Analysis Of Popular American Romanticism In Moby Dick

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Is Moby-Dick a Gothic novel? If one were to Google what genre the book falls under, the most popular result he or she will receive is “American Romanticism”, which makes sense considering the time period Herman Melville wrote it. In fact, the novel is third on the list of “Popular American Romanticism Books” featured on the Goodreads’ website. Yet, when researching further into the characteristics of a Gothic novel, the possibility of Melville’s book being a Gothic seems less and less absurd. Popularized in the late eighteenth century, Gothic novels often deal with mystery, suspense, extreme emotions, and pseudo-medieval settings, all of which exists within Moby-Dick. While there are multiple components that characterize the genre, if one was …show more content…
There are small instances in which Ishmael or the crew does encounter more stereotypical supernatural-like beings, such as the ghostly sailors Ishmael saw in chapter twenty-one that vanishes when he and Queequeg boards the ship, and the unnoticed and disembodied “low laugh from the hold” in chapter thirty-six (Melville 140). All this adds to the dreadful, gloomy suspense of the Pequod’s setting, which is not uncommon for a Gothic novel. But perhaps the most supernatural being in the story is Moby Dick. In the minds of the “superstitiously inclined,” the ghostly white whale is “not only ubiquitous, but immortal” (Melville 154-155). They say that the whale seems to appear in multiple regions at once and is nearly impossible to slay, awingly praising its human-like intellect and malice. If sailors claim that Moby Dick is both omnipotent and omnipresent, does that not make it a god of spirit of some form? In fact, Ahab seems to blame the whale for all his “bodily woes… [and] all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations”, deeming it “the incarnation of all… malicious agencies” and the “intangible malignity which has been from the beginning” (Melville 156). Whether or not this may just be the musings of a middle-aged monomaniac, the fact that Moby Dick does not make a physical appearance till the very end yet holds such a strong influence throughout the novel helps enhance the plausibility. He initially exists for the reader only through the words and fears of others, through legend and story. This further demonstrates his omnipotence, omnipresence, and similarity to a god; Moby Dick may not be present physically yet he can be through either in thought or in fear, and once a belief has spread, it cannot be easily

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