Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Whale Symbol Essay -- Literary Analysis, Moby Dick

There are many views on the symbolism of the white whale in Melville’s book, Moby Dick. Melville regarded the symbol as, what William Gleim describes, "a means of both revelation and concealment"(402). The symbol of the white whale lends itself easily to this concept. To Ahab, the whale represents the wickedness of nature. To Starbuck, it is a product. To Ishmael, however, it is "portentous and mysterious"(Melville, 6). It rouses his curiosity, but he recognizes it as a thing secluded. It is an "overwhelming idea"(Melville, 6): an idea which is larger than his consciousness. Its suggestions surpass his conscious understanding and cause him to feel significance even if he can’t know it. Moby Dick is literally an albino sperm whale. In his categorization of all whales, Melville regards the sperm whale as the primate: "He is, without a doubt, the largest inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of all whales to encounter; and lastly, by far the most valuable in commerce"(Melville, 133). The whiteness of the whale enhances this communication in that it has regal associations, "a certain royal pre-eminence in this hue"(Melville, 184). The white whale, therefore, stands, primarily, as, what Gleim states, "the ideal representation of his species"(406). He is a sign of excellence to the order of nature. To Ishmael, however, the whiteness of the whale has not only dignified associations, but also terrible ones. The whiteness signifies a natural beauty, but it also signifies, "by its indefiniteness"(Melville, 192), the immensity of the universe. For all aboard the Pequod, their voyage is one of search for the ultimate truth of experience. What begins as a voyage in search of the product of whale oil, ends with the discovery of th... ...The white whale represents not only the excellence of creation but also the mystery of creation. William Sedgwick states, "He is significant of the massive inertia in things, and of the blind beauty and violence of nature--all that ignore or twists or betrays or otherwise does outrage to man's purpose"(98). As a significant form in nature, then, the shape of the white whale is the mask of "dumb blankness"(Melville, 192). It contains "the heartless voids† (Melville, 192). of the universe and conceals this abyss. Its mystery is its perplexing nature: its indifference to "kindly associations" and "joint stock"(Melville, 185) theories. Nature, however, is indifferent, and Moby Dick is the symbol of this indifference. Man can force perceptions of beauty upon nature and extract commodity from it, but the white whale represents the absolute negation of these efforts.

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