Critical Thinking on Metaphorical Symbolism of Moby Dick

Type of paper: Critical thinking

Topic: Symbolism, Literature

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2019/09/23


Symbolism can be defined as the use of a person; thing or place to act as a representation of something else that is wider and mostly out of reach. The purpose of use of symbolism by authors is to be objective but still clinging to the subject of their views. However, there cannot be an obligation on the similarity on the use of symbols. This is because some symbols represent open things while others require a comprehensive elaboration.

Moby dick is a novel written by Herman Melville and was published in 1851. The book is about a traveler’s experience at the sea during which a whale was being hunted by the captain as the journey continued. The captain, Ahab was curious to hunt down and kill Mobby Dick, the whale which he finally achieved. However, the story is more than just a whaling story, but the main subject is the Ahab’s fight to survive the conditions of life.

Main text

Herman Melville has employee a vast deal of symbolism in an effort to try and convey his ideas. This is because he admired Hawthorn’s work to whom he dedicated his novel just like in the romantic articles.

The first instance of use of symbolism is the sea, where virtually all the action occurs. This is a symbol of an open area where anything can take place with high possibilities like even murder. The sea also represents the neutral land which brings about horror and mystery. In addition, being among the four symbols of ancient philosophy is a symbol of life, dynamism and freedom and continuity.

The only recognizable object to the sailors and the travelers is the ship, the only way in which their lives could be preserved. Moreover, it helps movement from the living to the land of unresolved souls.

Moreover, the great white whale referred to as Moby dick has been symbolically used in the book. The whale represents a challenge for the captain, Ahab in his quest to overcome the wild nature. The whale represents an obstacle that cannot be put under control, cannot be conquered. The whale also is a symbol of the spiritual part of the journey. Also, a variety of commercials and products to display the pure power and ability of the product have employed the use of the whale symbol. This is a proof that the big size of the whale as revealed in the original book by Herman Melville was the main theme that the author had in mind for the huge mammal.

In addition, the whale Moby Dick is symbolic of nature. Among the most popular interpretations of the whale is in its contrast with to nature. Melville depicts Moby Dick as being peaceful and quiet in its natural habitat, just like nature in general. He tries to elaborate that when an external force interferes with the true course of nature, it can result in disagreements and unexpected reactions, on either side, the whale is also symbolic in nature because it is bound by natural laws, nevertheless they are capable of being robust and resilient at the same time being calm and peaceful.

Ishmael associates the whale to nature on the basis of them being both beautiful and wonderful. On the other hand, Starbuck seems to associate Moby Dick to nature due to its ability to nourish, and he emphasizes on what the whale has to offer. Like oil, and money, he will accrue when the whale is killed.

In Moby Dick, Melville uses the symbolism of the whale to depict the theme of humanistic relationships. The white color of the whale is a symbol that it can be tame as well as evil. The symbolism of the whale can be said to represent the beauty of the world as well as all that is destructive in the world. Consequently, Moby dick is similar to nature.

Moreover, the whale has been used to reveal a sense of curiosity, awe and compassion for the huge mammal. This state of things is slowly turned into sense of horror prohibition and confusion as the growth of the protagonist of the story, a slightly bad-mannered but dedicated captain, Ahab who is contented with the state of his life as at present continues successfully.

To the captain, Ahab the whale is a symbol of evil and injustice. He begins to dislike the whale and finally develops a negative attitude towards it and declares it his arch rival for being the cause to the loss of his leg and leading to perpetual pain he sustains. Eventually the captain develops irresistible disgust for the whale which could only end if the captain killed the whale or the whale killed the captain.

Furthermore, the entire atmosphere has been occupied by a sun which is the source of power and energy to life. Melville has put a lot of emphasis on numbers. Throughout the novel, it is observed that the number ‘three’ has been frequently used. The number has a religious meaning, representing the number of trinity of destiny.

The voyage at sea is an attempt to get a perfect, journey of the soul in its quest for supernatural satisfaction. The scenery is mainly occupied by strong colors. These colors are also symbolic. For instance, yellow color is a symbol of sustaining life while white represents innocence, purity and having no blemish freedom of any obstructions. On the other hand, the color white can be symbolic of perish, strength, power and super-natural appearance. This is evidenced when the whale lives peacefully at the sea until it is attacked by the men (Melville 290-295). In this instance, Melville tries to emphasize that white color can be contrastingly used to mean tranquility and good as well as evil and terror.

Furthermore, Ahab’s pipe has been symbolically used. This can be said to be the control factor of happiness in his life. When he threw the pipe overboard, he signifies that he can no longer celebrate simple happiness in life. On the other hand, he declares his everyday life to the quest for his passion, the hunt for Moby dick, the colossal whale. Thus, the killing of the whale is a symbol of the ultimate goal of Ahab in his life. Thus the whale is also a symbol of everyone’s goal. The destruction of Moby Dick by Ahab is also a symbol of destruction of his fears and the challenges that face him in the world.

When Ishmael shares a cold bed with his newfound friend, the cold bed is a symbol that nothing exists by itself. This implies that people need something to reach for in life and that target can be destructive if allowed to overcome other obligations.

Also the name Ishmael is a symbol of an orphan, exile and outcast. For instance, in the early parts of the novel, Ishmael reveals that he had turned out to the sea because he was alienated from the human society. In the final chapter of the novel, he literally refers to himself as an orphan. This is a proof of the biblical connection putting emphasis on the representation of outcasts; Ishmael is also Abraham’s son with the slave girl Hagar prior to the birth of Isaac. On the birth of Isaac, Sarah, Abraham’s legitimate wife had Ishmael and Hagar exiled into the desert.


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