Commentary on Transcendentalism Throughout Moby-Dick
--Because one did survive the wreck.
-Herman Melville, 1851-
It is quite possible that nothing runs deeper through the veins of Herman Melville than his disdain for anything transcendental. Melville’s belittling of the entire transcendentalist movement is far from sparsely demonstrated throughout the pages of Moby-Dick, in which he strategically points out the intrinsic existence of evil, the asperity of nature and the wrath of the almighty God. To Melville, transcendentalists became a “guild of self-impostors, with a preposterous rabble of Muggletonian Scots and Yankees, whose vile brogue still the more bestreaks the stripedness of their Greek or German Neoplatonic originals” (“Herman Melville” 2350). Transcendentalists went beyond denying the doleful possibilities of human error and suffering, and it is this ignorant altruism of transcendentalism in its looser grasps which prompted Melville’s scorn. Within the Emersonian school of thought lies the belief that “[the] ruin or the blank that we see when we look at nature, is in our own eye” (Emerson et al. 81) and that “the evils of the world are such only to the evil eye” (Emerson et al. 174). Melville, however, believes that on our planet lies an inherent evil, going as far as to say, “A perfectly good being...would see no evil.--But what did Christ see?--He saw what made him weep” (Thompson 2350), pointing out that not only does evil exist, but it exists within Christ, the ultimate symbol of good. Moby Dick, the white whale itself, is the prosopopeia of evil and malevolence in the universe. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. (Melville 154) Moby Dick is also a depiction of Leviathan, Job’s whale...
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