?Moby Dick? By Herman Melville Essay, Research Paper
In the novel ?Moby Dick? by Herman Melville, the apparent themes:
good vs. evil, civilized vs. uncivilized, and conventional vs. unconventional
are throughout the book, but they are not as superficial as they seem.
In treating the theme good vs. evil, the apparent message is one of
Ahab being the innocent victim. A man disfigured and tormented by a beast
of nature. In juxtaposition to that the whale can be perceived as being evil
because of what he did to man. However, if we are to look at this
objectively we would have to admit that man is also a creature of nature,
and therefore you would have to ask, what represents evil in the novel;
Moby Dick or Ahab? Throughout the book Ahab defies God. He speaks
out against him and admits his lack of faith. Moreover, since Ahab is so
obsessed with killing the whale he puts his entire crew in jeopardy which
does not only go against mans law (a captain must never put his crew or
ship in danger for his own selfish intentions), but also goes against God?s
law (mans indifference towards other men is sinful in God?s eyes).
Through these actions we are shown that Ahab is more representative of
the evil side of nature then Moby Dick.
The book also incorporates the theme civilized vs. uncivilized.
Ishmael; the civilized man is compelled to teach Queequeg; the uncivilized
man. Since Ishmael is the Christian and Queequeg the savage, Ishmael
believes that by teaching Queequeg about organized religion, and the
workings of society, he is saving him by helping him to adapt to the ways
of civilization. Melville has us believe that Queequeg is born into
civilization. That is Melville?s apparent message, but in all actuality it is
Queequeg who allows Ishmael to be born again. Queequeg sees the world
unobscured by the dogmatism of Christianity, which allows Ishmael to
look at the world for what it is, not what religion tells you it is. It is
Queequegs coffin that saves Ishmaels life, it gives him a second chance and
Ishmael is resurrected. The Christian is saved by a coffin handcrafted by a
savage, the coffin is Ishmaels ark.
By simply looking at Melville?s style of writing we can see that the
conventional vs. the unconventional. Melville?s breaking of literary
convention in his writing, foreshadows his underlying depiction of the
religious and social beliefs of the time. These depictions are not what
society wants to read about, and that is why Melville?s book breaks
literary convention in both a literal way and in a figurative way.
By looking deeper into the ambiguities of Melville?s writing, we are
able to understand the ambiguities of life. Under the guise of a seemingly
straight forward adventure novel, Melville subtly suggests greater
meanings to the questions of life, then any one civilization can offer. In
order for his book not to have seemed blasphemous at the time it was
written, Melville had to veil his unconventional opinions under the guise
of convention. ?I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as a lamb.?