Ishmael’s Albatross College
“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
This soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.”
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
On the surface, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick suggests an entwined universe of events captained by fate. However, Melville’s novel also explores spiritual isolation as a universal human reality that creates events both independent from, and a part of, this fate. Ishmael's experiences aboard the Pequod are archetypal examples of human isolation and sociality. In the character of Ishmael, Melville reconciles the idea of an ultimately unknowable cosmos to human purposefulness and fulfillment. “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee,” the author cites Job, reminding the reader that the story of Moby Dick will be reiterated by a single
storyteller, who represents the indelible loneness of all humanity. While the world of Moby Dick often appears irrational, cruel and meaningless, Ishmael’s greatest achievement is his ability to derive value from social interaction, thus allowing him to connect to a collective human experience.
The first appearance of Ishmael shows him caught up in his own isolation and desperate to escape on a sea...
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