Moby Dick 3 Essay, Research Paper
“I Try All Things; I Achieve What I Can”
(Herman Melville in MOBY DICK)
Herman Melville, in his novel, MOBY DICK, combined the results of large amounts of research in history, personal narratives, and scientific tracts with his own experiences on a whaling ship. He wanted his book to be an allegory, full of psychological and symbolic richness. Though the plot itself is deceptively simple, there are many layers and elements that make up this important novel. It is a sea story, a tall tale, an epic quest, a satire, a tragedy, a primer on whaling, and a statement on man’s overwhelming ambition. Melville set about, therefore, to create a multi-leveled work that could be read in several ways, and was not just a pure entertainment. He wanted to “Try all things,” so that he could achieve what “I can.”
Melville had a straightforward plot line, but did not tell it in a straight narrative fashion. Instead, he used a layering of styles, tones, allusions, and forms to create an allegory of good and evil, of the pursuit of absolute knowledge, and of man versus nature.
The author uses a narrator, Ishmael, to tell the story. Initially, Melville utilized Ishmael to relay the story to the reader, but he switches to other methods of telling the story, as the first person narrator becomes impractical. Melville “tries” to have Ishmael act in the third person, as he could not possibly be everywhere at once or report on the actions of more than one character, without becoming an omniscient narrator.
. In the quote, I try all things; I achieve what I can, I am going to relate what Melville was trying to achieve with the monomaniacal character Captain Ahab aboard the Pequod.
One of the many questions that is brought forth in Moby Dick is: has Captain Ahab really gone mad or is he just driven by revenge and vengeance? Melville succeeded in not really giving an answer to this question, rather letting the reader make up his or her own mind. Melville gives many examples to support both sides of the spectrum that Ahab has gone mad with his monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale. And in other instances he shows Ahab still is in touch with humanity.
The Pequod meets in the course of its voyage a great many other whaling ships bound on their own courses and intent on their own concerns. The meetings at sea Melville tried to provide interesting interludes of the story, sometimes humorous and sometimes tragic, but they also serve to shed the light of numerous and varying points of view on Ahab s quest. One such meeting Melville tries to demonstrate just how much of a loss Ahab feels for humanity. In chapter 128, (576) The Pequod meets the Rachel, The captain of the Rachel asks Ahab to join the Rachel in the search for a lost whaleboat which contains the captain s only son. Here is an opportunity for Ahab to show his humanitarian spirit and to put aside his personal quest in order to do a good action and maybe undo his monomaniacal tendencies. However, the Rachel tells Ahab that it has had sight of Moby Dick within the past twenty-four hours. As soon as Ahab hears how close he is to the object of his long search for vengeance he can thing of nothing else. (579) Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time. Goodbye. God bless ye, man, and may I forgive myself, but I must go. Melville now had made it clear that there is no turning back. Captain Ahab had his chance to do what was right but again sided with vengeance. Ahab is just delighted to hear that the Rachel has been in recent contact with the white whale. Even though Ahab tries to sound apologetic he refuses the plea for help and pushes forward in the relentless pursuit of his nemesis. On the other hand he does know that what he is doing is wrong and does ask for forgiveness.
In characterization, style, and narration techniques, Herman Melville tried many different ways of dealing with his subject. His goal was to write a novel of importance about whaling, and about a man obsessed with the idea of getting even, no matter what. In trying all things, he achieved a great classic novel: one that has stood the test of time.