Melville's novel, Moby Dick, has only men. Melville's men's club sails a sea whose gender changes often and whose personality is resolutely enigmatic. The feminine in Melville¹s novel hides her face in a veil of stars and behind a cloud of words.
Literally, Moby Dick is a men's club, with only a glimpse of a woman in the background, or reflected in the stories of the sailors. They seem to have no sexuality, nor any personality. The two full blooded, dialogue speaking characters in the novel are both servants. Mrs. Hussey ladles out ³Clam or Cod³ to Queequeg and Ishmael, bans harpoons from her house, and busies herself like some cosmic washerwoman. In the novel, she is a laughably comic figure brought out for a few laughs, and then forgotten.
Bildad's sister, Charity fares far worse. While Bildad and Peleg battle and thunder in their wigwam on the deck of the Pequod, she outfits the boat, so "nothing could be found wanting."(All Astir, p. 137) For all this work that she seems to be doing single handedly, Melville claims that "no woman better deserved the name," but that doesn't stop him from poking fun at her:
"And like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield for safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship on which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned"(All Astir, 137-8)
The sentence runs with repetition and alliteration, lightening the tone and making all of her work seem trivial and pointless. What is the point of a cushion or a sleeping cap in a three year ocean voyage? What difference does it make? If we have not gotten the point of the allit...
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... and conflicts in the book and leaves the ending in question. Following this logic, Ahab could never kill Moby Dick as Moby could never kill Ahab. Like matter and anti-matter, they would merely cancel each other out.
In this novel, it's hard to see Ahab surviving and the whale not. It's hard to see that because the feminine side of nature is so overpowering and overwhelming. Almost everything that is larger than man is female and all of it is indifferent to him. Indeed, the part of Moby Dick that is male is probably the part that wants to hunt Ahab so much. The rest of his power is that over-arching feminine power of the ocean, the sun, nature, and even the soul. The men's club doesn¹t stand a chance. In the end, Ahab must take whatever she decides to give them.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick . Ed. H. Hayford and H. Parker. New York: Norton, 1967.
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