This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Comparing Religious Archetypes In Moby Dick, Billy Budd, And Bartleby The Scrivener

2293 words - 9 pages

Religious Archetypes in Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Bartleby the Scrivener 

   Herman Melville's use of Biblical overtones gives extra dimensions to his works.  Themes in his stories parallel those in the Bible to teach about good and evil.  Melville emphasizes his characters' qualities by drawing allusions, and in doing so makes them appear larger than life.  In the same way that the Bible teaches lessons about life, Herman Melville's stories teach lessons about the light and dark sides of human nature.  He places his readers in situations that force them to identify with right or wrong choices.  In Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and "Bartleby the Scrivener," Melville encourages his readers to learn from his explanations of human nature and strive for a better society.


    Melville's Moby Dick is the saga of a whaling voyage gone awry when the Pequod's Captain Ahab leads his crew, not to hunt for profit, but to hunt the White Whale who took one of his legs.  Captain Ahab's idolatrous relationship with the White Whale, Moby Dick, parallels King Ahab's idol worship.  Captain Ahab represents all idolaters.  His obsession approaches Biblical proportions.  In First Kings in the Old Testament, King Ahab, who is "weak-willed" (Hertz 699), is controlled and influenced by his wife Jezebel.  He neglects his responsibility as King of the Israelites, and leads his people astray to the worship of Baal.  In doing so, he breaks the Second Commandment: "thou shalt have no other gods" (Hertz 295).  Similarly, Captain Ahab leads his crew away from their job as whalers.  As Mr. Starbuck says, "I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance"(Moby 162).  Led by feelings of revenge and anger, Ahab uses the crew to search for his God.  He ignores his duty as the captain of the Pequod and becomes fixated on finding Moby Dick, his idol.  He constantly invests his time and jeopardizes his crew's lives in his effort to confront his faulty God.  Because of his need for religious comfort, Ahab turns the whaling voyage into a personal quest, using his crew as a tool for revenge.  Melville parallels his work to The Bible to raise the character of Ahab to a higher level.  The Bible is known to most readers around the world.  Its lessons and values teach people how to lead moral and virtuous lives.  Ahab's nature and obsession demonstrate his evil, but comparing him to the Biblical King who sinned against God and poorly ruled God's people makes Captain Ahab's evil represent an extreme of human nature.  In "declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal (for immorality is but ubiquity in time)" (Moby 181), Melville shows how Moby Dick appears to be God-like.  As the real God watches over all his people no matter where they are, Moby Dick is found everywhere at the same time.


The words of Melville's Elijah in Moby Dick parallel the prophecies of the Biblical prophet Elijah.  After King Ahab led the Israelites to worship Baal, Elijah, who was...

Find Another Essay On Comparing Religious Archetypes in Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Bartleby the Scrivener

Billy Budd Essay: Comparing Christ to Billy

3262 words - 13 pages Child. It was the experienced Christ, the "Man of Sorrows," whom Melville referred to as "the truest of all men" (Moby Dick 392). No allegory is complete; Melville himself wrote in his November 1851 letter to Hawthorne that "we pygmies must be content to have our paper allegories but ill comprehended" (Davis and Gilman 7). Yet the differences between Billy Budd and Christ are so many and so great, that they could not have been unintentional

Eighteenth Century Religious Change in Uncle Tom's Cabin and Moby Dick

5780 words - 23 pages Eighteenth Century Religious Change in Uncle Tom's Cabin and Moby Dick The central religious themes of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Moby Dick reflect the turbulent and changing religious climate of their time. In their use of themes from both traditional Calvinism and modern reform, the syncretic efforts of both of these texts offers a response to the uncertainty and change of the period. However, their uses of these themes are different; while

Billy Budd by Herman Melville Term Paper over the Short Story Billy Budd, his life, why he wrote the book, and religious symbolism

6016 words - 24 pages leaves of Melville's manuscript. In addition Hayford and Sealts changed the title of the novella from Billy Budd, Foretopman to Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative), which appears on the first page of Melville's manuscript.Why had the author of Moby-Dick (1851) stopped writing fiction for so long? When Moby-Dick was published, Melville was quite well known as a writer of sea tales. He had already published Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), two

Comparing Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Herman Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener

1022 words - 5 pages When we examine the excerpt by Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” and the story “Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” by Herman Melville we see how they both explore isolation, but in different ways. Similarly, they are both solitary characters where Bartleby seems to choose this situation; the Invisible Man has this status thrust on him by society. Where the Invisible Man seems to go from violence to acceptance, the opposite

