The novel Moby Dick was the sixth novel published by Herman Melville, a landmark of American literature that mixed a number of literary styles including a fictional adventure story and historical detail. The story’s central theme is revenge, where Captain Ahab is on hot pursuit of whale that maimed him. This research paper will outline the central theme of the story Moby Dick. Summary The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is an epic tale of the voyage of the whaling ship the Pequod and its captain, Ahab, who relentlessly pursues the great Sperm Whale (the title character) during a journey around the world.
The narrator of the novel is Ishmael, a sailor on the Pequod who undertakes the journey out of his affection for the sea. The story starts with Ishmael arriving in New Bedfordshire where he befriends Queequeg, a harpooner and registers himself as the crew member of Pequod. There he comes to know about Captain Ahab and his tragic story. Finally Ishmael is the lone survivor as the whale topples the ship and the whole crew. Theme The whole story is centered on the single theme- revenge, where individual constantly battles the forces of the nature.
He tries to capture the whale and kill him, but in vain, for the ways of the whale, like God are uncertain and it becomes fatal voyage in the end. Ahab seeks revenge for two reasons. One he has been hunting Moby Dick for years and has not been able to kill him. He is frustrated by his inability to catch and kill Moby Dick. He personifies the whale into his mortal enemy. And two, he lost his leg to Moby Dick so he is even more determined to kill him. Simply put, Ahab seeks revenge because the whale caused him to lose his leg. Ahab does not see the whale as merely “a dumb brute…
that… smote (him) from blindest instinct. ” He sees in him rather “outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice (that) insulted (him). ” He is obsessed, compelled to seek vengeance by an “innermost necessity in (his) being”, “damned in the midst of paradise”, by “madness maddened”. His heart is consumed by hatred and a deep-seated need to seek revenge, and he vows to pursue “that accursed white whale that… made a poor pegging lubber of (him)… round Good Hope, and round the Horn… and round perdition’s flames before (he) give(s) him up. ” “I and the public know,
What the school children learn Those who do evil to one Do evil in return. ”- W. H. Auden The above lines come true for Ahab as he restlessly pursues the whale, which maimed him, to capture him and kill him. Ahab is portrayed in both positive and negative shades. Though positive, all his energies are concentrated in one direction- revenge. Though Ahab is a hero, he becomes a villain in the end due to malice and revenge and finally loses his life. This shows the battle between individual and nature, where individual tries to overpower the nature by his creativity and courage.
Ahab’s revenge is neither imaginative nor artistic as it ends in a tragic and fatal note. Ahab is therefore shown as a blasphemous character where he goes to the extent of challenging Gods and defying laws of nature by claiming himself immortal. The conflict between the individual and nature brings into play the essence of religion and God’s role in the natural world. . In Chapter 58 Melville writes: “As the appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.
God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, for thou canst never return! ” Although Melville’s exact point of view is debatable, and the symbolism in the book is too rich to allow for neat comparisons, in viewing the Pequod’s voyage as a metaphor for life. An individual risks missing out on many of the good things in life, including home and domestic happiness, whilst he is in pursuit of far off and vengeful ambitions and eventually loses track of his life. Ahab is given a chance to draw back but he does not and ends up in death.
Thus the plot becomes thrusting and combative in the theme “Revenge. ” When, at the end of the novel, Ishmael, the lone survivor, is finally picked up and rescued by the Rachel, we are reminded that he had become a member of the crew as the result of an act of free will rather than necessity, as a means of escaping thoughts of death. Throughout the novel, Melville creates a relationship between Ahab and Moby Dick despite the latter’s absence until the final three chapters through the recurrence of elements creating a close relationship between Ahab and the whale.
The most significant of these is the actual physical presence of the Sperm Whale as part of Ahab’s body in the form of Ahab’s ivory leg. The whale is a physical part of Ahab in this instance; it is literally a part of Ahab. Melville also develops this theme through the uncanny sense that Ahab has for the whale. Ahab has a nearly psychic sense of Moby Dick’s presence, and more tragically, the idea of Moby Dick perpetually haunts the formidable captain.
This theme serves in part to better explain the depth of emotion behind Ahab’s quest for the whale; as a living presence that haunts Ahab’s life, he feels that he must continue on his quest no matter the cost. Conclusion Though Ahab was a hero, since all his powers were directed in one direction, i. e. revenge, Ahab’s voyage ended in vain and he died leaving Ishmael as the lone survivor. Reference 1). Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Bantam Books. 2). Wikipedia. org 3). Gravesender. com/mobydick 4). Peter Fulton, Michael Spring, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. 5). Naomi Wells, Moby Dick, Maxrandomnotes Publications.Sample Essay of BuyEssay.org