Moby Dick

The "Savage" as the Civilizer

In studying the development of the early American novel, one might find it helpful to compare Ishmael's relationship with Queequeg in "Moby Dick" to Huck's relationship with Jim in "Huckleberry Finn". In each case, the "savage" actually humanizes and civilizes the supposedly "civilized" character. However, it is the similarities and differences in the process each author uses that the reader will find most interesting.

One similarity between the two is in the way both Melville and Twain use the relationships in question to reveal hypocrisy in society. In Huck Finn, physical appearance is the only criteria considered in determining which persons are afforded rights. No matter how immoral a white man might be, society gives him power over a highly moral black character like Jim. Furthermore, society looks unfavorably upon Pap but still gives him custody of Huck. Huck's well-being as a child is clearly not considered to be as important to society as the preservation of Pap's rights as a sperm donor (for he really has not earned the title "father"). Twain very effectively satirizes the complete lack of logic in decisions made by the society from the justice system to...

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