Sometimes in literature we come across stories that mirror the goings on of our own lives. This of course hearkens back to the age old Art Imitating Life/Life Imitating Art debate, but that makes it no less uncanny that someone else’s writing – someone else’s fiction – seems to have been adapted right out of your own personal reality. This, to me, is even more uncanny when the work of fiction was first published in 1851.
I have been reading Moby-Dick by Herman Melville over the past couple of months, and last weekend I read through the chapter titled “The Town-Ho’s Story.” (yeah, I snickered at the name too) This chapter is about a fight that broke out on another whaling ship called The Town-Ho. Now despite the fact that this is about 19th century whalers, I found this chapter to hold some striking parallels to events happening in my own life right now.
In the story, a fight breaks out between a likable sailor named Steelkilt and jerk of an officer named Radney who is on a power trip. Radney and Steelkilt dislike each other. One day, after Steelkilt had just completed pumping water out of their sinking ship, Radney ordered him to do some very menial task that any other person aboard the ship could have done. Since Steelkilt was exhausted and felt as though he had pulled more than his share of the weight, he refused to follow Radney’s order and said that someone else could do it. But Radney, the jerk that he was, didn’t like being disobeyed so he kept harping on Steelkilt do this task. Steelkilt tried to be the bigger man and he kept quietly refusing and even walked away from the officer, but Radney just wouldn’t let it go and kept yelling at him and waving a hammer in his face.
Finally, Steelkilt had all he could stand and punched Radney so hard that his jaw “was stove in his head; he fell on the hatch spouting blood like a whale.”
As I said, I’m not on an 1800’s whaling vessel and I haven’t punched anyone (yet), but I was so completely shocked by the similarities between “The Town-Ho’s Story” and my personal life, that I just had to share this with you. I won’t go into detail about what has been happening with me as it is in my own best interest not to put that out where everyone can read it; but I can tell you that it is very similar to what I just described to you. Just take it in broad strokes.
I’m going to try and take a lesson from literature here and not leave anyone spouting blood like a whale, as this chapter ends with Steelkilt being flogged and then deserting ship, and Radney being eaten by Moby-Dick. Not a good outcome for either one really. But if I do stave in someone’s lower jaw, you can bet that I will describe every gory detail right here from inside whatever maximum security level prison I am sentenced to.
Thanks for reading! =)