An Analysis Of Moby Dick: A Tragic Hero

Good Essays
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

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Herman Melville was a whaler himself and when he got back home, he chose to write about the dangers of whaling. He focused on Captain Ahab’s obsession with killing the White Whale and how his unwavering determination eventually led to his downfall. With the task of communicating what whaling was like, Melville did a very good job. He adequately explained facts about whaling and processes that occurred. He also used common themes such as greed, revenge, and death to progress the story and add complexity to the novel.…

    • 1196 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Art not game for Moby Dick?” (Melville 135). Starbuck, a member of the crew catches on that Ahab is telling them that they are on this voyage to get revenge on Moby Dick, not for whaling. Starbuck responds back with, “…but I came here to hunt whales, not my commanders vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab?” (Melville 135). Starbuck realizes how Ahab is beginning to become mentally unstable and tries to reason with him that this sacrifice is not worth it.…

    • 1937 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    When Ahab is ranting about his anger at Moby Dick, Starbuck replies, “’Vengeance on a dumb brute...that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous” (139). Starbuck’s exhortations, instead of curtailing Ahab’s desire to hunt down Moby Dick, only seem to fuel Ahab’s relentless drive to eliminate the wickedness he perceives in the whale. The true depth of the whale’s symbolic importance to Ahab is not revealed until Ishmael describes the aftermath of the incident during which Ahab lost his leg.…

    • 1706 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    He speaks of the whale named Moby as if it is God. Ahab believes that not only has Moby taken a part of him, but is the center of all evil in the world, “...that the sum of all general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down…”(Melville 200). To think this highly of a clueless animal adds to the general significance of madness to the novel by suggesting that the whole voyage of the Pequod is to slay all evil by killing one single whale. Not only does Ahab speak of Moby like this, but we also catch him talking to a dead whale hung up on the ship as if it’s some mystical being. Captain Ahab respects the sea and he knows the beauty and danger that the oceans hold.…

    • 783 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Despite this, Hargrove's ends on a disgusted tone to make the reader feel upset about the cruelty SeaWorld puts these orcas through. The gory details Hargrove provides while describing the mauling of trainer Dawn Brancheau by an orca cause the reader to fear killer whales. "He dismembered her," Hargrove says, "He tore off her left arm and scalped her." This actually weakens Hargrove's claim by making the audience fear the orcas, which in turn would decrease the public's desire to help rehabilitate such vicious creatures. However, the diction within this interview, including words such as "dread," "trauma," and "horrific," have powerful negative connotations that invoke an anger-driven sympathy that cause the reader to want to right humankind's wrong.…

    • 838 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Herman Melville had gone to Nantucket and during his trip discussed the horrors of the whaling ships disaster with none other than Mr. Pollard himself. Herman Melville of course fictionalized the captain in the story, who is the famous Captain Ahab, and his vow for vengeance towards Moby Dick. As we know the Essex Captain, who is Captain George Pollard Jr., had no ties to the large white sperm whale and no vengeance. Obsession towards Moby Dick, lead Captain Ahab to lead his crew into intermediate death. In the Heart of the Sea, the true story of the historical adaption Moby Dick.…

    • 1237 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Captain Ahab wants toinflict revenge on Moby Dick, and dies while doing so. He succeeds in harpooning thewhale, but his desire drives him to mount the whale by grabbing onto the harpoon. Hebecomes entangled in the ropes, holding him to Moby Dick, and when the whale goesunder, Ahab drowns, ultimately because of his yearning for revenge. Chillingworth’sdesire was to drive Dimmesdale to death by making him feel extreme guilt. When hefinally drives him to the brink of death, Dimmesdale publicly confesses his sin,alleviating him of his guilt, and dies immediately after.…

    • 560 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The Cove Documentary

    • 865 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Furthermore, the director used raw footage, displaying Japanese fishermen slaughtering the dolphins within the cove. The raw footage makes his argument against coastal whaling credible and shows that the inhumane hunting methods of cetaceans are barbaric and unnecessary. Psihoyos debated that the cruel whaling methods developed by humans are cruel and unnecessary, this is shown through the use of planned interview and raw footage. The viewers are positioned to feel sympathetic and disappointed of the barbaric whaling operations developed by humans which deemed to be exploitative, abusive and…

    • 865 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    By killing this bird, a symbol of purity, the mariner has offended god and nature. His punishment is to be haunted indefinitely, causing him to spend the rest of his life questioning his actions toward nature, by the spirit who loved the bird, "God save thee, ancient mariner! From the fiends, that plague thee thus! – Why look'st thou so?" "With my crossbow I shot the albatross.” (I.18-20).…

    • 955 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    One cause of keeping the crew on the ship longer was because of Moby Dick, the white whale. Captain Ahab’s obsession with this hatred for Moby Dick causes him to put himself and his crew in great danger. He has great vengeance for this creature and will do anything to kill the whale. Because of his obsession with finding the whale, he puts everyone in danger at the end of the story when they find Moby Dick once again to try to kill it. Unfortunately, Moby Dick kills and destroys everyone and everything besides Ishmael.…

    • 561 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays