An Analysis Of Moby Dick: A Tragic Hero

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A tragic hero described by Aristotle must have certain qualities and evoke emotions throughout a dramatic tragedy: Catharsis, Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, and Nemesis. The fatal flaw known as Hamartia, contributes to the characters demise or downfall, which ultimately ends in their death. In Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab who also serves as captain of the Pequod, demonstrates Catharsis, Hubris, and Hamartia- all the characteristics a tragic hero obtains. The Captain evokes emotions of pity, fear, and awe to his crew over the course of the whaling voyage, showcasing the unfortunate title bestowed upon him: the tragic hero. Before Ahab physically appears or speaks in the novel, Melville introduces descriptions of the Captain through …show more content…
Captain Ahab’s Hubris notably appears through his decision to hunt down Moby Dick and focusing the crew’s labor toward the sole purpose of capturing and slaughtering the whale. During his quarter deck speech, Ahab insists that he “will wreak that hate upon,” (pg.140) the whale, and in Chapter 37 shouts “Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!” (pg. 142). The purpose of whaling voyages as a whole, as always been to hunt whales for their oil and sell this for profit. Ahab transparently proves his main purpose of captaining the Pequod to deliberately kill Moby Dick in Chapter 44 titled “The Chart”. “Ahab’s chances of accomplishing his object hitherto been spoken of, allusion has only been made to whatever way-side…” (pg.168). Clearly, he chose to join the whale boat, not for profit, but to avenge the whale that wounded him. Ahab’s tone in the quarter deck speech shows he believes the feat can get accomplished, which seems pretty ambiguous and overconfident. The natural order of events of any whaling ship stands to pursue as many sperm whales as possible; however, Ahab muddles this for his personal agenda, thus visibly demonstrating Hubris to the Pequod’s …show more content…
What constitutes as Ahab’s Hamartia? His incessant desire and demands for the crew of the Pequod to butcher Moby Dick. Starbuck strongly opposes and immediately attempts to bring the insanity in Ahab’s scheme to light by saying “I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance.” (pg. 139) Not only are the crew made aware of the idiocy Ahab’s plan entails, but they try and persuade him against it. Ahab however, still aware of the insanity of his scheme, continues to execute it. By doing such, he neglects the safety and concerns of his crew, and ultimately brings on his own demise. “It feels like going down into one’s tomb,”-he would mutter to himself, “for an old captain like me to be descending this narrow scuttle, to go to my grave-dug berth.” (pg. 110). Ishmael also acknowledges Ahab’s hamartia in his thoughts “everybody supposed that this particular heedfulness in Ahab must only be with a view to the ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he had already revealed his intention to hunt the mortal monster in person.” (pg. 191). So far, up until Chapter 93, Ahab’s conquest has not harmed any of his crew mates, but Melville adds layers of foreshadowing that the interaction with Moby Dick that the novel builds up to, will not have a favorable outcome for the Pequod’s

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