Arguably America through the choice of industry and the

Arguably one of the best pieces of literature ever written, Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick encompasses the essence of America during the time period and predicts the country’s future. The novel details the voyage of Captain Ahab and crew upon the whaling ship, The Pequod. Having had his leg taken off by the white whale, Moby Dick, Ahab develops a murderous obsession with the whale which ultimately leads him and his crew to their demise. Melville provides his representation of America through the choice of industry and the characters on the ship. In writing Moby Dick, Melville portends the potential downfall of the country through his representation of American greed during the rise of the industrial revolution. The rise of industrial age strengthened the ideas of capitalism and materialism in America. Melville predicted the rise of capitalism before it hit America and through his characters, was able to send a warning to the country. Bildad and Peleg, owners of The Pequod, are both Quakers. As Quakers, both should display fairness and not accumulate personal wealth, but the opposite is true when Ishmael wants to join the crew. Using deception and miserly methods, Bildad and Peleg were not true to their religion, they were “Quakers with a vengeance”(59). Religious people were becoming more preoccupied with business and wealth, which deviates from their doctrines which explicitly say to refrain from storing materialistic items. When sailing, even the most “unclad, lovely island creatures” were not able to move “this native born Quaker one single jolt” (59). Lust and natural human desire were not able to deter Peleg from his Quaker roots, but once capitalism was introduced, he lost all intentions of being a good devotee. The industrial revolution brought the ideas of capitalism which spread throughout the nation and ultimately dismantled the facets of one’s religion and moral codes. The industrial revolution brought a promise of  opportunity and valuable jobs to the American people, but Melville knew that this would only lead to greed. The discussion and representation of greed comes from the start with Melville’s choice of whaling as the focus of the story. The industry of whaling is a savage and merciless one, where sailors would go on lucrative expeditions lasting for years to kill these leviathans. The process of killing whales is grisly. After harpooning the beast, a sailor “darted dart after dart into the flying fish” until a “red tide now poured from all sides of the monster” and “gush after gush of clotted red gore” erupted from its blowhole (196). Whaling is the ultimate example for displaying the descent to savagery in man as whales are naturally docile animals. Whaling ships would go out of the way to search for these innocent creatures that showed no harm towards them; they displayed no remorse when killing the whales and crew members saw every ounce of blood as a dollar in their pocket. It was as if the sailors “were seeking to feel after some gold watch that the whale might have swallowed” (197).  Melville wants to demonstrate how people were sacrificing their basic human principles and descending to this level of savagery just to turn a profit. Melville develops a metaphor to American industry through Ahab. Obsessed with the killing of Moby, Ahab is the epitome of greed in America. Moby was the “monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them”(128).  We are introduced to Ahab’s monomaniac nature, and this vision of the white whale encompasses all the negatives that are associated with personal gain and profit. The need for profit eats away at men throughout their whole lives and they slowly develop an obsession for it. Ahab forgoes all sense of humanity and brotherhood when on this voyage and refuses to do anything but hunt for the whale. The Pequod and crew encounter another vessel, The Rachel; the captain of The Rachel had his son’s boat dragged away by the white whale and has been searching for the ship. When asked to help find the son, even for just one day, Ahab left “the strange captain transfixed at this unconditional and utter rejection” (349). Ahab himself has a child so he must be able to sympathize with captain of The Rachel, but because he is fixated only on finding Moby, he abandons his sense of compassion. What Melville alludes to here is even seen in modern American industry. Business tycoons will often use underhanded methods or show a lack of compassion all for the expansion of their company and the accumulation of personal wealth. Ahab’s role as the monomaniac captain aboard The Pequod provides direct symbolism to titans of industry and their unrelenting pursuit of personal gain.Herman Melville was ahead of his time when he wrote Moby Dick, making predictions about our country’s future that have indeed come true. The industrial revolution in Europe provided Melville with enough evidence and proof that he felt the need to address the situation and perils that were to come. He portrays the effects of greed and capitalism through the industry of whaling itself and the monomaniac nature of Ahab in his efforts to purse the white whale. With the totality of Ahab’s crew and ship ultimately being decimated in the final chapters of the novel, we are able to understand Melville’s message that America is doomed to fall if we are persistent in our gluttonous ways. Big business in the US such as Nike employ the use of sweatshops and underhanded business methods just to turn a profit. If we wish to rectify our wrongs and make our world a better place we must give up our selfish mannerisms and display humanity and brotherhood to our fellow man.

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