Biblical and Mythological Allusions in Moby Dick

Biblical and Mythological Allusions in Moby Dick

Length: 614 words (1.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

An allusion is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art.   Writers often use biblical and mythological allusions to which their readers are familiar.  In Moby Dick, Herman Melville frequently uses biblical and mythological allusions.  With these allusions the reader begins to understand the topic of discussion and is also exposed to the wisdom and knowledge Melville possess.

      The first allusion appears in the first line of the novel.  “Call me Ishmael.” (Melville1).  Ishmael was the biblical son of Abraham and his servant Hagar.  He was disowned in favor of Isaac, Abraham’s son with his wife Sarah.  An angel prophesied to Hagar.  “his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12).  The name “Ishmael” has since become used commonly for an outcast, which is appropriate since he is inexperienced when it comes to whaling and is viewed as AN outcast to the other sailors upon the Pequod.

      Another biblical allusion is of the prophet Elijah and Captain Ahab.  Elijah WARNS Queequeg and Ishmael of Ahab.  Ishmael says he and Queequeg ARE boarding the Pequod because they have just “signed the articles” (Melville 68) and Elijah responds “Anything down there about your souls” (Melville 68).  This conflict between Elijah and Ahab goes all the way back to the bible.  I Kings describes the conflict between King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.  Elijah tells Ahab that “in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick they blood, even thine,” (I Kings 21:19), and that “the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezrell” (I Kings 21:23).  This allusion is significant for foreshadowing the destruction of the Pequod.  In Moby Dick the characters names are not so different than names in the Bible and neither is the outcome of those characters so different.

      Melville not only used a number of biblical allusions in Moby Dick, but he also used many mythological allusions.  He used Greek mythology in describing the tattooing on the Queequeg.  “The counterpane of the patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles, and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure” (Melvine 19).  The Cretan labyrinth was the maze, which imprisoned the half-bull, half-human Minotaur.  This adds immensely to the visual imagery of Queequeg.  Being able to imagine this large, black harpoon with a  “Cretan labyrinth of a figure” (Melville 19) the reader has a more appealing and specific picture of him.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Biblical and Mythological Allusions in Moby Dick." 19 Aug 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Biblical Allusions in Melville's Moby Dick

- In The Town-Ho’s Story, Melville uses many different types of figurative devices to describe the relationship between Steelkilt and Radney. Radney is known and described as the inferior, yet higher ranked, mate, while Steelkilt is described as the more respectable, but lower ranked mate. Melville faintly, yet noticeably relates Moby Dick as a God and Steelkilt as Jesus. Such clever biblical allusions accurately describe Moby Dick and Steelkilt and although Melville does not give any biblical significance to Radney, the readers can still clearly visualize Radney’s character....   [tags: Biblical Allusions, Melville, Moby Dick,]

Research Papers
689 words (2 pages)

Melville shows anger at Christianity through biblical allusions in Moby Dick

- 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]

Research Papers
1325 words (3.8 pages)

Essay on Christian Symbolism & Biblical Imagery in Macbeth

- Many authors share a common thread in their writing, allusions to biblical concepts. The Bible is one of the most influential texts of all time and its presence can seen seen through countless pieces of literature.. One of the best examples of a literary work that has been fashioned after biblical elements is The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. “Christian philosophy' says Walter C. Curry ' recognizes two tragedies of cosmic importance: (1) the fall of Lucifer and a third part of the angelic hosts, who rebelled against God and were cast out, and (2) the fall of Adam who was originally endowed with perfection and freedom but who set his will against God and so brought sin and li...   [tags: biblical allusions in Macbeth]

Research Papers
2145 words (6.1 pages)

Biblical Allusions Of The Songs Of Innocence Essay

- In the Songs of Innocence there are all types of Biblical allusions in his poems. In his poem To Tirzah there are biblical allusions to Jesus dying on the cross and how he was raised on earth. Tirzah was a royal city of the Canaanites that was considered to be a rebellious city. In this poem he is conveying the relationship between mortal body that will eventually die on earth, and the spiritual body, that is more like sleep than actual death. From the bible Jesus came down from heaven and died for our sins....   [tags: Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Paradise Lost]

Research Papers
1223 words (3.5 pages)

