Moby Dick: Or, the White Whale by Herman Melville, or just Moby Dick, is an unusual book. It was written contrary to all the existing ideas about the laws of the genre and is not similar to any work of world literature. Melville combines the features of adventure, science fiction, philosophical, social, and marine novels, but at the same time, his work cannot be attributed to one specific style entirely. The whaling ship’s voyage is a romantic epic that ends sadly. The image of Captain Ahab as one of the key characters of Moby Dick is ambiguous, but his hubris is the leitmotif of the whole novel and allows interpreting the work as a classic tragedy.
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Despite the fact that the narration is conducted on behalf of Ishmael, subsequently, his line fades into the background, and a dynamic plot is built on the confrontation of Captain Ahab and the White Whale. Melville characterizes the man vaguely and contradictory, but it becomes clear that Ahab had a difficult fate. He was educated, lived among cannibals, and was taciturn; at the same time, any of his remarks deserved attention.
The image of the Captain inspires respect and fear throughout the crew, and the appearance of Ahab may be revealed in the context of oppressive gloom. The author describes him as follows: “There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance” (Melville 119). However, in addition to his strong-willed qualities, Ahab had excessive hubris, which became one of the key factors that led to the tragedy.
Initially, the Captain’s goals were high and noble because he wanted to get rid of the White Whale. In this creature, the man saw the embodiment of the word evil. However, subsequently, readers are convinced that the hubris of Ahab is boundless. He feels to be a chosen one, standing above the concerns and obligations of ordinary life, as well as above human values and ideas related to good and evil. All this makes the Captain both a hero and a villain, embodying tragic courage and fanaticism in one person. Melville writes: “In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride” (482). His steadfastness and stubbornness reinforced by pride lead to a tragic outcome for the whole crew, with the exception of Ishmael, who manages to rescue.
As a result, the image of Ahab and, in particular, his hubris may be considered the manifestations of a classic tragic plot in which there are no unambiguous protagonists and antagonists. Characters’ personal beliefs are the only tools that form opinions about them. In the events described by Melville, the manifestation of strong will and stamina was mandatory in order to survive. However, unwillingness to acknowledge one’s own weaknesses is the key cause of the tragedy that erupts in the Pacific Ocean.
Summing up the review of Moby Dick, one can argue that Captain Ahab’s hubris is the manifestation of the genre of classical tragedy in which the work may be interpreted. The willpower of this character has negative implications, and ultimately, the novel ends sadly. Steadfastness and faith in one’s own beliefs lead to the fact that Ahab causes the death of almost the entire crew, and such obstinacy is evidence of his boundless hubris.
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick: Or, the White Whale. C. H. Simonds Company, 1892.
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