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Good And Evil In Moby Dick English Literature Essay

In Herman Melville’s classic tale Moby Dick the author paints a clear picture concerning good and evil. These two forces are depicted everywhere in the story and are the back bone of all novels and tales. Good versus evil, love versus hate, forgiveness versus vengeance are all encompassed within this novel. This is the reason the tale is so accessible to all who read it.

When concerning evil, the most obvious choice would be to consider the great Moby Dick. However, being a beast from of the sea he does not have a conscience nor the ability to be rational, he is simply an animal. The character in the story that would, in fact, best represent evil, or who’s actions are most malevolent would be those of Captain Ahab. For unlike other Captains, of whaling ships, Captain Ahab’s sole purpose of sailing out to see is to hunt and kill the one animal the dismembered him of the coast of Japan many years ago. Namely, the infamous, Moby Dick. Captain Ahab has his sights set on complete revenge. His mind is fixed. This is now his only purpose in life, to kill the great white whale.

Some insight reveals Captain Ahab as a tortured man. For Captain Ahab is not an completely evil man. “Once the captain throws his pipe overboard, he takes a turn for the worse. Melville shows us that the captain has become so overwhelmed by the one thing he seeks, namely his revenge on Moby Dick, that he cannot even enjoy the little things in life he once did. Although he is not purely evil, he has become entirely consumed by his quest for revenge [1] ”. Ahab is a man to be reckoned with. He may not be evil, however, is action and state of mind are without a doubt not those of a sane or Christian man. He led himself and his entire crew – save Ishmael – to death. The real evil in the story is Captain Ahab’s complete stubbornness and ungodly obsession to wreak vengeance on an animal that acted out of instinct and maimed him.

The presence of good is evident in the novel. Perhaps, most notably, through the character of Queequeg. Although once being a savage for a cannibal tribe this man exhibits more Christianly behavour than the majority of men on the Pequod. Ishmael befriends Queequeg while staying at the Spouter-Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts. With no rooms available Ishmael agrees to share the bed of a then absent man. Queequeg had taken human heads to sell at the local market with the intention to sell them and does not return to the Spouter-Inn until late at night. Upon finding Ishmael occupying his bed, Queequeg advances upon Ishmael with the intention of killing him. However, the chaotic night is abruptly ended when the Inn keeper storms the room in aid of Ishmael. Both Ishmael and Queequeg quickly reconcile and their relationship quickly blossoms into a beautiful friendship. One firsts see’s the true heart of Queequeg when he sleeps with Ishmael. For when Queequeg and Ishmael wake up the next morning, Queequeg’s arm lies affectionately thrown over Ishmael, as if Ishmael were indeed “his wife”. When Queequeg prepares to dress himself the following morning, “Ishmael recounts with amusement how Queequeg feels it necessary to hide himself when pulling on his boots, noting that if he were a savage he wouldn't consider boots necessary, but if he were completely civilized he would realize there was no need to be modest when pulling on his boots. [2] ” Queequeg’s heart is pure and loving. As seen in Chapter 10 the term “savage” does Queequeg no justice, he is in fact a rather

“Although the theme of friendship receives less consideration once the Pequod sails, Queequeg indirectly saves Ishmael's life. Twice, the harpooner rescues men from drowning — a bumpkin who has been mocking him and Tashtego, another harpooner. [3] ” While working in the hold of the Pequod Queequeg acquires a deadly fever. Believing that he himself is near dearth Queequeg asks the ship’s carpenter to build him a coffin in the form of a canoe, reminiscent of those on his home island. However, upon remembering that he has unfinished tasks at hand Queequeg decides to live a while after all. The coffin becomes his sea chest and later, the ship's life buoy. After Moby Dick sinks the Pequod, the life-buoy coffin floats to the surface, which, in turn, allowing Ishmael to hang on to it and survive until the Rachel rescues him.

The character of good and evil can also be seen through the development of one’s life. For example Queequeg lived a life of ease on the fictional Pacific island of Kokovoko as the son of a King. However, one day Queequeg stole aboard a visiting whaling ship and tied himself to the mast and insisted on joining the crew. His purpose was to experience the world of which he had only heard stories. He no longer wanted to live the pampered life he once was use to. Ishmael likewise wanted to see the world, but at the same time combat his early stages of depression. However, Captain Ahab’s reason for traveling across sea in purely for selfish and cruel intentions. Ahab lets himself be swept up in his monomaniacal desire to kill Moby Dick, and as a result leads in crew to a grizzly and unnecessary demise.

In conclusion, Captain Ahab can be seen as the representation of evil in classic tale Moby Dick. While Queequeg was seen as a figure of godly character aboard the Pequod. Captain Ahab has the properties of being a tragic hero. Much like Macbeth, Othello, and Heracles. He has a great heart and a fatal flaw. Queequeg is brave and generous, and had a noble spirit. This proves that one cannot judge a person simply on their looks, race or position in society. Ahab is a captain, but he is monomaniacal, obsessive, and a threat to all those around him. Queequeg may be a pagan “savage” but he has a good heart and a noble spirit. And this is what matters to God. Not land, not titles, nor riches, but the condition of the heart.

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