American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Moby Dick" (1956)


Father Maple's Sermon on Jonah and the Whale


And God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.1

Shipmates, the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command, and it was, shipmates, for all the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God we must disobey ourselves.

But Jonah still further flouts at God by seeking to flee from Him. Jonah thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign. He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. And as he comes aboard the sailors mark him.

A ship puts out -- but soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The bosun2 calls, "All Hands to lighten." Boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard.  The wind is shrieking. The men are yelling.

"I fear the Lord!," cries Jonah, "the God of heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!"

Again the sailors mark him. And wretched Jonah cries out to them to cast him overboard, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them.

Now behold Jonah, taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him. And the great whale shoots to all his ivory teeth, like so many white bolts upon his prison.

And Jonah cries unto the Lord out of the fish's belly.

But observe his prayer, shipmates. He doesn't weep and wail. He feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of hell, grounded upon the ocean's utmost bones, God heard him when he cried. And God spake unto the whale. And from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the whale breached into the sun and vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean.

Jonah did the Almighty's bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth in the face of falsehood!

Now shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled waters when God has brewed them into a gale. Yea, woe to him who, as the pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway. But delight is to him who, against the proud gods and commodores of this Earth, stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though he pluck it out from under the robes of senators and judges!

And eternal delight shall be his, who, coming to lay him down, can say:

O Father,
mortal or immortal, here I die.
I have striven to be thine,
more than to be this world's, or mine own.
Yet, this is nothing.
I leave eternity to Thee.
For what is man, that he should live out
the lifetime of his God?

1 Jonah 1:17

2 Deck boss

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American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.