Isolation and Society in Bartleby, the Scrivener

702 words - 3 pages Isolation and Society in Bartleby, the Scrivener         Herman Melville's Bartleby is a tale of isolation and alienation. In his story, society is primarily to blame for the creation and demise of Bartleby.         Throughout the story, the characters -- Bartleby in particular -- are isolated from each other or from society. The forester's office, which can be

Allusions in Bartleby the Scrivener

660 words - 3 pages In “Bartleby, the Scrivener” the author, Herman Melville, uses indirect references to hint to many historical, literary, and biblical events. “Bartleby, the Scrivener” contains many allusions about important events that help connect this fictional story to actual events in Melville’s time period, before, and beyond. Melville uses allusions frequently throughout “Bartleby, the Scrivener” to help build connections with the real world and the

The Downfall of Man in Macbeth and Moby Dick

2544 words - 10 pages The Downfall of Man in Macbeth and Moby Dick It can be stated that mans greatest downfall is his greed. No matter how much a person has, they will always want more. In Melville's Moby Dick and Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character traits of the tragic heroes, and many similar outside factors combine to create a spiral downfall effect which essentially leads each character to his demise. Each of these character's

Point of View in Bartleby, the Scrivener

957 words - 4 pages screen, and demanded the reason for some extraordinary conduct,” asserted the lawyer. Bartleby makes the lawyer feel small, like he cannot control him. Tone is the style or manner the characters portray. In “Bartleby the Scrivener,” The tone displays interest, frustration, and rejection. The narrator is very interested in Bartleby because Bartleby can never give him a straight answer. “I would prefer not to.” is the only answer he ever gets

Social Deviance in Bartleby the Scrivener

684 words - 3 pages continue his way of life; in exchange for what society considers right: the perpetuation and profit of his business, his professional standing.  In the end they are both the losers.  In a broader sense Melville is making the point that industrialization is stripping away our morals, breeding a society based on the self-centered individual.            Melville, Herman.  "Bartleby, the Scrivener."  The Norton Anthology of American Literature.  Ed. Nina Baym et al.  4th ed.  New York:  W.W. Norton and Company,  1995.  1048.  

Bartleby the Scrivener, Symbolism and walls

1158 words - 5 pages Bartleby and the Scrivener Walls and Symbolism In the story Bartleby the scrivener walls are a main focus in the story. They are also very symbolic in multiple ways whether symbolizing society or religion these seemingly meaningless objects have much depth in meaning and function throughout the story. My goal in this paper is to discuss in depth the symbolism of the walls in the story Bartleby and the Scrivener. Herman Melville had a very

Bartleby the Scrivener and William Wilson

1442 words - 6 pages , while their peers thought that they were brothers. At the end of the story, William Wilson who is angry and annoyed with the other Wilson confronts him, where second William Wilson finds death. The main similarity of the main characters of the stories of “Bartleby the Scrivener” written by Herman Melville and “William Wilson” written by Edgar Allan Poe is because they both are described in the first person. I want to argue that the story of William

Similar Essays

Compare And Contrast Billy Budd Versus Bartleby

2073 words - 8 pages will analyze the similarities and differences in Billy Budd and Bartleby. The first analysis of these stories will be comparing and contrasting the setting. To compare the setting of the two stories, much like the decline of the British naval supremacy in the world due to over-expansion, and especially mutinies, which were taking place throughout the Navy, mostly because of over worked conditions, extended enlistments, and

Comparing Billy Budd And Christ Essay

3108 words - 12 pages Comparing Billy and Christ in Billy Budd Herman Melville's Billy Budd provides us with a summation and conclusive commentary on the ambiguities of moral righteousness and social necessity. The conflict that arises pitting natural justice in opposition to military justice essentially deliberates over whether the sacrifice of the individual is required for the continuum and conservation of social order. The deep allegorical theme of the

Herman Melville's Now Famous Story "Bartleby The Scrivener". Melville Wrote This, Just After He Wrote Moby Dick

1091 words - 4 pages Bartleby the ScrivenerHerman Melville wrote 'Bartleby the Scrivener' towards the end of his declining career. Melville, wrote Bartleby after he wrote his now famous book "Moby Dick". However, in Melville's time Moby Dick was not the hit it is today. Perhaps in Melville's eyes, his career as a writer was not going the way he desired. In order to support his family and continue to earn a living, Melville continued to write novels. It is rather

Comparing Billy Budd And The Life Of Melville

1508 words - 6 pages Parallels Between Billy Budd and the Life of Melville  As with many great works of literature, it is important to become familiar with the author's life and time period in which he or she lived. This understanding helps to clarify the significance and meaning of his or her work. In many ways, Billy Budd depicts issues of importance to Herman Melville with both direct and indirect parallels to the time of the Civil War and to particular