Metaphysical Ideologies in Moby Dick

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Metaphysical Ideologies in Moby Dick At first glance, Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, appears to be the story of a man, his captain, and the whale that they quest to destroy. But a closer look reveals the author’s intense look at several metaphysical ideologies. He explores some of the most ponderous quandaries of his time, among these being the existence of evil, knowledge of the self and the existential, and the possibility of a determined fate. All of these were questions which philosophers had dealt with and written about, but Melville took it to a new level: not only writing about these things, but also doing so in a lovely poetic language backed by a tale packed with intrigue. He explores the general existence of evil in his antagonist, the white whale, and through the general malice that nature presents to humans throughout the novel. The narrator, Ishmael, gains a lot of knowledge about himself through his experiences on the whaling voyage, where he also is able to learn much about the phenomenon of existence itself. Also, through Captain Ahab, he sees more about the existence of man and the things that exist within man’s heart. Especially through Ahab and his ongoing quest for the white whale, and also in general conversation amongst the whalers, the issue of fate and whether one’s destiny is predetermined are addressed in great detail, with much thought and insight interpolated from the author’s own viewpoints on the subject. Evil is something of which imagery is constantly found throughout the novel. The first being the whale: whose color is white. Once again, this is a concealed theme. At first thought the persecuted white whale would make people think that it is an image of innocenc... ... middle of paper ... ... Simplicity seems to be something that Melville negates in his writing. Much like philosophers of his time who wrote on metaphysics, he believed that beneath what looked to be simple things there were always more complicated, and in turn much more true, answers that needed to be sought out. His book, when read merely from the standpoint of a tale of a crew, their ship, and the sea, has many themes. But these themes multiply exponentially when the metaphysical implications of Melville’s tightly woven words are considered. Perhaps this was his intention. As his narrator, his voice throughout the novel, says, “Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme (104).” Works Cited: Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. Ed. Charles Child Walcutt. New York: Bantam, 1967.

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