Essay PreviewMore ↓
Nineteen years of my life has passed. By age nineteen, Una Spencer of Ahab's Wife had experienced numerous cycles of contentment and isolation, safety and loss. I cannot pretend to say that I have lived even as marginally an emotionally tumultuous life as Una's, but like most people, I can say something of loss and sacrifice. One of the last things my grandmother said on the hospital bed in which she died was to ask my mother whether I had been accepted to my first-choice college. I was not with my grandmother when she died, but the fact that she had asked about something so inconsequential and irrelevant about my life reveals the way she viewed her own life and death: without idealization, regret, or fear. She instead left my family with a legacy of love, selflessness, and beauty.
"Don't ask when you will die. Ask how you can live more fully...Am I dying? No. I am living until I can't live anymore" (Caputo). Stated by a writer with terminal cancer, this quotation encompasses how I want to live my life, which is why I have a difficult time understanding the characters of Moby Dick and Ahab's Wife, particularly those of the former. Many of the crew on damned Pequod knew that their ship was destined for death, yet they did not protest their lot, but rather accepted their inevitable fate with an emotionless resignation as though they had died even before they stepped foot on the ship. They died as if to avoid the pain of living; a passive suicide. The crew of the Sussex, however, was less overt in their willingness to end their lives because they had led a comparatively gratifying existence. Giles and Kit had their companionship to savor on quiet nights, while Captain Fry had Chester to love. These characters were not emotionally-devoid, just weak of spirit-too dependant on ephemeral quiet waters to keep them safe.
Death seems to be a recurrent presence in both novels. Almost all of the characters of Moby Dick perish by the end of the novel, while many of the people whom Una loves are abruptly taken from her life. However, there is a discrepancy in the manner in which the various characters meet their end. Both captains are suicidal, but there is a much larger element of sadness in Captain Fry's death.
How to Cite this Page
"Exploring Death in the Novels, Moby Dick and Ahab's Wife." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Aug 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Classroom discussions of Moby-Dick often result in a heightened awareness of Melville’s depictions of duality in nature; for example, the contrasting sky and sea respectively represent heaven and hell and the foul-smelling whale in Chapter 92 produces a fragrant and valuable substance called ambergris. But interpreting Melville’s Moby-Dick only as an exercise in duality limits the scope of this complex novel. Melville’s contemporary, Margaret Fuller, also seems aware of the confining notion of duality and states in Woman in the Nineteenth Century: Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism.... [tags: Moby Dick Melville]
1331 words (3.8 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Literary Analysis]
1325 words (3.8 pages)
- Herman Melville began working on this novel Moby Dick in 1850. In this book Melville challenges the relationship man have with his universe, his fate, and his God. Ahab represents a human being made up of evil, when he decides to questions God fate, and goes against God when he tries to strike Moby Dick the whale. The whale in this novel represents God. Moby-Dick, can teach you many things if you can remain focused long enough. However, the most important lesson that can be learned from the work is not that hard to understand.... [tags: Moby Dick, compare]
1654 words (4.7 pages)
- Ahab as the Hero of Moby Dick One might think it a difficult task to find a tragic hero hidden in the pages of Moby Dick. Yet, there is certainly potential for viewing Ahab as heroic despite unfavorable responses to him by the reader. In the original formula coming from the Greeks, the tragic hero had to be a high-born individual of elevated status possessed of a fatal flaw which resulted in their downfall. With Othello Shakespeare redefined elevated status to include position alone rather than being linked to societal or birth status.... [tags: Moby Dick Essays]
1179 words (3.4 pages)
- Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Herman Melville's Moby Dick, two separate and radically different compositions that both explore the self-destructive potential of humanity. Moby Dick, set in the New England region of North America during the mid to late 1800s, tells the story of Captain Ahab's quest on the whaling ship, The Pequod, to slay the white whale that crippled him on his last voyage. Throughout their trek the crew are faced with many warnings to turn back, ultimately Ahab must make the decision between saving multiple lives, and exacting his revenge.... [tags: Literary Analysis]
1334 words (3.8 pages)
- In Melville's Moby-Dick, or The Whale, Ahab calls himself "madness maddened" and across the oceans he unleashes his madness in an unerring quest to wreak his hate upon the white whale, that agent or principal of the "inscrutable malignancy" lurking behind the phenomenal world. Milder asserts that by making Ahab mad, Melville found the means to present an apocalyptic act of a hero, free of the constraints of realism, that might express the disillusionment of the cultural moment that had witnessed the end of religion, the frustration of the Romantic quest, and the end of the possibility for spiritual meaning in the universe.... [tags: Moby-Dick Essays]
