Perspective on Religion Herman Melville's Moby-Dick

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Perspective on Religion Herman Melville's Moby-Dick A cornerstone of the philosophical and narrative substructure of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is point of view, or perspective. The textually primary point of view in the novel is Ishmael's, since he is the narrator of the story. However, Ishmael relates his story in such a way that one can easily detect numerous other "voices," or other perspectives, in the story, which often oppose the narrator's voice. These other, non-primary perspectives function both to establish Moby-Dick as a novel with numerous points of view and to clarify Ishmael's own particular point of view on certain subjects. For instance, in "The Ramadan" Ishmael attempts to convince Queequeg of the ridiculous and impractical nature of Queequeg's religion. Ishmael quickly perceives that his attempt is ineffective. He writes, "I do not think that my remarks about religion made much impression upon Queequeg. Because he somehow seemed dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered from his own point of view" (88). In this passage and its, context are two important implications. First, in blatantly noting that Queequeg must see from "his own point of view," Ishmael states and accepts that he and Queequeg view religion from different perspectives. Second, in stating in the context of this quotation his criticisms of Queequeg's religion--that it is impractical, unhealthy, and without benefit to the soul - Ishmael reveals something of his own perspective on religion (87-88). Religion, or in the case of Moby-Dick, one's perspective on religion, is a substantial theme in the novel. Of this "important subject," as Ishmael describes it, numerous voices in the narrative speak. The orthodox Christian v... ... middle of paper ... ... of the omnipresence of God. He believes that religion should be practical and healthy. Ishmael believes that history is cyclical, not linear, and he believes in reincarnation. Ishmael believes that humans are the products of their interplay between chance, necessity, and free will. Ishmael argues for all these beliefs not on the basis of canonical revelation or discursive reasons, but on the basis of intuition and mystical insight. This is Ishmael's religious perspective. But whose perspective is right? Is Ishmael's correct? Is Ahab's? Queequeg's? Is the orthodox Christian perspective correct? Moby-Dick does not answer these questions. Ishmael tells the reader that the "pulpit leads to the world" (46). Ishmael shows the reader that who is in the pulpit makes all the difference. Work Cited Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1981.

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