Pierre; or, The Ambiguities #questusreviewus – Wei Chee Chen

I would not have finished the book if I didn’t have forced reading quizzes in my English course. Parts of the book had pages and pages of text without any breaks, which was followed by another large block of text about insignificant details of the novel like Pierre in the forest while thinking about a rock. Even while forced to read the novel, I still had to skim about a fourth of the novel to get the meaning of a section—I still didn’t understand the meaning even after skimming multiple times. I wouldn’t have finished reading the required pages in time without skimming, and would’ve been a miserable waste of time reading to understand every part of the novel.

The only interesting part of Pierre is the plot. I was truly interested in the readings that had quotes when the characters of the novel were interacting with one another, and mainly because it was weird. I only continued reading because a mom was calling her own son her “brother,” or Pierre’s weird impromptu decisions with Isabelle. The characters definitely do not follow the norm, especially in today’s society. I was so appalled at the plot that I told everyone around me what was going on in my reading. The plot pushed me past those long pages of text that Melville seems to think is “philosophical.” Melville may have tried too hard to make a better novel than Moby Dick after receiving negative reviews, but it only made parts of the book difficult to read continuously.

After watching The Eagleman Stag, a BAFTA winning short film that is also ambiguous, I realize that this review is only based on reading the book one time. The Eagleman Stag is about meditations on time that can easily be missed by watching it only one time. The first time I watched the short film, I had no idea what was going on and why Peter, the main character of the film, would do all the crazy choices he does. The second time watching it, I realize there is a deeper meaning that involved cyclical natures in life such as being a baby to becoming an old person that ends up acting like a child again. Maybe, just maybe, rereading the book will help people understand some of the ambiguities that Melville is trying to achieve, but I will not be one of those people rereading it unless forced to.