Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

White Whale in Moby-Dick

Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

White Whale in Moby-Dick

Article excerpt


Herman Melville is a famous American novelist during the romantic period, and an influential figure in the world literature history. Moby-Dick, his representative work, has been a "bright pearl" in the literary treasury of the world. Moby-Dick, or The whale, Melville's masterpiece, is the epic story of the whaling ship Pequod and its "ungodly, godlike man". Captain Ahab, whose obsessive quest for the white whale Moby-Dick, leads the ship and its men to destruction. This work, a realistic adventure novel, contains a series of meditations on the human condition. Whaling, throughout the book, is a grand metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge. Realistic catalogues and descriptions of whale and the whaling industry punctuate the book, but these carry symbolic connotations. Melville uses the symbolic methods in the novel and makes the novel full of the permanent artistic charm and the literary value above time and space. This paper focuses on the analysis of the main characters-Captain Ahab and the whale Moby-Dick.

Key words: Ahab; Moby-Dick; Heroism; Harmony; Nature


Moby-Dick is one of the world's great novels, whose richness increases with each new reading. A story of monomania aboard a whaling ship, Moby-Dick is a tremendously ambitious novel that functions at once as a documentary of life at sea and a vast philosophical allegory of life in general. It is an encyclopedia of everything, history, philosophy, religion, etc. in addition to a detailed account of the operations of the whaling industry. MobyDick remained largely ignored until the 1920s, when it was rediscovered and promoted by literary historians interested in constructing an American literary tradition.

In the 19th century, whaling is an adventurous industry "bring people to the abyss of the afterlife", mostly by the desperate poor man who willing to use their lives to fight. Under the material and technical conditions, the sea whaling entirely relied on manual labor. After the whaling ship set out on a voyage, drinking the bitter water, living in substandard whaling ships, suffering the heat of the tropical oceans, or the attack of the polar Blizzard, sailors will live a desperate life about three years. Their whaling engaging in a life-and-death struggle with whales in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and the Pacific is for the development of capitalism.

This novel was written on the basis of Melville's whaling experience. He saw a whaling ship of that time as an epitome of the entire United States, with top officers invariably descendants of early Puritan whites and the crew homeless men of all races and religions. Such a ship was also a floating factory, organized along industrial lines. The whales, however, were strange and mysterious, representing nature which was good and evil, beautiful and indifferent, generous and cruel.


It is the White Whale, the world's largest creature. It is powerful, legendary image of nature. It swims peacefully in the sea until disturbed by humans, and then shows a terrible fury and anger. The great white sperm whale, Moby-Dick, also called white whale, is a notorious and dangerous threat to seamen, considered by Ahab as the incarnation of evil and doomed to be given a just punishment. But in a sense, Moby-Dick is not a character, as the reader has no way to enter the white whale's thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Instead, Moby-Dick is an impersonal force, and has been interpreted as an allegorical representation of God, a mysterious and allpowerful being that humankind can neither understand nor defy. Moby-Dick barricades free will and cannot be defeated, only accompany or avoided. Ishmael tries many ways to describe whales in general, but none proves adequate Indeed, as Ishmael points out, the majority of a whale is hidden from view at all times. In this way, a whale mirrors its environment. Like the whale, only the surface of the ocean is available for human observation and interpretation, while its depths conceal unknown and unknown truths. …

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