Geography In Moby-Dick

A Look at Geography in Moby-Dick
Melville’s Moby-Dick is a richly woven psychological masterpiece. Time and again concepts and characters are deftly paralleled and contrasted. The sheer density and breadth of references spans biblical allusions, a range of mythologies, as well as the geographical knowledge of a learned cartographer. Perhaps Melville’s most commonly underappreciated device, however, is his complex use of geography. His locations do not only represent real world challenges but also states of emotion, metaphors for characters and relationships, and metaphysical beliefs. Although examples are abound in the novel, I will focus on interpreting Cape Horn as an analogue for the physical and spiritual life of the whalers, and how this
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The whalers’ relationship with Cape Horn is not so simple as a place to fear though, instead the two capes, Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, act as gateways to the world they want, filled with adventures away from land and the West. For these sailors, these capes are their escape. The novel seems to emphasize the mystery and excitement of the Pacific Ocean more than anywhere else.
Europe and the United States are the known world, but also Africa and South America as continents are
Not treated with much excitement. Instead, the focus of adventure is on the whaling grounds and Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In the time of the Moby-Dick the two capes controlled almost all travel to the Pacific from the old world. The Suez Canal wasn’t opened until around 1870, and the Panama Canal until 1914. Thus, the two capes were the sole obstacles on the only path that separated the Old World from the New. In this sense, The Pequod’s crew does not just fear Cape Horn, but see it as a sign of adventure and the connection between their worlds. We see in chapter 2 when Ishmael first sets off he “/started for Cape Horn...” and when he talks of Queequeg’s homeland in chapter 10, it’s “twenty thousand miles from home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is — which was the only way he could get there — thrown among people as strange to him as though he were in the planet Jupiter.” Already we see the Cape as the divider between the known and

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