Essay Sample: Biblical References in Moby Dick

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Biblical References in Moby Dick

Moby Dick was written by Herman Melville. This literature masterpiece is considered both a sea-life documentary and a philosophical tale about life. Moby Dick was written far ahead of its time, and for this reason, today it meets more understanding than it did back then. In the novel, one sees the equal appreciation of various religious beliefs and notices the critique of religious extremism. Moby Dick novel displays the similarities and differences between the tribal pagans and New England Christians. In this comparison, they seem to be not too different from each other. The author uses biting satire toward religiosity and some of the religious remarks. In the meantime, he utilizes many Biblical symbols through giving the names and roles to his characters.

The reader can easily notice the close association of Moby Dick to Christianity and the Bible. Herman Melville narrates about his characters in a way to relate them to the figures from the Bible in his pursuit of complete frankness. Consequently, there are a great number of biblical allusions in the novel. These allusions are made with an aim to ridicule Christianity and help the readers understand the author’s main point.

The first allusion is encountered in the first lines of Moby Dick. These lines are “Call me Ishmael.” People who read the Bible are aware that Ishmael is the name of the son of Abraham and his servant Hagar. Since Abraham also has a son with his wife, he denies Ishmael in his favor. In the meantime, Hagar gets a prediction from an angel, saying “his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” (Genesis 16:12). Due to this biblical story, the name Ishmael is now often used to describe a castaway.

Another important biblical allusion in Moby Dick is the story of the diviner Elijah and Captain Ahab. These characters have a disagreement that can be related to the Bible. In I Kings, one can read about the disagreement between King Ahab and Jezebel, his wife. Interestingly, their hostility to each other has the same outcome as in the Bible, which is the annihilation of the Pequod.

When the reader continues reading Moby Dick, he/she begins to realize more and more that the Pequod is not just a usual ship that goes whaling. It symbolizes the ship of escape that holds on legendary and religious men. It takes on a trip of conflict represented by a white whale in Ahab’s mind. This ship turns out to be the place where all forms of beliefs and religions become wiped out.

Herman Melville uses his allusions to the Bible and its characters with an aim to mock Christian extremism. He shows his discontentment and disagreement with this religion. Melville demonstrates his point of view, thus making his readers reflect on the nature of religious beliefs.

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