CH99: "The Doubloon" and human nature

Essay by fitzsarah1High School, 11th gradeA+, March 2004

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Within Moby Dick, Melville created his own microcosm, in which to stage a tale of adventure and philosophy. This microcosm came in the form of a whaling ship, The Pequod, and her crew represented the many races, cultures, and backgrounds present in the world. Throughout the novel, Melville contrasted the various ways in which different crew members interpret the "world" -- within the bounds of the Pequod and, philosophically, on a higher level to represent the entire human society.

Ishmael, and hence Melville, placed the objects on the Pequod under close scrutiny, for as Ishmael said, "some certain significance lurks in all things." But, what exactly is that significance? Especially in Chapter 99, "The Doubloon", each individual character has his own interpretation of the world. The chapter illustrates the difficulty of interpreting the world, and how each person will inevitably see something different - hence Pip's conjugation of the verb "to look", for in each person there is a different result.

In Chapter 99, many characters came up to ponder the inner meanings of the doubloon. Its original purpose was to rally forth from the crew loyalty and devotion to their monomaniacal quest. During Ahab's speech in chapter 36 he states, " 'Look ye! D'ye see this Spanish ounce of gold? ... 'It is a sixteen dollar piece, men.... 'He whosoever raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!'" (Melville, 1981, pp. 154-155). On its face were three (curios that this number is rather more than prevalent throughout the novel, ah but that is the topic of another paper entirely!) summits, much like those of mountains, and from each respectively was a flame, a tower, and a crowing rooster, and over all three were zodiac symbols. It is curious that Ahab is the...