Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Moby Dick

Kasie McLatchy

In this section of Moby Dick, there were several interesting topics to discuss. Although finishing the novel brings up a multitude of things I wish to say about the book, I find one particular trait intriguing. The relationship between Ahab and the other captain who lost his arm appears to be harmless and superficial, but I think once you really start to look into it, it becomes so much more than that. At first glance I feel that this relationship, although fleeting, and not given all that much detail in the book, really speaks to the character of Herman Melville and the message he was trying to portray. I saw that some people had commented that after Ahab died they were relieved, indeed I agree that Melville could have done without all the extra information and large sections devoted to Ahab, and I also wish that some more of the shipmates had been detailed further, but I find that Ahab is the most interesting character in the book. He is given levels of character, even though almost all of them are shown to be bad. Melville still takes the time to detail this character, and there has to be a reason why. When he first meets the captain of the Samuel Enderby, it is a brief encounter, and their personality differences are striking. On one hand you have the happy, almost carefree captain, who has sworn against taking vengeance on Moby Dick after the whale took his arm, and on the other you have Ahab, a crazy and delusional man set on revenge at all costs. Really the only similar thread tying them together is their loss of limbs. This gives them an instant sense of comradery which makes the reader question if Ahab would have made any sort of connection with anyone if this superficial binding did not exist. The interesting bit is that both the captain and Ahab had replaced their stolen limbs with the artificial limbs made of the very same thing that stole it from them. Is this supposed to signify their acceptance of becoming a part of the whale? I think that it is very possible that replacing their lost limbs with that made from a whale allows the two men a sense of belonging. They could do nothing about the loss of their limbs, but they could help to heal the wound left behind. I think this helps to explain why Ahab goes so insane. The acceptance he feels is no longer good enough, and thus decides to embark on a journey with the end result hopefully being what Ahab thinks will cure him, the revenge on Moby Dick. Sadly Ahab is killed off before he begins to realize that killing the whale will not make him feel any better, what he needs is to find acceptance, and take a page from the other captain’s book. He had gotten over and accepted what happened to him, and because of that he could lead a functional and happy life. In the chapter “The Symphony” we finally are given a chance to see the compassionate side of Ahab as he talks to Starbuck, but even after this chapter, any chance Ahab has at a normal life are shattered. His death was really a disappointment to me, as I thought the closer he came to reaching his “goal” the more likable and admirable of a character he became. Ahab is not given the chance to live on after the whale, and it makes me wonder what is the purpose of Ahab’s character? I find it so troubling to think what his function in the novel is. Melville takes the time to overly explain, define, and rationalize his character, just to have him killed off near the end, which not only leaves the readers hanging, but also a bad taste in my mouth. I did not appreciate how the novel ended, I feel like I spent a lot of time reading, analyzing, and trying to understand any hidden meanings in the text. And then at the end, all their fates came true, just like that. For such a complex and dramatic novel, the build up deserved a much better ending.

1 comment:

  1. I really have no idea what this is - you should probably let me know what you were submitting this as.