957 words (2.7 pages)
- The characters of captain Ahab and Ishmael are almost opposites. About the only things the two share in common are that they are both seamen and they both are on a hunt for a whale. Ishmael is a pleasing character, who plays the role of the main character as well as narrator. He is a common man who has a love for the sea, and goes to it to clear his mind whenever he feels down or feels that it is “a damp, drizzly November” in his soul. As for his physical appearance, he doesn’t really specify. However, one might assume that he is a middle-aged man and probably holds the characteristics of the “stereotypical seaman”. But, what the character lacks in physical description, he makes up fo... [tags: Moby Dick Essays]
593 words (1.7 pages)
- Ahab's Pride: His Evil Vehicle to the World Below In Herman Melville's Moby Dick the reader embarks on a journey narrated by a man in search of his soul and led by a man in search of the destruction of evil. Captain Ahab of the whaling ship the Pequod is a man whose heart is driven by revenge and a monomania that brings on the destruction of the Pequod and all but one member of her crew. He is looking to destroy the abominable White Whale, the Evil of the Earth, Moby Dick. This drive, in which Ahab believes he is doing good to the world by ridding it of this devilish creature, truly brings Ahab to commit the ultimate sin, pride, and become the evil of Christianity, he turns his back... [tags: Moby Dick Essays]
1694 words (4.8 pages)
- Ahab's Quest for the Meaning of Life in Melville's Novel, Moby Dick "Each life unfulfilled you see, It hangs still, patchy and scrappy; We have not sighed deep, laughed free, Starved, feasted, despaired-been happy." Robert Browning Introducing the idea of the evolution of species, Darwin emphasized on the importance of the "struggle for existence" as the driving force for that process. Facing scarcity of resources in their habitats, some species gain certain traits that help them utilize the available resources in a more efficient way.... [tags: Moby Dick Essays]
1598 words (4.6 pages)
- Although Ahab’s insanity appears to be what shuts him off from humanity, in reality it is what makes him human. Ahab desperately wants to be freed from his obsession – to not have to rely upon it to feel. It is because Ahab is no longer in control of his obsession that the reader eventually discovers that besides what the book originally seems to insinuate, Ahab is only human. The first few times that Ahab is introduced to the reader and to his crew, he appears to be inhuman. Even his description when he first appears on deck states that he “seemed made of solid bronze” (Melville 117).... [tags: essays research papers]
985 words (2.8 pages)
- Melville's Moby Dick: Defining Violence in Literature
- The Cruelty of Animal Research, Testing, and Experimentation
- The Ineffectiveness of Affirmative Action in Establishing Diversity
- Alcohol and Despair Depicted in Ernest Hemingway's Short Stories
- Suppression of Individuality in Radiohead's, Fake Plastic Trees
- Herman Melville: The Great American Writer
It is life, not death, which seems to be so frightening for the characters in these novels. There is an essential loneliness that is common to both Ahab and Una, for they each carry within themselves a burden which they feel that they cannot share. There is a certain safety in evasiveness because honesty often precludes emotional vulnerability, but Una proved herself strong enough to be able to speak about her experiences on the Sussex. Thus, she recovered because talking proved to be an emotional catharsis-divulging her experiences and moving on with her life. Ahab, however, was not capable of talking. In Ahab's Wife, he seems to take pride in a strong masculine identity, which might have rendered him incapable of divulging his thoughts. Ahab stands alone as if he was punishing himself; he is a masochist in every sense of the word, pursuing his enemy until he was ultimately consumed by his hatred. He lacked the capability to forgive what had been done to him, clinging to the hatred which kept him alive. For years, Ahab and Una had been punishing themselves for an act that was beyond their control and they seemed to almost relish in their tragedy. A less powerful emotion that Ahab's passionate hatred, regret was Una's maxim for life for several years after the Sussex was stove-she regretted that she partaken in eating human flesh and had thus lived while others had perished-but she was able to transcend that regret because she found love in unexpected places.
Almost each individual has their own White Whale that bears the brunt of their own personal pain, be it Moby Dick, a parent, or G-d. It takes a very unique person to be able to create something beautiful out of loss, which Una was able to accomplish by bringing new lives into the world. I think our infancy consists of a tremendous blind spot which we chose to fill with experiences that reflect our individual life outlook. Ahab instead chose to fill his blind spot with his all-consuming hatred which ultimately led to his death. I never fully understood exactly why Ahab chose to dwell on his pain instead the good things in life that he possessed, like his wife in child on whom he should have focused his energy. With such a wasted life, death would probably be a most welcome friend, but I can only hope that when I look back on my life when I am older, I will face my death like my grandmother did-ending her life with peace and without regret.
Caputo, Kim Zorn. "Foreword." Blind Spot April 2004.