Comparing Religious Archetypes in Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Bartleby the Scrivener
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Religious Archetypes in Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Bartleby the Scrivener
Herman Melville's use of Biblical overtones gives extra dimensions to his works. Themes in his stories parallel those in the Bible to teach about good and evil. Melville emphasizes his characters' qualities by drawing allusions, and in doing so makes them appear larger than life. In the same way that the Bible teaches lessons about life, Herman Melville's stories teach lessons about the light and dark sides of human nature. He places his readers in situations that force them to identify with right or wrong choices. In Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and "Bartleby the Scrivener," Melville encourages his readers to learn from his explanations of human nature…show more content…
He constantly invests his time and jeopardizes his crew's lives in his effort to confront his faulty God. Because of his need for religious comfort, Ahab turns the whaling voyage into a personal quest, using his crew as a tool for revenge. Melville parallels his work to The Bible to raise the character of Ahab to a higher level. The Bible is known to most readers around the world. Its lessons and values teach people how to lead moral and virtuous lives. Ahab's nature and obsession demonstrate his evil, but comparing him to the Biblical King who sinned against God and poorly ruled God's people makes Captain Ahab's evil represent an extreme of human nature. In "declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal (for immorality is but ubiquity in time)" (Moby 181), Melville shows how Moby Dick appears to be God-like. As the real God watches over all his people no matter where they are, Moby Dick is found everywhere at the same time.
The words of Melville's Elijah in Moby Dick parallel the prophecies of the Biblical prophet Elijah. After King Ahab led the Israelites to worship Baal, Elijah, who was the predominant prophet of the time, acted in "open opposition" (Douglas 24). He was forced to work alone to prove to the people that their actions were wrong. With all the Israelites assembled at Mount Carmel, Elijah proves that the profits of Baal are false profits and that Baal is a false god. This leads the Israelites back to the worship of God.