Essay on Herman Melville 's Enduring Masterpiece, Moby Dick

1184 Words Nov 19th, 2015 null Page
Herman Melville’s enduring masterpiece, Moby-Dick, is often regarded as a very progressive novel in its representation of ethnicity, and religion. Melville uses the mixed ethnicities/faiths of the harpooneers and likewise motley crewmen to illustrate an egalitarian social order among the ship’s crew. Even the lowly cabin boy, Pip, and the cook, Fleece emerge as far richer characters than the base caricatures of African-Americans that they may at first appear to be. This deceptive use of stereotypes is further evinced in the characters of Ahab’s mysterious harpooneer and advisor, Fedallah and his ghostly crew. Melville has often been criticized for presenting the enigmatic Parsee as nothing more than a piece of “gothic furniture,” that only reinforces negative associations with people of Middle-Eastern descent. While on the surface these criticisms hold considerable weight, it is upon further exploration of the character and his crew that facilitates a much more nuanced and multiform representation of Ahab’s shadow and his phantom acolytes. Fedallah may at times seem to be a singularly transparent, conventional mold of the sinister “oriental,” but there is a larger purpose to these depictions that not only connects the Parsee and his crew to the venerated whales, but also at times reflects an inversion of the diabolic tropes that his character is so frequently associated with. It can hardly be gainsaid that Fedallah and his crew are racialized according to pre-existing…

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