Relationship Between Moby Dick and Ahab's Wife

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Examining the Relationship Between Literary Works: Moby Dick and Ahab's Wife Literature changes. One story creates a niche for another story to come into existence, or be written. What is a literary niche and how exactly does an evolutionary text fill it? Who gets to decide? This question is easiest to answer by first establishing what a text cannot do: it does not fill in all the missing gaps. Moby Dick created a niche for another book to come into being: Ahab's Wife. In examining the relationship between the two books, one might say that Ahab's Wife functions in filling in all the missing pieces that Moby Dick left. For example, take the opening lines of the two books: In Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael." (18) In Ahab's Wife, "Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last." (1) The first sets up a premise; the second could be seen as offering, in response, another story to pick up where the other leaves off. However, upon closer analysis it becomes clear that trying to fill in all the places where Moby Dick leaves off would be impossible; such a feat could not be imagined in one text. This is because Moby Dick opens up so many niches to be filled, not only responses to its specific text or story such as Ahab's Wife but also places in the succession of literary tradition. For example, it was evolutionary in assigning heroic qualities to characters traditionally seen as renegades. The picture becomes clearer if one regards Moby Dick not as the premise but coming from an evolutionary line itself, responding to the treatment of characters in texts such as the Bible and Shakespearean plays. When one thinks of how Ahab's Wife works in relation to this line, it is difficult to say whether it actually is an evolutionary text. It does not seem to evolve from Moby Dick at all; it is simply the same story. The reader may not realize this until near the very end of the book, when Una addresses Ishmael: Do you mind we write the same book? (663) To come to any conclusions about what kinds of niches a text might fill it helps to look at other lines through which texts have evolved. John Gardner, a modern academic novelist, wrote a book, Grendel, which complicates the monstrous villain from Beowulf. In discussing evolutionary literature, Beowulf is interesting because it is the first known recorded work in English.
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