The Essence of Three in Moby Dick

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The Essence of Three
Whether it is acknowledged or not, numbers have always prevailed: as a universal language, a means for currency, and even throughout religions. In Moby Dick by Herman Melville the importance of numbers is far from forgotten. Melville uses several references to the number three throughout his novel to symbolize spirituality in relation to fate.

Throughout the novel there are several uses of the number three. Moby Dick begins with the short statement “Call me Ishmael,” which is a three worded sentence (Melville 3). This short three lettered sentence prepares the reader for the later—less obvious—accounts of three. Ishmael goes from three different cities before finally boarding the Pequod: New York City to New Bedford and finally to Nantucket. While in New Bedford Ishmael looks at three different inns, which are The Crossed Harpoons, The Sword-Fish, and The Spouter, in which he chooses to stay at the Spouter Inn. The next day Ishmael goes to the Whaleman’s Chapel, in which he mentions three different marble tablets that memorialize the sailors lost at sea. After New Bedford, Ishmael travels to Nantucket, where more threes yet another sequence of threes occur. Ishmael learns “that there were three ships up for three-years’ voyages—The Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod” (Melville 77). Of these ships, Ishmael chooses the Pequod, which has three different captains: Ahab, Peleg, and Bildad. The Pequod also has three masts. While on the ship Ishmael’s lay is debated by Bildad and Peleg between either 777th or 300th, which are both divisible by three. Captain Ahab he has a three person family: himself, his wife, and daughter. Ahab is also stated to have “lay[ed] like dead for three days and nights” (Melville 101). The crew onboard the Pequod also portrays more examples of Melville’s use of three. There are three mates—Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask—along with three harpooners: Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo. Finally Moby-Dick said to have three...
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