely agree with this. It changes not only the reason why you are doing something but it changes your overall attitude as well. They become two totally separate experiences.
  • "Coffin?- Spouter?- Rather ominous in that particular connexion, thought I," (24). This pattern of hinting at death seems to becoming frequent, probably foreshadowing what is to come.
  • "Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife," (36). This quote surprised me after experiencing Ishmael's apprehension about sharing a bed with a cannibalistic stranger. In this one sentence all fears about the character of Queequeg are calmed, as surely nothing evil could also be affectionate.
January 26th

"The Yellow Wall-paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  • "Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted? John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage." In this quote, the main character is showing some self respect about her opinions, yet there is still doubt coming from her husband. She can tell there is something off about the house, and whether she turns out to be right or whether she drives herself into the madness herself, she did see it coming.
  • "I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition." Here she doubts her own feelings. She is led to believe that she is not allowed to feel how she feels, and finally accepts that she is wrong for having those feelings.
  • "She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!" These words of praise seem almost like a jab, like the main character is insulting this girl for fitting so perfectly in to the patriarchal ideal of what a woman should be. The main character seems defensive, saying that the housekeeper thinks the main character herself is causing her sickness by writing.

"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • "Then God bless you!" said Faith, with the pink ribbons, "and may you find all well, when you come back." I find it interesting, and obvious, that Hawthorne used the name "Faith" as Young Goodman Brown's wife. It represents his faith to her and his faith to God, and this message is not easily lost on anyone.
  • "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? Be it so, if you will. But, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown." Essentially, whether it really happened or not didn't matter, his belief that it had happened was all that mattered.


by Herman Melville

Chapters 7 through 18
  • "Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance," (45) This is an interesting concept, it kind of seems to displace the soul from the body into the shadow, the part that cannot be captured into a part that itself cannot be captured. In doing that, Ishmael implies that what happens to the body is not of that much importance.
  • "When he entered I observed that he carried no umbrella, and certainly had not come in his carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran down with the melting sleet, and his great pilot cloth jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor with the weight of the water it had absorbed," (46). This description of Father Mapple is parallel to someone who had just come from being out at sea, one would imagine. The phrase "drag him to the floor with the weight of the water it had absorbed" give the idea of the sea being something that takes a great toll on a sailor (or a captain, in Father Mapple's case).
  • "You cannot hide the soul," (55). This is one of Ishmael's thoughts while observing Queequeg. I found it to be open-hearted and it established trust in his stories to be unbiased.
  • "He seemed to take to me quite naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be," (56). This, confirming the openheartedness of Ishmael and certainly Queequeg, also seems to foreshadow the need for Queequeg to die for Ishmael in the future.
  • "I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these subjects," (79). This may be one of the reasons Melville's book was not received so well when it was published. He is expressing some pretty progressive thoughts.

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards

  • "But it is visibly clear that God is under no obligation to keep such a person from eternal destruction, not even for one moment." This quote hit home in particular (throughout this wholly un-uplifting piece), nothing is guaranteed in this life or even after this life.
February 2nd and 7th

The narrative of the life of frederick douglass

by Frederick Douglass

  • "If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,—and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because 'there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.'" This passage is very powerful to me because I feel it addresses a full audience- both people who are hurting and people who have hurt. This very specific message becomes understandable to anyone who reads this passage.
  • "To describe the wealth of Colonel Lloyd would be almost equal to describing the riches of Job." Job is quite applicable to the stories in American Literature, he makes his appearance in Moby Dick as well.
  • "They seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves. It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!" This is a trait that can be found in nearly all people I believe, anything "by association" can be felt as though it is ingrained also within the person who is associated.
  • "They were three of the happiest days I ever enjoyed. I spent the most part of all these three days in the creek, washing off the plantation scurf, and preparing myself for my departure." I don't think Douglass was attempting to be persuasive in this very instance but he was indeed persuasive in conveying that the happiest days of his life were spent washing off in a creek. That fact alone should have alerted any human with a heart that life as a slave was a hellish existence.
  • "From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise." Personally, this made me think about how unnatural it is for a human to be born into a life in which he has absolutely no control. If we are born in the image of God, then we are born having free will. If a man is born without free will, he is stripped of what makes him human.
  • "In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both." This reminds me of being forced to do something you absolutely do not want to do, but then later seeing the benefit. Granted, I have never been in a situation as serious as Douglass was, but this message is something that everyone can learn from. Being able to see both sides of an argument and situation is advantageous.
  • "In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so." Here again Douglass, whether inadvertently or not, persuasively makes a case as slavery as unnatural. A human unused to slavery needed to learn to treat another human as lesser.
  • "I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed." The raw emotion in this is compelling, and reflects what I'm sure most people would have felt in his situation.
  • "Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination." Yet again Douglass appeals to the pathos, it made me sad to read this. He so easily relates to the humanistic side of the reader to make his rightful case that this treatment is wrong.
  • "My city life, he said, had had a very pernicious effect upon me. It had almost ruined me for every good purpose, and fitted me for every thing which was bad." I personally find this very interesting because to me, it is in a city in which the most can be learned. In a city, there are more people and therefore a wider range of viewpoints from which many life lessons can be taught. Telling someone that they are ruined from the city seems to be similar to telling them that they can no longer be fooled by your lies.
February 9th


