Melville shows anger at Christianity through biblical allusions in Moby Dick

Melville shows anger at Christianity through biblical allusions in Moby Dick

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Near the beginning of Moby Dick, Father Mapple reminds Pequod sailors of the biblical prophet Jonah and his unique encounter with a whale. The whale, known as a Leviathan in the Bible, swallows Jonah because Jonah refuses to obey God's command to preach to a wicked group of people. Father Mapple in his sermon says, "If we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists" (47). Once Jonah admits his sinfulness and follows his maker, the whale frees Jonah. Father Mapple says that obeying God can be difficult and might not seem logical to the person listening.
Once Father Mapple speaks about Jonah and the whale, it becomes clear that Herman Melville's 1851 novel has a connection to the Bible and Christianity. Melville fills Moby Dick with several biblical allusions, and the novel's main characters are linked symbolically to figures in the Bible. Melville alludes to the Bible in Moby Dick to mock Christianity. He uses his primary characters of Ishmael, Ahab, and Moby Dick to make God seem like a judgmental being who has no pity on sinners unless they obey him. He also portrays faithful Christians as outsiders who
live boring, uninspired lives. Melville definitely shows his frustration toward the creator and Christian teachings.
Before exploring Ishmael, Ahab, and Moby Dick and their Biblical counterparts, it is important to understand Melville's background. He grew up as a baptized Calvinist in the Dutch Reformed Church. His parents trained him to obey God at all times, even if God’s commands seem unjust and cruel. However, he quickly turned against his faith after his father died. During his travels, he witnessed diseases, catastrophes, and hatred throughou...


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...elville’s negative experiences with the teachings of Christianity and those who claimed to be Christians definitely influenced his writing in Moby Dick. Instead of just coming out and bashing God and Christianity directly, he uses the characters in his novel to get his point across. There are many other instances of Biblical allusions in Moby Dick, but he specifically uses the allusions linked to Ishmael, Ahab, and Moby Dick to mock God and Christianity. By linking personalities in the Bible with characters in Moby Dick, he displays his anger and disagreement with Christianity. God gave everyone a free will, and Melville is entitled to his opinions.




Works Cited
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick Or The White Whale. London: Oxford University Press,
2004. Print.
Holy Bible: New International Version. New York: Harper, 2005.

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