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Moby Dick: Symbols To Draw Attention

1206 words - 5 pages

Often in great works of literature, symbols are incorporated to add depth. These symbols make it more interesting to the reader by making connections from one idea to another. Herman Melville depicts a great number of characters and symbols in his 19th century novel Moby Dick. Melville uses symbols to develop plot, characters, and to give the reader a deeper interpretation of the novel. (Tucker) The author successfully uses the symbols of brotherhood, monomania, isolation, religion, and duality to make his book more interesting to its readers.

At the beginning of the novel, the characters Ishmael and Queequeg are introduced. Ishmael is the narrator of the story. He is also a merchant seaman who signs up for a whaling voyage to see the world- and the only crewmember to survive and tell us the story. Queequeg is a tattooed cannibal from the South Seas. He is courageous, as well as kind-hearted. (Cavendish) After becoming friends with Ishmael, he also signs up for whaling and becomes a harpooner.

Melville chose to depict brotherhood as a symbol in a couple different ways. In the hotel room before boarding the Pequod, Ishmael and Queequeg share a room together, where they both sleep. One such morning when Ishmael awakes, he recalls:

How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg- a cozy, loving pair (Melville 68).

This closeness that Melville creates conveys that the relationship between these two characters is a close one.

In the chapter A Squeeze of the Hand, brotherhood is addressed yet again. The crewmembers of the Pequod cut the blubber out of the whales to make it liquid again. While their hands are in the blubber, they meet, as if everyone is holding hands. Ishmael states, “…I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget…(398)” This is significant because of the importance of comradeship. This situation was used as an excuse to be closer to people then a normal situation would normally allow. This chapter is contrasted to the previous chapter to that of isolation, which will soon be addressed.

Yet another symbol of brotherhood in Moby Dick was when Ahab split his wooden leg jumping back onto the Pequod. Ahab depended on the carpenter to make him a new leg, therefore partly bonding and making a friendship.

Ahab’s monomania grows increasingly as the story moves forward. While on the ship, Ahab addresses his crewmembers with a doubloon, which symbolizes the act of drawing everyone into the vortex of monomania by Ahab. He uses this coin to focus everyone’s attentions and goals into finding Moby Dick.

However, the coin incident...

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