Moby Dick



Ishmael is an adventurous young man who, as he tells us in the opening paragraphs of the novel, is in the habit of taking to the sea whenever “it is a damp, drizzly November in [his] soul.” Ishmael narrates the first several chapters of the novel in a style that is both humorous and poetic, establishing him as an engaging and thoughtful narrator. Ishmael is a remarkably keen observer and, as evidenced by his analysis of himself and others, a dedicated student of human nature. He also loves the camaraderie of life at sea, believing in the true spirit of Christian brotherhood, and does not judge others for their religious backgrounds or the color of their skin. Ishmael’s open-mindedness, as well as his dreamy and philosophical tendencies, provide a wide lens through which the reader may view the events and characters he describes.

With his keen observational skills, Ishmael brings to life the characters around him, conveying Ahab’s charisma as well as his madness. Because Ishmael is a sensitive young man, his perspective is rich with detail and meaning, and it is this tone that makes the novel itself so open to interpretation. Ishmael may not be a wholly reliable narrator—since seamen, as he tells us himself, are given to spinning yarns—but his fascination with the whale (backed up by his exhaustive research and experience) along with his profound interest in human behavior and motivation make Ishmael an ideal observer and teller of this particular tale.

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Essays About Moby Dick