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Desolation of solitude : intellectual detachment and interpersonal embrace in Melville's Moby Dick

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Desolation of solitude : intellectual detachment and interpersonal embrace in Melville's Moby Dick
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Butler-Probst, Emily
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Desolation of Solitude: Intellectual Detachment and Interpersonal Embrace in Melvilles Moby Dick
By Emily Butler-Probst
An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Honors Program
May 2016
Dr. Craig Svonkin
Dr. Jennifer Weddig
Dr. Megan Hughes-Zarzo Honors Program Director
Primary Advisor
Second Reader


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Desolation of Solitude: Intellectual Detachment and Interpersonal Embrace in Melvilles Moby-Dick
by Emily Butler-Probst


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Introduction
Ahabs madness in Herman Melvilles novel Moby-Dick is a prominent issue in the scholarship devoted to interpreting Melvilles work, and the underlying significance or meaning of madness within this novel has produced a variety of differing interpretations. Some scholars, such as Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence Thompson, have even questioned the legitimacy of Ahabs madness in the first place, arguing that Ahab is defying dominant nineteenth-century Christian norms and is therefore labelled insane because of his deviant behavior. In contrast to Brentanos and Thompsons respective arguments that Ahab is being unjustly labelled as a madman due to his religious defiance, it seems instead that Melville is defining Ahab through a legitimate nineteenth-century understanding of monomania, or rationally functional madness. Melville uses Ahabs monomania to criticize the isolating and interpersonally exploitative tendencies of absolutism and enlightenment science. Melville criticizes Ahabs absolutist desire to ascertain definitive truths, not because Melville rejects quests for answers, but rather due to his concern that the obsessive pursuit of certainty may lead to the objectification and commodification of other human beings.
Ahabs obsession with deciphering Queequegs tattoos and his exploitation of his crew as tools in his search for Moby-Dick both reflect a desire to gain deeper knowledge in a manner that isolates Ahab and harms both Ahab and those who accompany him on his quest. While Ahabs manipulation and appropriation of other human beings in order to access absolute truths would seem to set him as a negative character, Melville complicates his depiction of Ahab by also making him a romanticized figure imbued with allusions to Christ. By complicating his depiction of Ahab, Melville illustrates his own continued desire for absolutes and occasional indulgence in


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isolated pondering, even though Melville is ultimately wary of the impact this drive for absolute truths has on communal relations. Melville presents an alternative to the obsessive, absolutist destruction of Ahab in the transformative redemption of Ishmael. Ishmael begins the novel sharing Ahabs tendency to obsessively analyze other cultures, a tendency seen in his exoticized description of Queequeg in the early chapters of Moby-Dick. Ishmaels initial impression of Queequeg is of some abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas (Moby-Dick 34). Ishmael is, however, soon transformed by his relationship with Queequeg. Embracing a relationship with Queequeg serves as a form of salvation for Ishmael, teaching him to welcome community on a larger scale and thus remain secure in the midst of his epistemological exploration. Ishmaels embrace of Queequeg leads him to adopt a protopragmatist philosophy which merges an interest in communal, experiential knowledge with an underlying skepticism of absolute truths. This transformative cross-cultural relationship thus allows Ishmael to continually search for knowledge without experiencing an obsessive drive to attain any particular form of truth.
Because the majority of the novel captures a distinction between Ahabic and Ishmaelic ways of viewing the world, the ensuing chapters of my thesis will explore this tension by spending time exploring the characters Ahab and Ishmael and what their respective differences may indicate about Melville himself and nineteenth-century America. My first chapter,
Melville, Pragmatism and the Ever-Elusive Phantom of Truth will analyze Ahab and Ishmael side by side in order to illustrate how Ahabs obsession with specific answers to why he was incapacitated by Moby-Dick transforms Ahab into an absolutist figure. Ahabs desire to gain specific answers to his questions is contrasted by Ishmael who searches for knowledge without
an obsession with absolutes. This distinction between Ahab and Ishmael that frames Ahab as a


