How Does Ahab Change Throughout The Novel

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In literature, the truly memorable characters are those special individuals that arouse powerful emotions in the reader. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick presents a man who is undoubtedly among the unforgettable characters of literature: Ahab, sea-captain of the whaling ship the Pequod. At first, Ahab is a mysterious figure to Ishmael, the narrator of the tale. Despite the captain’s initial reclusiveness, Ishmael gradually comes to understand the kind of man that Ahab is and, most importantly, the singular obsession he possesses: finding the white whale, Moby Dick. The hunt for Moby Dick (and, correspondingly, the idea that Moby Dick represents) is the critical component of Ahab’s personality, and Melville makes that all-important idea known to …show more content…

Initially, Melville creates a metaphor to illustrate one of Ahab’s most prominent physical features: the scar along his face and neck. In Ishmael’s chapter describing his first impression of Ahab, he writes: “Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck…you saw a slender rod-like mark….It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom…leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded” (108-109). Ishmael compares Ahab’s long, ropy scar to the mark left on a tree by a lightning strike, giving the reader a vivid image of the intensity of the mark on Ahab’s face. In contrast, a later simile is constructed to describe Ahab’s demeanor as opposed to his physical appearance. Ishmael likens Ahab’s presence to that of a regal sea-lion: “Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral beach, surrounded by his war-like but deferential cubs” (128). The idea of Ahab as such a domineering character reinforces his ultimate dictatorial power on the Pequod. He rules the ship exactly as if he was a lion and the crew members were his physically strong but deferential cubs. Finally, Melville crafts a simile to convey Ahab’s passion for hunting the white whale: “‘…it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye,’ he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose” (139). Melville expresses Ahab’s desire to find and kill Moby Dick by depicting how passionately Ahab displays his wishes to his crew. By comparing Ahab’s sob to that of a grieving moose, Melville

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