Moby-Dick by Herman Melville is a work integrated by collages of different themes. Its most prevalent themes surround aspects of whaling, seafaring culture and self-realization. Through essayistic chapters and story by itself, it gives a wider understanding on whales and the sailing adventure. The book is built within episodes of literalism and mysterious wanderings which allows the reader to indulge and simultaneously question the work. Ahab appears as the significant main character in the book. Focusing on Ahab and the story line, it is evident that Ahab fighting against Moby Dick also become a fight with himself that it result in more self-realization and enables the reader to understand the true attributes and character of the protagonist.
The journey set by Captain Ahab to find and destroy the white whale is portrayed more as a maniacal obsession. The epic journey is fueled by vengeance. The white whale, referred to as Moby Dick by the crew of Pequod had once destroyed Ahab’s ship as well as one of his leg. Ahab attempts to seek justice for his personal loss by making Moby Dick to pay. He chooses to ignore premonitions and omens. In addition, he ignores the voice of reason offered to him by Starbuck. He chooses to disobey every sign given to him to refrain. Melville describes him as one who has rebelled against the will of God. Ahab was being driven by vengeance, hatred and disobedience.
Captain Ahab’s insanity and obsession with vengeance seems to shut him out of humanity. Kinney said, “While determinedly seeking out the white whale, Ahab continues to drift farther from mankind as he gets closer to reaching Moby Dick.” (Kinney) The depictions followed by him are often inhumane that he is illustrated as apathetic and cruel. He has a desire for power. He envies the wholeness of the crew and yearns for control and power so he can be stronger than they are. He believes once he is in control of them, he is automatically stronger than they are. Indeed, he truly has charisma to overpower that Starbuck is unable to rise in revolt against him. His need for crew for his vengeance on Moby Dick makes him to be a tyrant. This obsession with power and control triggers him to try overpower the whole, which leads him to decide to challenge it rather than accepts its infinite purpose.
Ahab’s unwillingness to admit that there are things in this world stronger than him to be in the heart of complacency and self-conviction. He is afraid of not being in control and therefore chooses to ignore any signs of probable weaknesses. He is utterly blasphemous and lashes out against universal objects. His disregards towards God and the universe seems to be the center core of his insanity, similar to the Biblical King Ahab. Ahab mirrors the traits of this king by allowing his pride and ego to overshadow him. In additions, he displeased God and always made sure everything he does goes against God.
The quest for the white whale becomes a quest within himself. He becomes an evil human being who decides to question God’s fate. He goes against God too many times such as when he decides to revenge on Moby Dick. The ravenous war against God and all that he symbolizes finally leads to his death. Moreover, Ahab’s self-consumption guides him to lead his crew together with himself to death. The scars in his leg and his untimely death symbolizes the fatality of going against God and his fate. His megalomaniac pursuit of the white whale is an omen as foreshadowed by sermon. However, he is blinded with his vengeance.
Many chapters are composed of Ishmael’s storytelling. Through Ishmael’s narration, the reader is able to create their own levels of imagination and interpretation about Captain Ahab’s life from which they can relate. Through first person narration as a style, Melville creates a story that can be universally accepted or challenged. It helped link different aspects of the story such as nature, religion or humanity into one and assess how they relate to Captain Ahab. It helps the reader to relate his restlessness and bitterness to some extent justifying his deeds.
Ahab fighting against Moby Dick depicts an internal fight and self-realization because the reader is able to understand the true attributes and character of the protagonist. By expounding on these character, Melville is able to create and understandable explanation on several enigmatic factors such as the forces of nature, human kinds level of imagination, the relevance of man’s will and the role of both his intellectual and emotional ability and state. Delbanco said, “It’s a story about self-destruction visited upon the destroyer - and the apocalyptic vision at the end seems eerily pertinent to today.” (Kennedy) By using two characters, Ahab and Moby Dick, Melville gives the reader a chance to decide who to attribute the story to. Since the novel is generally based on his perception of the world, together they possess a significance that challenge the suitability of the fight.