Whiteness as a Duality

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In the epic novel Moby-Dick, Herman Melville employs the symbolism of the white colored whale to present his theme of duality. Specifically, in the chapter, “The Whiteness of the Whale,” Melville presents the importance of the meaning duality in the world, as opposed to labeling something as having only one meaning. From this, the intention of the color relies mainly on the individuals experiencing that one object and attribute. Due to this notion, both Ishmael and Ahab are central to Melville's elaboration of his theme and each contrastingly differs on how they view Moby-Dick’s whiteness.

Experiencing a traumatic encounter with Moby-Dick and losing his leg, Ahab deeply believed that the whale symbolized the evil within the world, thus by Ahab claiming the whale to be only one thing it gives way to his downfall and death. Moby-Dick then shifts to be the main reason for all of the immorality agencies found in the world. Ahab yearns to turn Moby-Dick into a symbol of every conception of evil that exists, "it was Moby-Dick that dismasted me; brought me to this dead stump.” (pg. 156) Descriptive words such as "dismast" and "dead stump" provide the sense that Moby-Dick is so completely wicked that he took away Ahab’s independence, in a literal and metaphorical sense. Ahab now must rely on a prosthetic leg and is emotionally distraught over what happened.

Ahab consistently describes Moby-Dick as inscrutable, but that is the only way Ahab can make sense of the evilness that Moby-Dick instills in the trials and tribulations that Ahab experiences with hunting him down. Moby-Dick represents the mysteriousness in life thus alluding to evil; people avoid making certain commitments to understand the object of their dread. With this, Ahab refutes Starbucks’s statement of pure beastly instinct, because the ignorance makes it easier to categorize Moby-Dick as pure malevolence. "That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale...
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