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Reading <em>Moby-Dick</em> at 30,000 Feet

Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet


by Tony Hoagland

Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Why is there a contrast between being in a passenger plane and being on a whaling boat? Shouldn't flying up at 30,000 feet and at hundreds of miles per hour be exciting, too? Why isn't it exciting, according to our speaker?
  2. How do the lines that begin with "Imagine" (line 31 and on) fit into the poem? What are these ruminations on the span of a human life all about?
  3. Why Moby-Dick? Could our speaker be reading just about any book, or is there something about this one in particular that makes it necessary?
  4. Why does the poem jump around so much (from the present, to the past, to the abstract, to a scene in our speaker's book)? What does that add to the poem, and what does it tell us about our speaker?
  5. What's the relationship between the violence in Moby-Dick and our speaker's attraction to that way of life?

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