Moby Dick

Racism and Racial Perceptions in "Moby-Dick" 12th Grade

When you meet someone new, perhaps the best thing to do is not to “judge a book by its cover,” but is not doing so that a possibility in the world we live in? Not only relevant to today, judgment based on physical attributes traces back to the 1850s, when enslavement of Africans was justified by whites having lighter skin color. The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville explores the topic of race and how it correlates with status. Melville expresses the hierarchy of society with whites at the top, expressing their superiority over the non-whites, but simultaneously sheds a positive light on the non-whites, in some cases portraying them as more worthy of respect.

Moby Dick shows the ignorance of the whites through the stereotypes they make about non-whites, and their assumptions that any skin color deviant from the color white is considered “savage.” When Ishmael initially encounters Queequeg the native of Kokovoko, he solely relies on the makeup of Queequeg’s skin to determine if he was worthy or not of being a roommate. Ishmael observes and determines, “Such a face! It was of dark, purplish, yellow color… stuck over with large, blackish looking squares… he’s a terrible bedfellow; he’s been in a fight… falling among the cannibals”...

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