Saturday, March 12, 2011

Imminent Demise

Although in a sense, Moby Dick is not necessarily a character, it is considered by many as an allegorical force that many readers have debated to be a representation of God. Like God, Moby Dick is seen throughout the novel as a mysterious, powerful being that humans cannot oppose or defy. As Ishmael explains, a whale mostly remains hidden, only appearing from the deep depths of the ocean to observe the human world. Likewise, God, although known by many, is still ultimately seen as an unknowable, mighty force that largely remains hidden to humans, even when he is amongst and ‘interfering’. This varying idea of God can be seen within the Pequod’s crew; Ahab is very overconfident and almost views himself as a god in his ruthless pursuit of Moby Dick. Thinking he is immune to nature, he relentlessly hunts the ocean in order to seek revenge against Moby and that, like a god, he can achieve his revenge against all odds despite numerous godly signs. On the other hand, Starbuck is a religious man who uses his Christian faith to provide answer and interpretation to his life events.

With this said, a particular extract I found interesting is by N.E. Primer:

“Whales in the Sea

God’s voice obey.”

As the Pequod and its crew ultimately end in demise (save for Ishmael), Moby Dick arises the victor once again. After reading this extract, one can further strengthen the idea of the connection between God and Moby Dick. As it is said in the bible, verse 10: “In that he is god, he is able to avenge himself on those who oppose…” If we were to accept the idea of Moby Dick acting as an allegorical representation of god, then the demise of Ahab and the Pequod crew seems very fitting. Like verse 10 states, for anyone who “opposes” god (Moby in this case), then ‘God’, is able to “avenge himself.” This statement seems to bring upon the idea of the personification of god and his ability to interact with humans and the world.

This idea however, can be seen throughout Moby Dick as well. In Chapter 119, The Pequod is caught in a typhoon where “God’s burning finger has been laid” on the ship and Starbuck sees Ahab’s three ‘good omen’ spermaceti candles as warnings against the quest for Moby Dick (549). Furthermore, when Starbuck sees Ahab’s harpoon flickering with fire as well, he interprets it as God’s opposing force against Ahab. Starbuck tells Ahab that “God is against thee” but Ahab continues to “blow out the last fear” as he tells the crew there is nothing to be worried about (552). Although Starbuck warns Ahab of the imminent dangers if he choses to pursuit Moby Dick, Ahab stubbornly continues, believing he is immune to God’s reach.

The idea of relating Moby Dick to God can also be seen simply in the regard in which Moby and God is held. Moby Dick, like God, is seen as a largely unknown force that seems to be ‘everywhere’. Both are generally passed on and depicted through word of mouth or stories. Moby Dick is even considered by some to be a myth. There are numerous tales of Moby Dick sightings but one has yet to prove there is really such an animal. Even Ishmael, our whaling expert, has trouble accurately identifying parts of the whale during his first hands on experience. This varying idea of what Moby Dick really is symbolizes humanities inability to truly understand the world. There may be some things in the world that need not as why but just let be for the better.

This varying depiction of God and Moby and the Pequod’s doom both seem to further support the idea of Moby Dick representing the idea of God. If this was the case, then it appears that Melville is depicting God as a vengeful, interfering ruler who seeks revenge on whoever opposes him. This seems to be a bit contrasting to the narrator’s (Ishmael) view of religion. Therefore, perhaps Melville is trying to show that religious belief, as a whole, ultimately leads to ’demise’. This would more make sense, as the only survivor left after the final battle with Moby Dick, is Ishmael, saved by Queequeg’s coffin.

1 comment:

  1. Hey George,

    I thought you did a good job expanding on the argument of Moby-Dick as god. You do, however, seem to digress a few times throughout. For example, your third paragraph connects God to a typhoon, while your main argument is about Moby-Dick. Also, you mentioned Queequeg's coffin in your conclusion, and did not really elaborate on its significance - I'm sure there are many ways you can connect it to your argument of God and the afterlife.

    An idea to expand on if you revise this, is to consider, if Moby-Dick really is a God, then what reason would Melville have of actually physically including him in the climax? Since you state that Moby-Dick's story travels through word of mouth and is "everywhere but nowhere", wouldn't that kill your argument of him being a metaphorical god? Not saying your argument is wrong by any means, but I'm sure this will give you quite some more to write about.