Meanings of the White Whale (Herman Melville: Moby Dick)
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He is seeking one specific whale named Moby Dick, a great white whale which is infamous for his giant size and his ability to destroy the whalers who seek him. Captain Ahab begins to dislike and eventually loathe the white whale, when it costs Ahab his leg and his ship.
What “Moby-Dick” Means to Me
As the matter of fact, Moby Dick is transformed from an adventure story of a whaling ship voyage into such a symbolic story, which has a more symbolical meaning. Semiotic approach is an approach that studie of sign process semiosis , or signification and communication, signs, and symbols.
It is the way Melville tells the story that makes the novel incomparable. As relentlessly as Ahab chases Moby Dick, so Melville questions the nature of the interaction between the mind and the external world. Is meaning inherent in the world, or is it imposed? Whiteness becomes one among an infinite number of things to interpret. It would seem that, for Ishmael, whiteness represents above all his own inescapable uncertainties. How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?
To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Ahab believes that knowledge of Moby Dick, only achievable through literal confrontation, would give him access to a reality beyond human comprehension. Yet he may find nothing there but a void.
Ishmael approaches the possibilities for knowledge more contemplatively. Perhaps Ishmael survives because, although he is just as attuned as Ahab to the elusiveness of truth, his inability to grasp it has not turned into self-consuming madness. At the same time, the novel complicates any simple distinction between Ahab and Ishmael and, by implication, Ahab and the reader.
In his need to apprehend truth in some form that is independent of the ever shifting perspective of the individual, how different is Ahab from Ishmael? The novel poses the same problem for the reader that the white whale does for Ishmael and Ahab: both resist all-encompassing, conclusive characterizations.
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Moby-Dick is so capacious and multifaceted that broad statements about its meaning seem at best tentative, at worst absurdly reductive. Melville held various jobs before sailing on a whaler to the South Seas in , a voyage that became the subject of his first novel, Typee Melville married Elizabeth Shaw in Without these symbols, Moby-Dick is good read. With them, it is a though provoking masterpiece that has been enjoyed by several generations, and will be enjoyed by many more to come.
The Endless Depths of Moby-Dick Symbolism - The Atlantic
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