I believe that Melville chose the name Ahab for the Captain to show that he is a cursed man. Like his namesake, he is doomed to die because of his overconfidence and obsession. Captain Ahab is portrayed as an overly obsessed captain attempting to get revenge against the whale that took his leg. He believes that this whale is the embodiment of evil and that it is his destiny to kill it. We can see the majority of the Captain’s character traits are taken from the Biblical King Ahab; this is to alert readers to the fact that their stories will end in a similar manor. Melville models Captain Ahab after the biblical king to foreshadow his characters fate to his readers. But to understand Captain Ahab’s character we must first understand King Ahab’s character through analysis of his story as it is told in the Bible.
King Ahab of the Bible was a relentless, egotistical, tyrant. He and his wife Jezebel were greedy, they took what they wanted and they would do anything it took to get it. One day Ahab began to lust after a certain vineyard. The king offered Naboth, the owner of the vineyard, the choice between a better vineyard somewhere else or the monetary worth of his vineyard. When Naboth refused Ahab was infuriated, he became so obsessed with owning the vineyard that he and his wife framed Naboth and sentenced him to death by stoning. Thus the king, through his monomania, received what he wanted, but as we continue to read the story we see that it comes at a grave cost.
The similarities in character between King Ahab and Captain Ahab are impossible to disregard. Even Ishmael draws attention to the obvious comparison when he hears his name “When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?” (88 Melville) I believe that Melville deliberately attempts to highlight these similarities in order to show that both people will share the same fate. Like King Ahab, Captain Ahab shows an unmistakable hubris. This overconfidence defines them both, and is coupled by a sense of entitlement. Captain Ahab thinks he deserves and is destine to kill Moby Dick in the same way that King Ahab believes he is entitled to anything possessed by anyone in his kingdom. Both believe that they can do as they please and that no one and nothing can stop them. This obsession ultimately leads to King Ahab’s downfall, in the end his death is directly related to his greediness and overconfidence. That is why Melville decides to name the Captain after King Ahab, to show that he will die for the same reasons.
To fully understand the parallels between King Ahab of the Bible and Captain Ahab of the Pequod I think it is necessary to discuss the prophecies told about them. Uncoincidentally both profits are named Elijah but they each get their messages across in different ways. When Elijah of the Bible is alerted to what King Ahab does to Naboth he prophesizes to the king “And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.” (1 Kings 21:19). Just as the prophet foretold, later Ahab went to a battle at Ramoth, and was killed by an misfired arrow, and while his chariot was being clean, dogs came and licked up his blood. The prophet Elijah foretold that because of Ahabs greedy, unimodal obsession that he would die and this indeed came to pass. In a similar way the Elijah of Moby Dick foretells Captain Ahab’s fate but in a much more ambiguous manor.
As Ishmael and Queequeg are preparing to board the ship they come across an old, ragged, seemingly crazy man named Elijah. Elijah begins to ramble on about the ship it’s captain and the lore around them both when he finally makes and eerie statement that functions as his prophesy in the novel. “Any how, it's all fixed and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em!” (102 Melville) This statement confuses Ishmael and Queequeg, but as we continue to read the novel and understand more about Captain Ahab’s character Elijah’s prophecy’s meaning becomes all to clear. Here Elijah is foretelling the death of Ahab the same way the prophet Elijah of the Bible did, he is just being much less explicit. When he says some sailors or others must go with him, he doesn’t mean go with him on this voyage but go with him to his watery grave. Captain Ahab will die for the same reasons that King Ahab did, because of his unwavering greed, compulsion and monomania. This is why I believe that Ahab will die and take the ship and it crew along with him, because of his blind obsession and overconfidence. Melville uses the name of his character to show that he is predestine to fail because of his own obsession
As we can see Melville wants us to draw comparisons between the Ahab of his novel and the Ahab of the bible. So, similar to the Biblical Ahab, we see Captain Ahab coveting something that he isn’t entitled to and that will not necessarily benefit him in the long run. His obsession will cause him to be ignorant to his irrationalities and he will attempt to achieve his goal by any means. In the end we will see Captain Ahab’s obsession be the cause of his demise just like King Ahab did. This is what Melville wants us to see, that Captain Ahab is fated to bring his own doom upon himself.