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Moby Dick Essay Examples

Moby Dick

by Cazi Brasga Honors English III 9/04/96

I. Biographical Insights

A. The culture this great author was a part of was the time in American history
where inspiring works of literature began to emerge. It was also a time when
American writers had not completely separated its literary heritage from Europe,
partly because there were successful literary genius’ flourishing there.

B. Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, he was the son of Allan and Maria
Melville. During Herman’s childhood he lived in the “good” neighborhoods of New
York City. In 1832 Herman suffered tragedy when his father died after trying to
cope with the stress of debts and misfortunes. After a short time in a business
house in New York City, Herman determined he needed to go to sea. He spent
years traveling on a variety of ships, including whaling ships.

C1. Melville’s perspective on life is that God created the universe with an
infinite number of meanings and man is always trying to determine one specific

D2. The “lessons” that Melville is likely to weave into his writing are 1. An
exposition on whales and the whaling industry. 2. A commentary on the universe
and human destiny. 3. Thoughts about God and Nature.

III. Characters

B. The protagonist in this book is Ishmael, a Christian, schoolteacher and part-
time sailor. Ishmael’s role in the hunt for “Moby Dick” is to interpret what is
happening. He discusses his reasons for going to sea and interprets and looks
for understanding a number of reasons for any specific action where other
characters only understand one reason.

C. It is hard to say what changes take place in Ishmael’s personality, since he
is the narrator he doesn’t talk about himself, he only talks about what he sees.

D1. Ishmael befriends Queequeg who is a cannibal. Even though Queequeg is very
ugly Ishmael sees that Queequeg has an honest heart, great honor, and a lot of
courage. This friendship had a positive influence on Ishmael’s behavior because
it taught him not to judge on outward appearances.

E2. Another relationship that was very short was the relationship between
Ishmael and Captain Ahab. For the first few days aboard the Pequod Ishmael
always saw Ahab in the shadows. When Ishmael finally saw Ahab he had shivers
run through his body. Ishmael felt Ahab’s attitude of determination, dedication
and hatred towards “Moby Dick” in Ahab’s appearance. This relationship was a
negative relationship because Ishmael now feared Ahab and did not want to
become friends with such an evil person.

F. The conflict that Ishmael experienced was that he saw how Ahab was such an
evil man and that Ishmael was a good natured man and did not want to be
corrupted by Ahab. To resolve this conflict Ishmael stayed away from Ahab.

Representative Passage on Imagery and Figurative Language

“Yonder, by the ever-brimming goblet’s rim, the warm waves blush
like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sunlong dived from noon,
goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then, the
crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright with
many a gem; I, the wearer, see not its far flashings; but darkly fell that I
wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. Tis ironthat I knownot gold. Tis
split, toothat I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my brain seems to beat
against the solid metal.” Chapter LV

A. The details being used to make us feel like we are watching a sunset is that
it says “the warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The
diver sunlong dived from noon,goes down; my soul mounts up!”

B. The similes the author uses are the comparison of the colored waves of the
sunset to wine. I believe that when the author is talking about the “Iron Crown
of Lombardy” he is talking about the sun. When it says “Is, then, the crown too
heavy that I wear?” he is talking about the sunrise as the sun first starts
ascending. I think that noon is where it is says “Yet is it bright with many a
gem; I, the wearer, see not its far flashings;”. I also think that “Tis iron
that I knownot gold. Tis split, toothat I feel; the jagged edge galls me so,
my brain seems to beat against the solid metal.” means he wants to take off the
crown signifying sunset.

IV. Symbolism / Allusions D. The objects that are representative of larger
ideas are Moby Dick who is a symbol of all of the things in the universe. The
color of the whale being white could mean so many different and conflicting
things that it can’t be narrowed down to one meaning.

The coffin that was turned into a buoy that saved Ishmael’s life could suggest
that the meaning of any object lies in the beholder of the object not the object

The place that is a representative of a larger idea is the sea. The sea
represents a mans life, it symbolizes the fears that a man must overcome in life
in order to gain a fuller understanding of life. B. The sea is a constant
presence throughout the novel. As the sea is constantly in the background of
the scene.

C. References to previous literature are outlines on the Sperm Whale, but the
literature he is referring to do not have name of the works only the names of
the authors. “I know of only four published outlines of the great Sperm Whale:
Colnett, Huggins, Frederick Cuvier’s, and Beales.”

E. Representative Passage on Tone and Author’s Philosophy

“What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and the crannies though, and
thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’s too late to make any
improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips
were carted off a million years ago.” Chapter II

A. The metaphors Melville is using indicates the condition of man and about
man’s uncertainty in the universe we live in. His tone is that of questioning
man choosing his own destiny through his own actions. Melville’s attitude is
that of Man’s absolute insignificance in the universe. There is nothing Man
can do to improve the present state of the universe once he has acted on his

F. Aspects of his philosophy which can be inferred is Man’s continual struggle
with himself in this universe. The vastness of the universe and man’s place in
it is difficult for the average man to comprehend. At best he can just figure
out one meaning, but there could be more. I. Evaluation

F. This novel has influenced my attitudes and beliefs on the destiny of man and
has shown me that there is more than one view of every object. It showed me
that I need to be open minded and examine things from more than one point of
view before I judge the object.

G. In this novel one of the author’s goals was of indicating the condition of
man and about man’s uncertainty in the universe we live in. Melville also shows
the reader about Man’s absolute insignificance in the universe.

H. I believe the author was very successful in achieving these goals. Herman did
a great job of representing objects with things of deeper meaning. Throughout
the book you are shown Man’s insignificance in the universe by the relationship
of the crew to the ocean. You are also shown of how a Man’s decision once
executed can’t be changed, an example of that is when Captain Ahab throws the
spear into Moby Dick. The spears rope got wrapped around Ahab’s neck and when
the whale dove Ahab went with it. There was nothing Ahab could do to escape.

I. The topics in this novel are very true but an adventure loving reader will
read this book and focus on what went on rather than what the novel was trying
to say. This book could be significant to a reader who wants to know about
Man’s relation to the universe. The difference this novel will have on society
is that it will help a person find their relation to the universe.


Melville, Herman. “Moby Dick”, Spencer Press, Inc. 1936

Webmaster Unknown. “Herman Melville”, Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW:

Webmaster Unknown. “Moby Dick”, Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW:

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