Moby Dick: Symbols To Draw Attention Essay

This essay has a total of 1222 words and 6 pages.

Moby Dick: Symbols To Draw Attention

Often in great works of literature, symbols are incorporated to add depth. These symbols
make it more interesting to the reader by making connections from one idea to another.
Herman Melville depicts a great number of characters and symbols in his 19th century novel
Moby Dick. Melville uses symbols to develop plot, characters, and to give the reader a
deeper interpretation of the novel. (Tucker) The author successfully uses the symbols of
brotherhood, monomania, isolation, religion, and duality to make his book more interesting
to its readers.


At the beginning of the novel, the characters Ishmael and Queequeg are introduced. Ishmael
is the narrator of the story. He is also a merchant seaman who signs up for a whaling
voyage to see the world- and the only crewmember to survive and tell us the story.
Queequeg is a tattooed cannibal from the South Seas. He is courageous, as well as
kind-hearted. (Cavendish) After becoming friends with Ishmael, he also signs up for
whaling and becomes a harpooner.


Melville chose to depict brotherhood as a symbol in a couple different ways. In the hotel
room before boarding the Pequod, Ishmael and Queequeg share a room together, where they
both sleep. One such morning when Ishmael awakes, he recalls:


How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures
between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each
other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus,
then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg- a cozy, loving pair (Melville 68).


This closeness that Melville creates conveys that the relationship between these two characters is a close one.

In the chapter A Squeeze of the Hand, brotherhood is addressed yet again. The crewmembers
of the Pequod cut the blubber out of the whales to make it liquid again. While their hands
are in the blubber, they meet, as if everyone is holding hands. Ishmael states, "…I
found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for
the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this
avocation beget…(398)" This is significant because of the importance of comradeship.
This situation was used as an excuse to be closer to people then a normal situation would
normally allow. This chapter is contrasted to the previous chapter to that of isolation,
which will soon be addressed.


Yet another symbol of brotherhood in Moby Dick was when Ahab split his wooden leg jumping
back onto the Pequod. Ahab depended on the carpenter to make him a new leg, therefore
partly bonding and making a friendship.


Ahab's monomania grows increasingly as the story moves forward. While on the ship, Ahab
addresses his crewmembers with a doubloon, which symbolizes the act of drawing everyone
into the vortex of monomania by Ahab. He uses this coin to focus everyone's attentions and
goals into finding Moby Dick.


However, the coin incident is not the only symbol that Melville uses to display Captain
Ahab's monomania. As they are sailing, the Pequod passes various ships along their
journey. Upon meeting with these ships, Ahab asks them if they've seen a white whale, and
refuses to help them because he is afraid that it will interfere and delay the process of
capturing Moby Dick.


Because of Ahab's monomania, in the beginning of the novel Ahab isolates himself from the
rest of the crewmembers until they are out on the sea. During the early stages of this
novel, Ahab avoids bonding with anyone else, which can be found when at the dinner table.
All the mates are silent, and they must leave in the reverse order from which they came,
with the third mate having to leave first; the harpooners eat last. It is because of this
order that demonstrates how Ahab tries to isolate him and his crewmembers. "… In the
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