Herman Melville – Moby Dick
In his novel, Melville makes the transition from an allegory, towards a realist novel. Melville gives us one of the first strong modern novels, but it’s still overshadowed by allegories.
The character of Ahab is the representation of pride, his fanatic hunt for the white leviathan is the product of a wounded pride. Starbuck, on the other hand, sees nature incarnated within Moby Dick, considers the whale to be an innocent animal.
White is used as a reversed symbol. Instead of being a symbol of purity, in Ahab’s vision, the white color is a representation of evil. Ahab is represented as a mad leader, a monomaniacal tyrant of his ship.
Melville speaks here of the will of the secularized man, of a man without God, a man who considers himself to be a God, and who, as such, condemns his crew, his followers, to death. The entire novel is a symphony of symbols.
Among the influences of Melville, the Bible and Shakespeare have to be mentioned. While he was considered to be a very successful writer, “Moby Dick” was ill-received in 1851, marking the downfall of his career.
The novel is a representation of men, and their fight with the sea. Women are not present within the novel.
Ahab, while being a symbol of many negative traits, is also a representation of the brave leader, the only one willing to lead. His death can be considered to be heroic, unsurpassable, a death that crowns his life.
On the other hand, the confrontation between Ahab and Moby Dick is a battle between two monsters. Ahab, as the incarnation of human will, of ego, and the whale, as the incarnation of the unseen and nature’s wrath.
Although using allegories, Melville, in his novels, goes into symbolism. His messages are symbolical. Symbols always have hidden parts, which run very deeply. The symbol is hidden, and it is only accessible to those who wish to discover it. The allegory, in contrast, is very clear and straightforward.