Lincoln Blogs


Symbolism in ‘Moby-Dick’: Brilliance Between the Lines
October 30, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Books, School Papers

There are a number of important symbols in the famous Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. The story is told somewhat allegorically, with each character or object in the tale having its own meaning. Among these things are the whaling ship the Pequod, which symbolizes doom, Moby-Dick the whale, which stands for contradiction and the uncontrollable things in life, and a sailor’s coffin, which represent both life and death. All of these symbols are used brilliantly by Melville, and help the reader to understand the meaning of the book.

One of the important symbols is the Pequod, a whaling ship that is captained by Captain Ahab. Ahab’s mission in life is to kill the great white whale, Moby-Dick, who had once taken Ahab’s leg. In the story, the Pequod is in the hunt for Moby-Dick, an effort which is destined to fail. The ship’s very name depicts failure, as it is named for an Indian tribe in Massachusetts that did not survive after the arrival of the white men. Painted a morbid black and adorned with whale bones and teeth, the ship contains images of death everywhere the sailors look. It is decorated like a coffin, and that is what it eventually becomes.

The next example of symbolism in Moby-Dick is Moby-Dick itself. Moby-Dick is a great white whale whom Ahab has been unable to kill for years. We learn that it once took off Ahab’s leg, for which the captain has always hated him. One of things it represents is everything in the world that is random and uncontrollable. In a way, it simply stands for nature. It is massive and destructive, but nonetheless beautiful and awe-inspiring. It cannot be stopped or controlled by the sailors, like a violent storm, yet there is a sense of wonder about him, like a beautiful sunset. Moby-Dick’s color is also symbolic. It is white, which expresses contradictions. White is used to signify purity and goodness, but also emptiness. Each member of the crew has his own view of the whale; some are afraid, others are amazed, and Ahab is hateful.

Another symbol used in Melville’s classic is a coffin that belongs to Queequeg, a sailor on the Pequod. It’s meaning changes from death to life as the book progresses. Queequeg first has the coffin built when he is seriously ill and fears death. However, when Queequeg recovers, he uses it as a chest to store his possessions. It is later rigged as a life buoy, representing life for the sailors on the Pequod. When the ship sinks and Ishmael, a sailor on the Pequod and the narrator of the story, uses the coffin to stay afloat, it ends up saving not only his life, but the life of the tale.

Moby-Dick, a priceless, timeless piece of literature by Herman Melville, contains deep symbolism that helps the reader understand the meaning of the book. Melville uses the Pequod to symbolize doom, Moby-Dick to symbolize random and uncontrollable nature, and Queequeg’s coffin to symbolize first death, then life. Without these symbols, Moby-Dick is good read. With them, it is a though provoking masterpiece that has been enjoyed by several generations, and will be enjoyed by many more to come.

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1 Comment so far
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It is the nobel work out of all.

Comment by Anamul Haque




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