Moby Dick: An Analysis

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The novel Moby Dick may appear to be a story about whaling and seafaring, however, deeper analysis reveals that it is a reflection of the world. According to Crawford, the novel represents the will of man pitted against infinite evil in the universe. Ahab symbolizes man while the white whale symbolizes infinite evil. Moby Dick embodies all the evil present in the world and is a constant presence in the lives of men. The white color of Moby Dick enhances the terror it represents, and despite its appearance signifying goodness in other cultures, it symbolizes pure evil in the novel. The appearance of Moby Dick is unique and makes it easily distinguishable from other whales, representing how evil can be distinguished by man. Evil is believed to be immortal and continually present, and despite efforts to defeat it, it will always be present in the lives of humans. The novel serves as a reminder for people to avoid mingling with evil and to recognize its presence in their lives.

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On the surface, the novel Moby Dick is a novel about whaling and seafaring. However, when read in a deeper point of view, this novel can be a reflection of the world. According to Crawford, author of An Outline-History of American Literature, this novel reflects “the will of man pitted against infinite evil in the universe” (cited in Fernando, et. al. 1995) Man, in this novel, is symbolized by Ahab and the infinite evil in the universe may be symbolized by the white whale. In Ishmael’s narration, he made it clear that Moby Dick is really an embodiment of all evil present in this world.

“All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick.(Melville, 1994, p. 186-187)”

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Therefore, it can be concluded that Moby Dick is Melville’s embodiment of evil in the Novel. Ironically, the white color of Moby Dick, instead of signifying cleanliness and purity that color white originally signifies, it further enhances the terror that Moby Dick reflects. According to further reflections of Ishmael, whiteness originally reflects goodness in different cultures and practices but the whiteness of Moby Dick serves otherwise. Ishmael said, “This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with ay object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds. (Melville, 1994, p. 190)”

Moreover, the appearance of Moby Dick alone proves that he is of pure evil in nature. Ishmael further discusses how Moby Dick is evil. He said, “For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other Sperm Whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out – a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. (Melville, 1994, p. 184)” In this image of the great whale, Moby Dick can easily be distinguished from any other whale, even when he is swimming deep in the sea. This symbolizes that an evil force can easily be distinguished by man.

Furthermore, evil is believed to be immortal and is constantly present. No matter how hard human tries to escape it, it will continue to lurk into the midst of man. Some whale men thinks that “Moby Dick [is] not only ubiquitious, but immoral (Melville, 1994, p. 184)”

Therefore, it shows that in the novel Moby Dick, Melville uses the white whale as an image of the constant evil that lurks in the midst of man. This evil is undying and will never be defeated no matter how hard man tries to. A constant struggle to defeat and relinquish evil will only put man into peril, just like what happened to Ahab in the story. In the end, evil will still be unevitably present in the lives of Man, as Moby Dick will continue to wander in the sea and become a fear for all the seafarers and whale men. It is our duty, as men, to avoid mingling with evil, as it is the duty of the seafarers to let Moby Dick alone for them to be have a safe voyage in the sea.


Fernando J., Habana P., & Cinco A. (1995). American Literature. Manila: National Bookstore Inc.

Melville, H. (1994). Moby Dick, New York: Penguin Group.


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