Moby Dick as a Protest Novel

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“Ishmael’s discourse is often calculated to undercut the myth of white supremacy, asserting that society’s survival may ultimately depend on the acceptance of Ishmael’s democratic vision (seeing equality in diversity) and a rejection of Ahab’s tyrannical one (seeing only white).”

Joseph Adriano’s quote from his article “Brother to Dragons: Race and Evolution in Moby-Dick” asserts not only Herman Melville’s goals of producing a novel that gets people discussing the problem of racial inequality, but also aids in revealing the main point of Moby-Dick, which is that in order for blacks to become assimilated into American society, people must accept change. While people in his time period were not willing to be this flexible, Melville saw it as a necessary step to achieve the essential objective of racial equality. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, written in 1851, reveals his disposition on the topic of equality in an interracial society and the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to reform. Melville ultimately accomplishes his goal of creating a protest novel by introducing a plethora of characters, themes, and situations that go against the status quo of the racist American society that he belonged to in the 19th century.
The question of whether or not blacks should be accepted into society has long withstood the test of time. For centuries leading up to 1851, white supremacy had been a generally accepted theory amongst Americans and Europeans. However, by the mid 1800’s, the amount of abolitionists had increased dramatically. This debate between white supremacists and abolitionists laid the groundwork for Melville’s Moby-Dick. In the 1850’s, slavery was at its peak. According to the U.S. census of 1850, there were 23,1...

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...o warn against pursuing the whale, such as when the captain of the Samuel Enderby proclaimed, “There would be great glory in killing him… but, hark ye, he is best left alone; don’t you think so captain?” Nonetheless, Ahab never listened. While it may seem that the many ships that warned Ahab not to pursue the whale seems too obvious of a foreshadowing to happen in real life, the same hints were being given to Americans at the same time. Other countries, such as England, had abandoned slavery years before Americans did. Similarly, once the civil war began and the southerners looked for some support from the British, they were rejected on the account that Britain would not support slavery. Whether it was the pride or determination that drove Ahab to find Moby Dick, both were too strong and blinded him from seeing that change needed to occur for the Pequod to survive.
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