The Pequod In Herman Melville's Moby Dick

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Even the forces often heralded as the piece de resistance of humanity cannot be achieved in full. Many natural objects can never be understood perfectly. Even human knowledge has its limits. The ostensibly supernatural leviathan is the focus of Herman Melville’s classic tale of a whaling voyage aboard the ill-fated Pequod. Throughout Moby Dick, Ishmael, the protagonist, vehemently attempts and fails to use Western knowledge to explain an object that transcends boundaries, the great whale. The novel begins with Ishmael’s journey in Nantucket and quickly draws to his voyage on the Pequod, headed by the rash Captain Ahab.

In many ways the Pequod represents the consequences of man’s search for endless knowledge. Melville’s controlling image
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Throughout the novel, Ishmael vehemently attempts to explain the monstrous leviathan 's true meaning. But his traditional Western knowledge cannot explain such a supernatural being. As he walks into the nominally ominous Spouter-Inn, "what most puzzled and confounded (him)" was a painting in the center of the room. It was a "boggy, soggy, squishy picture, enough to drive a nervous man distracted."(Melville 806) As Ishmael attempts to derive its meaning, he comes to a standpoint, at which "ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart (him) through." (Melville 806). He first believes that the painting is of "the Black Sea in a midnight gale"(Melville 807), and goes through various altering ideas, each one different from the last. In a more philosophical part of the book, Ishmael describes the whale 's perils as "undeliverable and nameless", eventually stating that "chief among (his) motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself." Ishmael set out to sea mainly to gain knowledge of this "undeliverable and nameless" leviathan. At sea, Ishmael does not manage to gain this substance that was the purpose of his voyage. Upon examining the skeleton of a dead whale, Ishmael states that "the skeleton of the whale is by no means the mould of its invested form", "how vain and foolish ... for timid untravelled man to try to comprehend aright this wondrous whale."(Melville 1277). Ishmael believes that "only on the profound unbounded sea, can the fully invested whale be truly and livingly found out."(Melville 1277). In his opinion, seeking for this knowledge is more difficult and honorable than any other task. Ishmael questions "what ... the comprehensible terrors of man (are) compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God?"(Melville 909). The White Whale, a minor character in the text, represents to each man a different thing. Starbuck believes

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