Researching the Concept of Fate in Herman Melville ‘s Moby-Dick. Fate is a slippery construct to specify. In one sense, destiny indicates an inalterable class that a individual takes in life ; intending that the events in a individual ‘s life are pre-ordained and can non be changed. Another position of destiny seems to be best illustrated as a fork in the route: destiny maps out a series of paths one may take and, depending on single picks, a individual can make this terminal or that terminal. It is hard to state which thought is right, or if either thought is right. It is possible, after all, that life is merely random and that destiny plays no function whatsoever. The many ways to see destiny, I think, is a concern posed in Moby-Dick. In the relationships between Ahab and the giant, and between Ishmael and Queequeg, there can be small uncertainty that Melville intends for his reader to experience that certain forces are at work, forces driving these characters to a peculiar terminal. But to what extent Ahab, Ishmael and Queequeg have control over their fates is slightly left to the reader to make up one’s mind. These work forces, Melville seems to propose at times, are non without their free will ; nevertheless, they all seem to put so much stock in the thought of destiny that they feel ( possibly wrongly ) edge to what they perceive to be a bound class. In consideration of this thought, the following chapters will be scoured for relevant inside informations: Sixteen ( “ The Ship ” ) , XXXVI ( “ The Quarter-Deck ” ) , CXXXII ( “ The Symphony ” ) , LXXII ( “ The Monkey-Rope ” ) , XCIX ( “ The Doubloon ” ) , CXXXV ( “ The Chase-Third Day ” ) , and the epilogue. The purpose here is to foreground cases in the novel where characters-namely Ahab, Ishmael and Queequeg-interpret comparatively equivocal omens and so move harmonizing to these readings ; the end being to turn to the possibility that the work forces are puting religion in marks and readings that may hold no existent relevancy to their lives. Let it be made clear that I do non mean to stress any blazing grounds that destiny is or is non at work, for I believe Melville so carefully crafted this subject as to let his reader to take for him or herself whether or non the Pequod was fated to be destroyed by the giant.
Chapter XXXVI, “ The Quarter-Deck, ” has Captain Ahab decidedly showing his belief in destiny, showing this belief in a manner which inspires a sense of intent in his crew, salvage Starbuck. “ And this is what ye have shipped for, work forces, ” Ahab tells the crew, “ to trail that white giant on both sides of land and over all sides of Earth, boulder clay he spouts black blood and axial rotations fin out ” ( 202 ) . Ahab, in his attack to the topic, first presents the giant as an elusive, even mystical animal, so fills his crew with the impression that they have been chosen for this enterprise ; that it is their fate to kill the white giant. Furthermore, Ahab makes a ceremonial of this disclosure: he issues “ an order seldom or ne’er given on shipboard except in some extraordinary instance, ” which is to cite the ship ‘s company to garner on deck. The captain so presents the work forces with a gold doubloon ( which will be expounded on subsequently in this paper ) and passes around libations to farther grade the juncture. Ahab here plays on destiny a spot in order to beat up his crew for his ain chosen cause. It is seen in ulterior chapters, such as “ The Symphony, ” that Ahab feels he is fated to conflict the giant one time more. In a minute of diffidence, he explains to Starbuck that he can non yield in his chase for the giant: “ how so can this one little bosom round ; this one little encephalon think ideas ; unless God does the whipping, does that believing, does that life, and non I. By Eden, adult male, we are turned unit of ammunition and unit of ammunition in this universe, like yonder winch, and Fate is the handspike ” ( 622 ) . But in sharing his purpose to run the giant with the Pequod ‘s crew-and particularly in his attack to the matter-Ahab is unquestionably manipulative. He instills in his work forces the thought that his destiny is theirs every bit good, when it remains ill-defined if this enterprise is in fact anyone ‘s destiny. Furthermore, Ahab ‘s address serves to bolster Queequeg and Ishmael ‘s impression that they themselves are being guided by destiny.
Merely as Ahab believes himself to be bound by destiny, the reader can see early on that Queequeg is a adult male whom believes in pre-destination ; and, in clip, Ishmael excessively seems to believe. It is in chapter XVI, “ The Ship, ” where Yojo ‘s insisting that Ishmael choose the ship on which he and Queequeg would work puts into gesture a concatenation of events that ends in Ishmael ‘s life being indirectly saved by Queequeg. In “ The Ship, ” Ishmael explains,
aˆ¦and Yojo had told [ Queequeg ] two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it every manner, that alternatively of our traveling together among the whaling-fleet in seaport, and in concert choosing our trade ; alternatively of this, I say, Yojo seriously enjoined that the choice of the ship should rest entirely with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us ; and, in order to make so, had already, pitched upon a vas, which, if left to myself, I Ishmael, should infallibly illume upon, for all the universe as though it had turned out by chanceaˆ¦ ( 100 ) .