Analysis of Herman Melville´s Moby Dick Essay examples

- ... Melville reminds the audience that like Ahab, the first mate of the Jeroboam sought out Moby-Dick with his harpoon with high hopes, but his spiritual insolence lead to Macey’s death. One evil Biblical king warns another of the costs of taking God’s doings into human hands. Herman Melville reveals the ultimate punishment that befalls on any man who attempts to rise above his limitations. This encounter ends as Gabriel, refuses to take a letter intended for the deceased first mate of the Jeroboam, which predicted that Ahab shall “soon [be] going that way” to the bottom of the sea and beyond (269)....   [tags: society, justice, humanity, allusions]

Research Papers
832 words (2.4 pages)

Friedrich Durrenmatt’s Use of Allusions to Enhance the Plays Plot Essay

- In The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, the use of allusions is very prevalent helping to compare the extent to what Durrenmatt is describing to its allusions. Durrenmatt’s implementation of allusions is used to offer a deeper understanding of the characterization, to compare the current town of Guellen to what it once was in order to explain why the town needs Claire’s money, and to show the irony of biblical ideas in order to show how Claire’s doings are as far from morally right as could be. Friedrich Durrenmatt's use of allusions in order to enhance and describe the characters include the famous Romeo and Juliet, Lais, and Lord Alfred Tennyson....   [tags: the visit, friedrich durrenmatt, allusions]

Research Papers
1038 words (3 pages)

Biblical Allusions in Lord of the Flies Essay example

- Biblical Allusions in Lord of the Flies In the story, Lord of the Flies, there are many biblical allusions; Simon represents Jesus, the pig’s head represents Satan or rather their satanic sides, Jack represents Judas, and the island represents the Garden of Eden. Through out this novel these allusions play large parts in the story and ideals place in the story. Simon, one of the major characters in the story, is set as the allusion of Jesus. Christ always had an affinity with children; in Ch. 4, he shows his way with the ‘littluns’ by picking fruit for them....   [tags: Lord of the Flies]

Research Papers
730 words (2.1 pages)

Biblical Allusions to The Grapes of Wrath Essay

- Biblical Allusions to The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902. He studied marine biology at Stanford University and then traveled east on a freighter through the Panama Canal. Steinbeck went to New York to work as a newspaper reporter but soon returned to California and held a variety of jobs while he wrote. Steinbeck published Tortilla Flat in 1935, Of Mice and Men in 1937, and The Red Pony in 1937, which established his reputation as a forceful writer....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
1466 words (4.2 pages)

Grapes Of Wrath Biblical Allusions Essay

- John Steinbeck carefully molded his story The Grapes of Wrath to encompass many themes and ideas. He included several Biblical allusions to enforce his message of the migrating families coming together to form a community. Steinbeck alludes to Biblical characters through Jim Casy and Rose of Sharon, events like the family’s journey to California and the flood at the end of the novel, and teachings throughout the novel.      The Biblical allusions represented by the characters in the novel are most obvious in the characters of Jim Casy and Rose of Sharon....   [tags: John Steinbeck Bible Religion essays papers]

Research Papers
881 words (2.5 pages)

Essay on Biblical Allusion

- “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23) The fall of man- it’s a common topic all throughout the Bible. Many allusions to this familiar Biblical theme are made in the war-time novel, A Separate Peace, by American author John Knowles. In this work, Knowles relates many of his experiences as a teenage boy attending boarding school during World War Two. He uses Biblical allusions to reveal much about human nature. In Genesis 4:3-5 the Bible says, “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
1780 words (5.1 pages)

Related Searches

     Another mythological allusion Melville used in Moby Dick is mentioned of the Fares.  Ishmael justifies his boarding the Pequod when he says, “I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage, this the invisible police officer at the Fates, who has constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way…”(Melville 4).  The Fates are the three goddess who control life and human destiny, Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachisis determines its length, and Attropos cuts in off” (Hayford, Parker 7).  Melville creates a much more intellectual statement than if he were to say, “I decided to go on a whaling voyage because I felt like it”

      There are many more allusions in Moby Dick.  Melville effectively shows the reader his intelligence.  The allusions in Moby Dick are to commonly known people and conflicts.  This makes the novel easier for the reader to comprehend. 

Return to