by Herman Melville

Chapters 19 through 27
  • "Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened that the ship's preparations were hurrying to a close," (89). This sentence incites anxiety about the well-being of the ship, at least for me. Something that is going to be on it's own for years on end trying to capture a whale should not be rushed in its preparations.
  • "At last, stepping on the Pequod, we found everything in profound quiet, not a soul moving. the cabin entrance was locked within; the hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging. Going forward to the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle open. Seeing a light, we went down, and found only an old rigger there, wrapped in a tattered pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole length upon two chests, his face downwards and inclosed in his folded arms. The profoundest slumber slept upon him," (91). What I found interesting about this quote is the suggestion it seems to make towards Ishmael's fate that is to come. Everything was still intact, and the rigger was sleeping, yet somehow there seemed to be an unspoken disturbance.
  • "Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the lone Atlantic," (96). The writing here is so rich and the rhetoric is so deliberate that it is entirely what a send off of a boat with a suspenseful fate should be. It leaves nothing to be desired.
  • "I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his life, point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world, taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling," (98). People are so quick to claim themselves as important and to denounce others as the opposite, but as we've seen with Ishmael's various examples of the benefits of whaling to society, whaling does the general public good.
  • "Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through life. A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter of words," (102). With this description of Starbuck there is yet again there is more foreshadowing, his calmness will probably prove useful.

"Canto 1" by Ezra Pound

  • "And then went down to the ship/ Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly seas," I like the phrase "godly seas", it connects really well to Moby-Dick for obvious reasons.
February 14th

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman

I like this idea he's brought up that people years apart will enjoy the same views of the same ocean. People are inclined to think only of the first time they themselves experienced something, but here Whitman thinks of everyone experiencing it.
This quote reiterates what Whitman was suggesting above, but here there is a sort of lecturing quality about it, like he is talking to a child.
The amount of detail he goes into with his descriptions is almost ironic; he is talking about how everyone will experience the same thing but here he is describing it so vividly that it almost becomes as if you had already been there too.
He only briefly ponders the notion of time and what the time difference means, but quickly brushes it off as unimportant.
The phrase "eternal float of solution" perhaps has a double meaning, solution being a mixture of water and salt but also solution being an answer to a problem or a question. The sea is unchanging, a constant, so much so that there are answers bound to be within it.
February 21st


by Herman Melville

Chapters 28 through 36
  • "So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric white left upon which he partly stood," (109). I think it's interesting that Ishmael attributed a good deal of the grimness to something that he hadn't fully registered yet. It reminds me of when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up but you can quite yet figure out why you're scared.
  • "As the sky grew less gloomy; indeed, began to grow a little genial, he became still less and less a recluse; as if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the dead wintry bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded," (109). This suggests the weather at sea, the conditions at sea, have a great effect on Captain Ahab. Could this suggest that he is easily swayed by things he can't control?
  • "'How now,' he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, 'this smoking no longer soothes,'" (113). It's interesting to me that before any events at all really had occurred on the boat for which he would need to be soothed, Ahab is already tense and unraveled.
  • "BOOK II. (Octavo), Chapter V. (Thrasher).-- This gentleman is famous for his tail, which he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts the Folio whale's back, and as he swims, he works his passage by flogging him; as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar process," (123). Melville's humor really comes through in this "Cetology" chapter, and I can't help but wonder which schoolmaster he is undoubtedly taking a jab at here.
  • "That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate," (140). This calls upon an old saying that people hate what they do not understand. It is easy be hateful of something if you can justify it in your head without truly knowing it.
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