Moby Dick Analysis

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Literary Analysis
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The narrator in the beginning, Ishmael, announces his intent of becoming a whaler, and thus the story begins. Ishmael signs on to the Pequod under Captain Ahab, to hunt the legendary white whale, Moby Dick. After leaving the port in Nantucket, Ahab’s smuggled-on crew of harpooners emerge, one of which is valued for his prophetic abilities. The Pequod meets the Jeroboam, and doom is predicted for all that hunt Moby Dick. During another whale hunt, the slave boy Pip is left for dead, and goes insane, becoming the insane jester of the ship. Ahab meets a fellow victim of Moby Dick, and has a harpoon forged, baptizing it with the blood of the ship’s three harpooners. Feldallah predicts Ahab’s death by hemp rope, Ahab dismisses it, thinking he won’t die at sea. Ahab continues to push forward, and the first mate Starbuck, considers murdering Ahab in his sleep, but doesn’t. Pip is now Ahab’s constant companion. The Pequod meets two other whaling ships, being warned off Moby Dick’s trail each time and ignored. The whale is sighted, ships lowered, and Ahab’s ship is destroyed, and the second day Feldallah is killed. On the third and final day of the chase Moby Dick rams the Pequod, sinking it, and taking Ahab with it. The crew in the whaling boats are killed in the vortex created by the sinking ship and Moby Dick, and are pulled under to their deaths. Ishmael alone survives, having caught hold of the coffin life-buoy from the Pequod. This book really made me think about humanity and how easily it is damaged, and for that, I enjoyed it.

Herman Melville and his times
Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819, the son of a wealthy merchant family, which later lost its money. Melville received the best education his father could afford, at the New York Male School. Melville possessed a roving disposition, and desired to support himself, independent of his family. He worked as a cabin boy on a New York ship bound for Liverpool, and after returning, wrote Redburn, based on his experiences while workingas professor at the Albany Academy. After three years as a professor, he embarked on a year and a half long whaling voyage. He deserted the ship and lived among cannibals, an experience on which he based Typee. He escaped with an Australian trader, and was imprisoned in Tahiti before returning to the U.S. These experiences were the inspiration for Moby Dick. After serving as a seaman in the U.S. navy, he married Elizabeth Shaw, and had four children. He lived for 13 years after marrying her, during which he wrote Moby Dick. The novel was originally not accepted, but the greatness of the novel was realized during the Melville Revival in the 1920s. Melville’s works fell on many unwelcoming ears; The ‘London Athenaeum’ reviewed it as being "[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."

Ahab is a obsessed soul, much like the heroes of old Greek and Shakespeare. Ahab’s one fatal flaw is his obsession with the whale that took his leg, and the removal of the embodiment of evil from the world. Ahab’s obsession is best shown when he tells the captain of the Rachel “I will not do it [help him search for his lost son]. Even now I lose time. Good bye, good bye. God bless ye, man, and may I forgive myself, but I must go.” (579) As the captain of the Pequod, Ahab had the opportunity to save several fellow humans lives, and could not, or at least would not, because of his obsession with Moby Dick. He is sad man, as seen when Starbuck “saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the side; and he seemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless...
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