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Transcript of Moby Dick
5th hour Book Research
1. Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. Time period
1. Place of writing
INEVITABILITY OF THE FUTURE
First Theme: Inevitability of the Future
1. Ahab's self absorption
2. Religious understandings
Second Theme: Vengeance
A. Ahab's Obsessive Nature
1. Fixation on revenge
B. Effect on the Crew
VII. Works Cited
The novel takes place during the nineteenth century on the
, a whaling vessel in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
Ishmael's mention of a "negro church" and his haste to leave from it show that the novel takes place where racism is high, but there are also free African American establishments in the North. The 19th century is also portrayed by the fact that the
was able to be destroyed by Moby Dick. This exhibits the time period where whaling ships were not that sturdy and could be damaged by whales.
Melville wrote the novel in the mid 1800s in his farm house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts known as Arrowhead. It was here that he befriended and was motivated by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melville was greatly influenced by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an article written by Jeremiah N. Renolds called "Mocha Dick: Or, the White Whale of the Pacific," and his own whaling voyage and other sea adventures in his early years.
The novel begins with Ishmael, a bored school teacher looking to go aboard a whaling vessel. Ishmael soon finds himself on the
, captained by the strange Ahab, who recently lost his leg to a whale. As they journey along, Ahab emerges from his cabin along with a private harpoon group led by Fedallah. The Pequod’s crew capture whales and drain oil from their heads. During this time, Ahab constantly asks other captains they meet along the way about the whereabouts of Moby Dick, the whale that took his leg. Finally, Ahab catches sight of the whale and sends his harpoon boats to kill it. During the three days they attack the whale, the harpoon boats are destroyed, Fedallah is killed, and Moby Dick attacks the ship, catching Ahab in a harpoon line during the struggle and pulling him to his death. The ship, now sinking, causes a vortex that takes the rest of the crew, except Ishmael, down with it. Ishmael floats in the sea on a wooden coffin until picked up by the
, another ship once attacked by Moby Dick.
greatly revolves around Captain Ahab’s obsessive need for revenge against the whale that he sees as a force of nature that must be put down in order to quench his desire for revenge and the loss of his leg.
With his fixation on trying to find and kill the leviathan, Ahab puts all his rage and exasperation into his obsessive nature that compels him to hunt for Moby Dick for years. Ahab pulls everyone in his crew into his quest for revenge, putting them all in danger and ultimately leading to everyone's untimely death, leaving Ishmael as the lone survivor of the
. Revenge, in
, plays a big part in the overall message of imminent tragedy. Ahab’s vengeance represents his drive towards madness and his irrational behavior towards the crew.
was written by Herman Melville, a romanticist author during the 1850s.
is considered, "the greatest book of the sea ever written" as stated by D.H. Lawrence.
is a tale of the obsessive voyage of the mad captain Ahab, the adventure of Ishmael, and the journey of the Pequod through the world's major oceans.
was written when transcendentalism and religious understandings were very popular. Melville shows this same style in
with Christian references and Ismael's seeking of self understanding. Melville uses the theme of vengeance represented between the legendary whale and the men in which he has injured. He also expresses the inevitability of the future shown through prophets, omens, and predestined occurrences throughout Ismael's adventure. Throughout the nineteenth century based novel,
, Melville illustrates vengeance and the inevitability of the future through his illustrations of the fatal sea faring voyage of the
and its crew which was influenced by his personal experiences on the sea and the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and other authors.
In the novel
, Melville uses Ishmael life choices, and the destiny of
the fallen sailors to convey a theme of the inevitability of the future. Prophets were as readers of destiny in the novel. Fedallah, the private harpooner, is a prophet to Ahab. In the
attack on Moby Dick, Fedallah is tangled in the harpoon lines and drowned when Moby Dick pulls him from one of the boats. The crew can still see his body hanging from Moby Dick the next day. This represents how one perceives their fate under their own delusional of self absorption. Ahab wanted to believe he would kill the whale so he hired a crew that believed the same. He was so sure in himself that he let the omens and prophecies of him succeeding blind him from the fact that no one can really be sure of their own final ending.
Melville foreshadows the doom of
, when Ishmael and Queequeg
meet the prophet Elijah. Elijah speaks an omen about the destruction of the ship and Ahab's death referring to him as "Old Thunder". Ishmael and Queequeg ignore this upsetting omen because they signed the papers binding them to the voyage, but both characters start to contemplate their safety on the ship and Ahab's obsessive behavior. They at once toss away Elijah's words based on him dressing in rags and his peculiar nature. They soon label him as crazy. Yet in the end Elijah's words, "what's to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all...Some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose...God pity 'em!" ( Melville 126)," perfectly predicted the fall of the ship and it's ship men. Elijah's character represents the idea that one chooses which prophecies they will believe based on their own self want. This shows that the future is inevitable and no matter how much faith one has for their own selfish ending, fate decides in the end. The characters let the mind set of reaching their selfish goals to delude themselves from knowing they have no control over fate.
