Surface: the Key to Understanding Moby-dick Essay

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Surface: The Key to Understanding Moby-Dick There are many key themes and words in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. One of the more interesting words found repeatedly is the word surface. There are several ways to interpret this word; it is the veil under which the unknown resides, it is the dividing line between the limits of human knowledge and that which is unknowable, it is the barrier that protects the soul from falling below, and it is a finite form . The first and most easily recognized is the repeated use of the word, appearing twenty-one times in the text from chapter thirty-two to one hundred thirty-five. In each of these instances the word is used in the physical sense, the surface of the water or the substantive surface…show more content…
The deductions of the intelligence of the whale and his personality are unsatisfactory to Ishmael who seemingly wishes to deify the whale, so he creates a new pseudoscience of spinal phrenology. With this method the whales strength, power, and intelligence are procured, but as Harold Aspiz points out in his article "Phrenologizing the Whale," if the phrenology is to be taken seriously as a science, Ishmael has confirmed that the whales' "unquenchable dynamism is yoked only to brutish stupidity" (Aspiz, 27). Ishmael's phrenological studies are not to be taken this way however and should contrary to Aspiz's opinion be read in the context of the story to the intention of Ishmael. In such a context the whale is a mysterious creation with unfathomable power. The immensity that Ishmael places on this task of discovering "who" Moby Dick is precisely is now a metaphor for the understanding of Moby Dick. From the idea of phrenology, one gets the idea that the study of the surface is going to be more important than it may have at once seemed. In Chapter forty-one, Ishmael uses the word surface to show Moby Dick's hidden truth, "the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers" (MD, 224). Here, Moby Dick being transplanted by any Sperm Whale uses the

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