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Symbolism in Herman Melville's Moby Dick

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Introduction

ANG 9308 Written by: Dora Mosonyi Melville and the Anatomy of Empire 4th year English major V�o Gabriella Symbolism in Herman Melville's Moby Dick The aim of my essay is to present the symbols in the work, paying special attention to one of the symbols "counterpane", which makes the author's message more understandable. "Herman Melville began working on his epic novel Moby Dick in 1850, intending to write a report about the whaling voyages he undertook in the 1830s and early 1840s. He became friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne and was greatly influenced by him. He also read Shakespeare and Milton's Paradise Lost. These influences led to the novel Melville finally completed and published in 1851". (www.sparknotes.com/lit/mobydick) In the novel Melville uses a vast amount of symbols and allegories in search for a true explanation of man's place in the universe, his relationship and his fate with God. The focus of cruel fate and evil symbols is represented by Ahab, captain of the Pequod. Ishmael, the narrator of the story, is not the centre of Moby-Dick after Captain Ahab is introduced onto the deck of the ship and into action. The focus of the novel shifts from the freshman whaler to experienced Ahab, an "ungodly, god-like man" (Melville 82). Having been a whaler for many years, he is a well respected captain, yet his previous voyage has left him without a limb, and in its place is a peg leg carved from whale ivory. ...read more.

Middle

The multiculturalism of all the different ships proved that we as humans, are all connected by the idea that sometimes we will have to rely on people we would never expect, while those we thought could survive anything are the first to be lost. The crew of the Pequod is by far the most obvious counterpane in Moby Dick. Each crew member was different in his own way and brought some different culture and background to the ship. The three non - white harpooners, the three mates, who were white, but each held their own different beliefs about life, and the other members of the crew, such as Fedallah, Pip, Ahab, and Ishamael, all made up one big patchwork quilt of cultures. It is an important aspect to see, how the white people on the ship, who never dreamed of putting their lives in the hands of coloured people, were so completely dependent on the coloured members of the crew. Without the harpooners, the Pequod would have consumed long before they even spotted Moby Dick. In my opinion the example of this interdependency within the crew, is the most spectacular in the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg. Ishmael, the stereotypical white Christian, was one of the few to accept others beliefs. His close bond with Queequeg clearly illustrates the opportunity of man to live lovingly and acceptingly with his peers. ...read more.

Conclusion

. . a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins - royal stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his untutored youth" (Melville, 70). Yet Queequeg is concerned with the Islamic religion as well. He follows the Ramadan but only while worshipping an African idol. Along with his harpoon, one of the most precious belongings to Queequeg is his little "Congo baby" (Melville, 41) named Yojo. When he is following rituals like the Ramadan for hours, he escapes to another world. His "death" is frightening to those who don't understand what this is about; Ishmael thinks Queequeg had died before learning of this special fasting period. " . . . there squatted Queequeg, as if he had been screwed down to the floor" (97). But all of these opinions form are based merely on the physical looks of his character. Despite the fact that at first glance, anyone would be terrified of this so - called cannibal, he is one of the most outgoing and positive people in the book. "On three different levels, Melville has offered examples of his observations on the nature of mankind. In three different scales, from the grandiose sea, to the microcosm of a single human being, he tells the epic story of a whale hunt, while artistically incorporating a myriad of subtleties that describe both the beauty and darkness of the counterpane of life." (www.classicliterature.com/essays/melville. ...read more.

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