"Historical Context: Moby-Dick." EXPLORING Novels. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Lowry, Richard. "Moby-dick, again." National Review 10 Feb. 2014: 36. General OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
"The Life and Works of Herman Melville."
. Multiverse, 25 July 2000. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick or The Whale. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 1988. Print.
Morris, Michael S. "Off, Into Eternity." Prairie Schooner 85.3 (2011): 129+. General OneFile. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819. Herman had seven other siblings. His father, Allan sailed many oceans as a merchant and importer of French accessories into the United States. Since he was five Melville attended the New York Male High School, and to extend his education in last years, Albany Academy. Once out of school he followed in his father's footsteps and became a sailor on the
traveling across the Atlantic and falling in love with the sea. Melville was greatly influenced by his own whale voyages that he ventured on throughout 1830 to 1840. However, Melville's major influence was his close friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, another romanticist novelist. He enjoyed the works of Shakespeare and Milton's
. Melville is known to have predicted the 1920's Renaissance period with
references to religious views, self-understanding, and destiny. His transcendentalist style greatly shows the relationship between Ismael and the world, and the connection between Ismael and his God. Melville wrote
, the tale of a boy's soul searching adventure to express one's place in the world. Melville died of cardiac dilation in his hometown of New York City when he was seventy-two.
Ahab's irrational behavior on the
in relation to his need for vengeance greatly effect the crew. Only once they have gone too far from the shores of Nantucket, does Ahab reveal his true purpose for the voyage. He forces the crew to pledge to him and his obsession to kill Moby Dick. Ahab is so intent of the whale's death that he even sneaks Fedallah and his harpooner crew aboard the ship to make sure his own wishes are met. He does not care much for the crew's ideals and only thinks of his own satisfaction to see Moby Dick dead.
Ahab even ask Starbuck , "But what’s this long face about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt thou not chase the white whale? art not game for Moby Dick?" (Melville 177).
To which Starbuck replies,
"I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market" (Melville 177). Starbuck constantly questions Ahab's motives and wonders if Ahab will lead them all to their doom.
Ahab's revenge effects, not only his crew, but his decisions as well. Whenever Moby Dick is involved, Ahab does everything in his power to get the crew to pursue a course of action that would bring them closer to his revenge. Ahab physically and mentally impacts his crew and their perspectives with his crazy remarks, dangerous decisions, and overall compelling nature.
Effect on the Crew
Ahab's Obsessive Nature
Ahab describes his self confidence in his planned
destiny by "The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run" ( Melville 165). This shows that Ahab strongly believes his fate will lead him to kill Moby Dick. Ahab never achieved the omen of Fedallah of him killing the whale. More than anything, this false outlook on knowing one's own destiny lead to the deaths of all the ship men excluding Ishmael.
Ishmael is a very religious man who believes "a stove boat will make me an immortal by brevet. Yes, there is death in this business of whaling – a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death" ( Melville 7). This suggest that he knows that the whaling adventure might end in turmoil but he has his religion, so it will only be the death of his earthly body and not his spiritual one. He is sure in the fact that he will live for eternity spiritually so he does not fear the destiny of the ship or his own life. Melville uses religion to cast a different outlook on human death and destiny.
Herman Melville’s influences of his own personal experiences on the sea, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the works of other authors exemplify the want for vengeance and inevitability of the future by illustrating the fatal sea faring voyage of the
and its crew in the nineteenth century based novel,
In the beginning, Melville exhibits a tale about of a man looking for some excitement in his life by going on a whiling voyage, but soon, the novel turns into a wild adventure of revenge, philosophy, and superstition.
By bringing in different viewpoints and perspectives Melville guides in a new light to the interpretation of different events and symbolism with each character’s narration that relate to his own expeditions of the sea and his own whaling voyages in Melville’s younger years.
The elements of the setting and time period of the novel offer a broader perspective on the historical context as Arrowhead and Nathaniel Hawthorn demonstrate the ideas of Melville as he wrote it.
Melville cast a transcendentalist outlook on destiny and the inevitability the future beholds with the protagonist, Ishmael’s, religious understandings and the disillusion of selfish goals. Many of the characters let their own selfish desires blind them from knowing they have no control over destiny while Captain Ahab's own selfish behavior leads to the death of the entire crew except for Ishmael, the one character not fearing death.
Ahab’s obsessive nature and fixation on finding and killing the whale depicts the rage that vengeance held on him and how the deception and decisions of the captain led to the inevitable tragedy of the
and its crew.
"The Life and Works of Herman Melville"
"Historical Context: Moby Dick "
"The Life and Works of Herman Melville"