Moby Dick By Herman Melville

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Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a tale of many things, and has become perhaps one of the most widely known revenge stories ever told, wherein the mad Captain Ahab chases the titular white whale to the ends of the earth, willing to sacrifice everything for revenge. The novel is known for its extensive symbolism and abstract or open-ended meaning. Many people find different meanings in the story, and the debate over what certain elements mean has been a point of contention since the novel was published. The criticisms and analyses by Randall Bass and R.C. Sproul give great insight into the most symbolic element of the plot, the whale itself. The whale Moby Dick may mean many things, including the “other” to the “self”, God, or, as I believe, the unknowable, inscrutable, and ineffable of the world. Both criticisms agree on one element of the story: the white whale, Moby Dick, means more than it is. The whale is symbolic of something unknown, feared, or hated. Any serious analysis of the novel will agree with this, but with many different interpretations, a few of which are more widely supported than others. The interpretation of what the whale symbolizes is where the criticisms diverge. Bass claims the conflict between Ahab and the whale to be the conflict between the “self” and the “other”, respectively. Sproul disagrees, favoring the somewhat widely held theory that the conflict is of a man against God. Both analyses of the whale’s symbolic meaning have validity and a
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