There are two issues in this transition which suggest the workings of destiny. One is the guess that Yojo had deliberately brought Queequeg and Ishmael together ; and the 2nd is that the two friends were meant to board the Pequod for grounds yet unknown. Both guesss make the strong statement that our heroes are following a set fate, one which is supported in ulterior chapters, such as “ The Monkey-rope, ” where Ishmael makes the suggestion that he and Queequeg are connected ; that one ‘s destiny constantly depends on the other. In this peculiar episode, the monkey-rope itself acts as the symbol of their connexion: “ for better or for worse, we two, for the clip, were wedded ; and should hapless Queequeg sink to lift no more, so both use and honor demanded, that alternatively of cutting the cord, it should drag me down in his aftermath ” ( 376 ) . It may be suggested that, at this point, Ishmael has taken to bosom the thought that Yojo had brought he and Queequeg together ; our storyteller, in this instance, uses the symbolic monkey-rope to farther illustrate this bond.
The epilogue, hence, nowadayss what can be seen as the ground for Ishmael and Queequeg ‘s doomed relationship. As Ishmael says in the short chapter, “ I was he whom the Destinies ordained to take the topographic point of Ahab ‘s bowsman, ” in consequence being spared, like Job, to state the narrative of what he had seen. In add-on to this statement, the reader sees that Ishmael ‘s life is saved by the really casket which had been built for Queequeg, and had been later transformed into a life buoy. There is so a powerful suggestion that Ishmael was fated to go through on the narrative of the Pequod, and that Queequeg was every bit fated to assist our hero make his fate. Indeed facets of the couple ‘s story-their meeting ; their immediate bond ; Queequeg ‘s illness which demanded the production of the coffin-all seem to suit together like mystifier pieces, organizing a larger image.
But these kinds of reading, and Ahab ‘s ain feeling of his destiny, are merely that ; readings ; and this equivocal nature of the supposed omens of the novel may really good be Melville doing the suggestion that destiny is a subjective device, the significance of which varies from adult male to adult male. I believe this point to be strongly hinted at in chapter XCIX, “ The Doubloon, ” where Melville shows the reader differing positions of a individual object. A series of characters approach the gold doubloon nailed to the mast ; and each offer their ain reading of the coins ‘ illustrations. Ahab, in his possession, sees himself in the doubloon- ” The house tower, that is Ahab ; the vent, that is Ahab ; all are Ahab ” ( 499 ) -while Starbuck sees in the coin a balance of somberness and righteousness. Stubb sees in the coin “ the life of adult male in one unit of ammunition chapter, ” and simple Flask sees nil at all ( 501, 502 ) . As one character comes, another goes, and the readings are ever different, if merely somewhat. As so many characters look upon arguably fiddling inside informations etched onto the surface of a doubloon and put in these images significantly contrasting significances.
Sing destiny, a similar kind of subjective reading appears in Chapter CXXXV, “ The Chase-Third Day, ” as Ahab seems to coerce Fedallah ‘s anticipation to come true in a instead literary spot of reading. The captain takes the Parsee ‘s anticipation sing two hearses to a symbolic degree, seeing the giant and the Pequod as the portended vehicles. And it is likely that, if Ahab had non shouted “ The ship! The hearse! -the 2nd hearse! ” the reader would non hold picked up on the allusion at all. The “ fulfillment ” of Fedallah ‘s anticipation is one of many instances where destiny is seen through a slightly subjective lens.
In consideration of this and other cases mentioned, it seems sensible to reason that Melville wished merely to raise the inquiry of destiny in the heads of his readers, and did non mean to reply the inquiry in any finite manner within the text. Fictional characters are likened to Prophetss, Gods and archangels ; storms and fires are seen as omens ; the white giant itself is considered by many to be an agent of darkness or pandemonium or even God ; but, finally, each piece of grounds, and each fatalist reading holds a certain ambiguity. Melville, I believe, was cognizant of this ambiguity, and took strivings to compose his novel so that one reader may see the ship ‘s crew as being mistaken in its enterprise and another reader may see the Pequod as a brave and make bolding vas confronting its destiny caput on.