Call me Ishmael. The first line of this story begins with an assertion of self-identity. Before the second page is reached, it becomes quite clear to me that within this assertion of self-identity lay an enticing universality. Ishmael represents every man somehow and no man entirely. He is an individual in his own right, while personifying a basic human desire for something more, something extraordinary. As his name implies, "he is an outcast from a great family" (p.18). Although we all share Ishmael's yearning for adventure (however deeply hidden it may be), to throw aside our civilization (despite its discontents ) could mean societal suicide. So, we look through his eyes, we cling to his desire, we dream of his escape.
This world of ours in all its absurdity is seemingly as vast as an ocean beyond its horizon. Yet with all its opportunity, with all its splendor, we somehow manage to spoil the prospects it so generously offers. We pack ourselves into overcrowded spaces; we cram our brains with bits and pieces of irrelevancy; we herd ourselves along a well-beaten path; we cloud our souls with a veil of conformity. And yet there still remains, somewhere deep inside every one of us, the desire to cast aside restraint and venture into whatever indulgence tugs at our heartstrings and innermost fantasy.
For Ishmael this was the sea: "Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses...then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can" (p. 18). For Ishmael to remain on shore would mean to "grow hazy about the eyes" and lose sight of what makes him happy, the drive that makes him human- his love of the sea. ...
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...story of stories . However, its greatness does not lay in the particular formulation of particular words in particular sentences into particular paragraphs and so forth. As with any great story, Moby Dick is comprised of infinite, multifaceted, and often allusive levels of meaning. What makes a novel great is its interaction with its readers. The degree to which a story remains unguarded and flexible while simultaneously enticing and provoking its readers, is what makes it great.
The meanings I find hidden within the text of Moby Dick are unlike any others. Yet, they are mine and mine alone. As in Moby Dick, the innumerable meanings that lie dormant within stories are like ungraspable phantoms. With Moby Dick representing an epitome, the beckoning ungraspable phantoms concealed in stories, are the key to their command.
Melville, H. Moby Dick.
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