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Herman Melville's Moby Dick Essay

2604 words - 11 pages

Moby dick is a novel written by Herman Melville. The books takes place on the open seas, where very little happens. It has earned its status as a literary classic not by the typical presentation of a nuanced, epic plot or by devoting itself to absolute perfect portrayal of the world, but by its sheer bravado and omnipresence matched only by the god-character whom the novel takes its name from, Moby Dick. This is not to say that Moby Dick’s plot is bad by any means, it is just minimal. It is difficult to imagine, or find another book that is able to pick such good minimal elements and make so much of them. The novel reaches out to all regions of intellect and occupies them in a way that very few have come close to completing since.
Ishmael, a fact announced in one of literatures most famous first lines, narrates the novel. He is a man of crude personal history who enlists for a whaling voyage. He does this for many reasons, many which are delineated for us in the book’s first chapter. In summary what he is hoping for, what he is looking for is some harsh relaxation, an ability to forget the madness of his land locked America. What he finds is Captain Ahab.
Most of the memorable literary protagonists desire what is impossible. Don Quixote wants the world to be something greater than what it is, and his incessant insistence on his personal truth makes him, in turn, hilariously pathetic. Ichabod Crain strives for love and money but is driven off in fear of the Headless Horseman. Rarely are literary protagonists as aggressive in their pursuits as Captain Ahab is in his. The White Whale Moby-Dick, a beast who is said to be omnipotent, took Captain Ahab’s leg. This makes it unnaturally difficult to exact any meaningful revenge. Ahab uses his influence to smuggle a group of men harpooners and their leader, a man who is said to have some prophetic abilities to help him in his hunt for his White Whale. Ahab is adamant in his desire to confront his adversary; he wants to take this free white light harpoon it, and use the Pequod’s (his vessel’s) hellish engines to turn it into cheap candles.
Ahab’s quest is a tricky problem for a dedicated problem; how to damask and murder God. He is assisted in his mission by crewmen from all levels of society: his three mates, their three harpooner/assistants, a crew spanning all nationalities, a shadowy assistant who strongly exudes the presence of the devil, a mad chef’s assistant, and, sulking somewhere around the ships rigging, Ishmael. Ishmael other than being the narrator is largely absent in terms of the novel’s plot after he signs his life away over to Ahab and his quest. He, as narrator comes off as a fanatically learned and speculative observer/historian of the Pequod, as well as the man responsible for forcing order in times of chaos.
Ishmaels unrestricted and open speculations enliven the book. He goes as far as to assert that a whale can ONLY be a fish; at another time he mentions the brotherhood available...

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