Symbols and Meanings in "Moby Dick".

Essay by surferpartygurlUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, October 2003

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The novel begins with the famous statement by the book's narrator. "Call me Ishmael". He has the habit of going to sea whenever he begins to grow "hazy about the eyes." He goes to sea as a laborer, not as a Commodore, a Captain or a Cook, but as a simple sailor. He does so because he may be paid and because it affords him wholesome exercise and pure sea air. It is said that the novel Moby Dick is one of the most ambitious in American literature, one that encompasses many different styles of writing. Herman Melville uses his characters, his locations and even inanimate objects to serve as symbols for his story. This is a story of a man (Ahab), in search of Satan (Moby Dick), on the one hand, and God (Moby Dick again) on the other hand.

Ishmael is the narrator of the novel.

He is a simple sailor on the Pequod who undertakes the journey because of his affection for the sea. As the narrator, Ishmael establishes himself as somewhat of a nobody and a normal man. His primary task is to observe the conflicts around him. Ishmael has the only significant personal relationship in the novel; he becomes a close friend with the pagan harpooner Queequeg and comes to cherish and adore him to a great level. The relationship between Queequeg and Ishmael throughout Moby Dick generally illustrates the prevalent contrast between civilized, specifically Christian society and uncivilized, pagan society. Melville continues the comparison and contrast between the two types of societies often, usually in the discussion of Queequeg, who's uncivilized and imposing appearance only obscures his actual honor and civilized demeanor. In this way, Melville is prepared to simply deconstruct Queequeg and position him in sympathetic terms, making the characters to...