Essay on The Whale 's Whiteness, By Edgar Melville

742 Words Nov 15th, 2016 3 Pages
“Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors” (Melville 212). Whiteness is at once the absence of color and all of the colors combined. Ishmael devotes the entire chapter to Moby Dick’s color. He begins with naming characteristics generally associated with the color white: majestic, holy, “divine spotlessness,” and powerful (205). However, in spite of all the reasons Ishmael has listed above that make whiteness a seemingly grander hue, it still manages to stimulate fear. In the whale’s whiteness, Ishmael sees both innocence and evil. To the Indians, the White Steed of the Prairies was greatly admired and was a creature of pure wonder. Melville uses this example to further prove how white creatures can be both feared and admired, or seen as symbols of beauty or power. Even to the “bravest Indians he was the object of trembling reverence and awe” (207). He received this attention primarily because of “his spiritual whiteness… which so clothed him with divineness.” His color gave him the power “commanding worship,” but “at the same time enforced a certain nameless terror” (207). Moby Dick is very much like the White Steed. His color is uncommon and naturally draws attention to be appreciated, however, his audience also feels freight to the amount of power he holds. This kind of power is similar to when there was great anxiety in the 19th century around race and class…

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