Fate and Free Will in Moby Dick

Topics: Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, Queequeg Pages: 6 (2474 words) Published: November 7, 2013
The Tragedy of Fate
Moby Dick is a story that is teeming with fate. Whether it’s the people they meet or the places they end up, the characters head down the road of fate. In the story the character’s path is already planned out, and God has already paved the way for everything that will happen in their lives. It is fate that Ishmael misses the ferry and has to stay in New Bedford. It is fate that Ishmael and Queequeg, two polar opposite people, become very close friends. Anyway one looks at it, it is impossible that all these things could work out with out having a greater plan already mapped out for them. Once the men sign up to join the Pequod as shipmates, they fall captive to the tragic destiny that awaits Ahab.

Ishmael, one of the major characters, is an excellent example of the fate in Moby Dick. It is not by chance that he misses the ferry and ends up on the Pequod. It is not by chance that Ishmael and Queequeg become close friends, which is unlikely because they are so different in appearance and personality. It is not by chance that they are forced to room together because the inn is full and doesn’t have any open rooms. God has their whole lives planned out; fate is shown by the fact that they will meet by such a slim chance, become friends, and eventually become shipmates. The two men were confronted by Elijah, a prophet, who warns them that they are doomed if they board ship. Elijah says, “Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be; and then again perhaps it won’t be, after all. Anyhow, it’s all fixed and arranged a’read; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity ‘em! Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I’m sorry I stopped ye” (Melville 126). This is a very haunting warning, but Queequeg and Ishmael think the man is crazy and ignore his warning. It is not by chance that this man can call the dooming of the ship before it happens. This line in Moby Dick is solid proof that the lives of the characters are planned out, and their tragic destiny can not be avoided. If the whole story is fate, and they’re lives are pre-destined than that adds to the tragedy of the story. That would mean that the men stand no chance and that no matter what happens they are going to die in the end. The fact that these men have no idea of the road planned out for them, and that their luck is going to run out on this sailing adds to the dramatic affect of the tragedy. Between the events that have already brought them together, and the chilling warning they have received seems to point out the obvious factor of fate.

In chapter 47, the men are having a gloomy, lazy day at sea and Ishmael is weaving threads on a sword-mat and says, “I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign al over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates” (259). In this line, Ishmael is expressing that he feels that his life is already mapped out and he can’t stop his destiny from happening. He doesn’t know where he is headed, he just feels as if he is going through the motions. This seems to be concrete proof of fate and a predestined life in Moby Dick. Ishmael also says, “There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the cross wire interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads” (259). Ishmael is saying that no matter what course he takes that it will always lead to the same destination. That nothing he can do can change what is already planned out. He has come to terms with the fact his...
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