Characterism In Moy Dick And Herman Melville's Moby Dick

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The most renowned authors of literature, famous figures such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, are widely known for, among many other qualities, their ability to condense powerful meaning into concise, easily overlooked phrases. Of course, well-known classical authors also have a penchant for penning intricate and multifaceted novels, and Herman Melville is no exception. Melville’s Moby-Dick is, at first glance, a work of extreme complexity, full of musings concerning language, nature, and the human condition, among many other topics. However, Melville’s overarching goal in writing Moby-Dick is to illustrate both the natural human instinct to search for the hidden meaning of life and the impossibility of achieving such a lofty objective. …show more content…
The captain proceeds to expound on the reasons behind his boundless ambition in pursuing Moby Dick: “He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him” (140). Ahab assigns multiple characteristics of evil to Moby Dick, and is determined to exterminate the malice he perceives within the White Whale. In contrast, Starbuck, the first mate of the Pequod, does not understand why Ahab makes Moby Dick a symbol. 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. Melville writes, “Ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale…he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations” (156). Melville continues, “The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them” (156). In essence, Ahab believes that Moby Dick is the source of the angst and rage he feels after the whale reaped away his leg. Ultimately, Ahab places his faith in the idea that

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