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?Moby Dick? By Herman Melville Essay, Research Paper

Moby Dick

In the novel ?Moby Dick? by Herman Melville, the apparent themes:

good vs. evil, civilized vs. uncivilized, and conventional vs. unconventional

are throughout the book, but they are not as superficial as they seem.

In treating the theme good vs. evil, the apparent message is one of

Ahab being the innocent victim. A man disfigured and tormented by a beast

of nature. In juxtaposition to that the whale can be perceived as being evil

because of what he did to man. However, if we are to look at this

objectively we would have to admit that man is also a creature of nature,

and therefore you would have to ask, what represents evil in the novel;

Moby Dick or Ahab? Throughout the book Ahab defies God. He speaks

out against him and admits his lack of faith. Moreover, since Ahab is so

obsessed with killing the whale he puts his entire crew in jeopardy which

does not only go against mans law (a captain must never put his crew or

ship in danger for his own selfish intentions), but also goes against God?s

law (mans indifference towards other men is sinful in God?s eyes).

Through these actions we are shown that Ahab is more representative of

the evil side of nature then Moby Dick.

The book also incorporates the theme civilized vs. uncivilized.

Ishmael; the civilized man is compelled to teach Queequeg; the uncivilized

man. Since Ishmael is the Christian and Queequeg the savage, Ishmael

believes that by teaching Queequeg about organized religion, and the

workings of society, he is saving him by helping him to adapt to the ways

of civilization. Melville has us believe that Queequeg is born into

civilization. That is Melville?s apparent message, but in all actuality it is

Queequeg who allows Ishmael to be born again. Queequeg sees the world

unobscured by the dogmatism of Christianity, which allows Ishmael to

look at the world for what it is, not what religion tells you it is. It is

Queequegs coffin that saves Ishmaels life, it gives him a second chance and

Ishmael is resurrected. The Christian is saved by a coffin handcrafted by a

savage, the coffin is Ishmaels ark.

By simply looking at Melville?s style of writing we can see that the

conventional vs. the unconventional. Melville?s breaking of literary

convention in his writing, foreshadows his underlying depiction of the

religious and social beliefs of the time. These depictions are not what

society wants to read about, and that is why Melville?s book breaks

literary convention in both a literal way and in a figurative way.

By looking deeper into the ambiguities of Melville?s writing, we are

able to understand the ambiguities of life. Under the guise of a seemingly

straight forward adventure novel, Melville subtly suggests greater

meanings to the questions of life, then any one civilization can offer. In

order for his book not to have seemed blasphemous at the time it was

written, Melville had to veil his unconventional opinions under the guise

of convention. ?I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as a lamb.?


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