Do you think you can read Ishmael as representing humility and Ahab as
Ishmael tries to follow Christian ethics of humility and kindness. However,
he's going out to sea because he doesn't fit in with society. While on the
voyage, for example, he makes comments about the vulturism of human
society. A good Christian would put up with suffering and injustice, but
poor Ishmael cannot. Like Ahab, he gets angry about what he cannot control
and wants to stop it. He also recognizes, however, that he has no place in
the natural world. He knows that too much time away from human society will
sour all that is happy and good in his heart.
Moby-Dick himself is a living Act of God. He's that tornado that rips
through a midwestern town and leaves a path of destruction. He's that
perfect storm that materializes out of nowhere and pulverizes whole fleets
of ships. He's that flood that swamps all the trailer parks and shanty
towns in our Gulf area while the rich folks read about it high and dry on
their high-speed Time Warner Internet. He's all those things in life that
seem sudden and unpredictable and unfair but you have to find some way to
cope with them because you have no power to control them.
Ahab desperately wants to control those sudden tragedies, those freak
accidents, those Acts of God that remind us daily that certain things--even
our dearest, most important dreams and hopes--were not meant to be (or so
it seems). When he dies along with the crew of the Pequod at the end of the
book, I think we're supposed to feel some kind of liberation. After
agonizing and struggling with and against our fates, we learn to let go of
all those dreams and hopes and resentments and get on with our lives.
Moby-Dick begins in the dark, drizzly cold of New England and ends in the
sunny, balmy climes of the South Pacific. Your spirit achieves true
liberation only when you let go of your pride and anger about all the evil
under the sun and learn to enjoy whatever goodness and happiness you have
left in your life.
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