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What are the two significant biblical allusions mentioned in Moby Dick?Who do the...

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arenken | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 28, 2010 at 11:44 PM via web

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What are the two significant biblical allusions mentioned in Moby Dick?

Who do the allusions reference?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:22 AM (Answer #1)

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There are actually several Biblical allusions in Moby Dick.

One is the allusion to the story of Jonah. The story of Jonah centers specifically around God calling Jonah to do a job, which Jonah is reluctant to do. While sailing on a ship away from God's destination for Jonah, a great storm threatens the ship; Jonah is thrown from the ship at his own suggestion believing he is the cause of the storm in failing to carry out God's will. Jonah is saved from drowning when he is swallowed by a great fish (the "whale"). During his "captivity," he repents, and God orders the whale to throw Jonah up.

Ahab might be seen as a Jonah-character, in that he is a Quaker, a man of God who is supposed to be a pacifist, and yet he becomes maniacally bent upon pursuing and destroying the whale, turning his back on the teachings of his own religion.

Another allusion is the use of the name Ishmael, the son of the slave girl Hagar, son of Abraham—before Abraham and Sarah's son, Isaac (promised to them by God) is born. Though Sarah has suggested that Abraham sleep with their slave girl Hagar in order to have a son, when Hagar's son is born, Sarah and Hagar fight so much, that Hagar finally runs away. (God appears to her and sends Hagar and Ishmael back to Abraham's camp; but the sense of the outcast is found here as she laments her exile from humanity, fearing for the death of her son, as well as herself.)

The first line, the novel's most famous, is "Call me Ishmael" which is a direct reference to the story of Hagar and Ishmael, which symbolizes all who feel exiled or outcast, as does the character Ishmael.

Another reference is to the Bible can be found in the names Elijah (a prophet of God), and Ahab is a Biblical king (and worshipper of idols, who is eventually destroyed by God).

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