Moby Dick

Ishmael in Moby Dick

Moby Dick ends with the unexpected death of everyone on the ship but Ishmael. Throughout the novel, the ship and its mates serve as a microcosm of the society for Melville to critique. Each character represents certain qualities and ideals that Melville, in turn, judges. Ishmael’s survival is an intrinsic statement of approval of his character. With everyone else dead, it is not clear what about Ishmael’s character makes him superior to the rest of the crew. If survival is Melville’s stamp of approval, it seems flawed that Ishmael should live; but under careful observation, it is clear that Ishmael is the only one worth the achievement.

Ishmael’s greatest trait is his incredible balance; he exemplifies many qualities we admire in other individuals without being consumed by them. Additionally, he has the ability to maintain this balance while others cannot. Ahab, for example, has a firm understanding of fate, a quality of which Melville obviously approves. However, Ahab can think of nothing other than his fate, and is enveloped by it in every aspect of his life. Likewise, Starbuck is noble and has clearly-defined morals to which he clings. Yet those morals stand in the way of him doing what is best for his shipmates. When he has...

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