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figure who is fixated on univocal pursuits and Ishmael as a more open-minded searcher is expressed in the research of both Craig Svonkin and Emory Elliot who represent the tension between Ahab and Ishmael as one positioned between two distinct ways of viewing the world. Ishmaels embrace of community and his willingness accept indeterminacy seems to represent pragmatist philosophy, an empiricist philosophy championed by men such as William James near the end of the nineteenth century. Although Melville was writing Moby-Dick in 1851, before the advent of pragmatism, both Lauren Becker and Maurice Lee note that Melvilles writing included proto-pragmatist elements, including an inclination to reject absolute truths.
The second chapter of this thesis, Rational Madness: The Madness of Ahab in Moby-Dick will look specifically at Ahabs madness and the way Melvilles depicts madness in a manner that both recognizes nineteenth-century conceptions of insanity and reframes these conceptions to address concerns with an excessively detached, supposedly rational way of viewing the world. This chapter also responds specifically to Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence Thompsons respective arguments that Ahab represents a positive defiance of Christianity by pointing out Melvilles complex depiction of Ahab as simultaneously positive and negative, a representation of Melvilles own conflicted aversion/attraction to absolute truth. Melvilles reading of Sir Francis Palgraves essay Superstition and Knowledge may have influenced his depiction of madness that blurs into its antithesisreason, because Palgraves essay argues that two things that are traditionally diametrically opposed, such as "superstition" and "science," or "madness" and "reason" can occasionally blur or blend together. This is useful in two ways: first, it helps to explore how Melville uses the concept of madness to critique empirical scientific absolutism, presenting this absolutism as a form of madness. Secondly, it reveals Melville's conflicted depiction of Ahab as a character, a man who is both Christ-like and devilish at the


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same time. Melville's complex depiction of Ahab reveals Melville's potential longing for absolutism even as he desires to move to a more pragmatic philosophical identity.
My third chapter, Oppressed Bodies: Scientific Isolation, Dissection, and the Suppression of Community in Moby-Dick continues the exploration of Melvilles critique of absolutism through Ahab by explaining how Ahabs destructive exploitative behavior is similar to contemporary examples of scientists and explorers who abused or commodified others in order to access knowledge. Melville's desire to move away from an Arabic absolutist lifestyle seems to be strongly motivated by his observation of how an absolutist mindset causes the individual to mistreat the people around him, using them as a means to achieving his own personal goals instead of embracing and recognizing their unique value as individuals. This specific objectification is strongly expressed in historical cases with the example of Captain Charles Wilkes who abused his crew in order to complete an exploratory mission and nineteenth-century anatomists who dissected and analyzed African American and Native American bodies in order to satisfy their curiosity about the human body. Additionally, Ahabs attributes are remarkably applicable to the fictional mad scientist figure, a similarity noted by Glen Scott Allen, who includes Ahab in his study of the American mad scientist. By positioning Ahab into the role of the obsessive enlightenment scientist/mad scientist, Melville is able to criticize pursuits of knowledge that are founded on exploiting other individuals or cultures and rejecting companionship rather than seeking to embrace these distinct cultures and perspectives. While Melville was concerned about the destruction caused by this Ahabic, isolational impulse, he also felt that he possessed some of these traits because isolation also served to foster Melvilles creative process. Because Ahabs worldview presents both creative potential and the potential for isolation and death, it is a difficult worldview for Melville to eliminate entirely.


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The final chapter of my thesis shifts its focus from Ahab to Ishmael and his pursuit of knowledge. Ishmael begins Moby-Dick as a character who is similar to Ahab in his pursuit of abstract truths and his isolation. Ishmael is saved from the "madness" of absolutism by Queequeg, a South Pacific harpooner, a process which expresses the nineteenth-century perception that savages were less afflicted by madness, but also one that Melville revises because Ishmael is saved by embracing Queequegs cultural identity. Ishmaels embrace of Queequeg by engaging in his cultural practices and placing tattoos on his body represents a conversion experience because Ishmaels relationship with Queequeg serves to redefine his own identity and his means of interacting with cultural Others. After meeting and connecting with Queequeg, Ishmael discovers a community and a more optimistic worldview which sees the chase after truth as more interesting and worthwhile than the acquisition of absolute truth. By investing in community, Ishmael discovers a way to balance his search for truth with a multicultural perspective which introduces multiple truths, allowing him to infinitely enrich himself with fascinating knowledge. Although Ishmaels new pragmatist worldview seems to represent Melvilles ideal because it is highly communal, instead of exploiting community as Ahabs worldview does, Ishmaels proto-pragmatism is also slightly frightening because it is void of the foundational absolutes and norms that people can traditionally depend upon, forcing the individual to constantly experience discomforting, unfamiliar experiences. In spite of these reservations, and the lingering appeal of Ahabs absolutes, it does seem as though Melville is more supportive of Ishmaels pragmatism because Ishmael ultimately survives while Ahab dies.
Ahab and Ishmael are drastically different in their underlying approach to seeking truth. Ahab believes that the search for knowledge is only valuable if it will allow him to receive answers to his own specific inquiries and he is resolutely unwilling to stop his pursuit when it


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endangers or commodifies the lives of others. In contrast, Ishmael enjoys searching for truth simply because the act of searching is an enjoyable experience regardless of the specific knowledge that he gains from the pursuit, and he is willing to halt his searching in order to make way for multicultural and interpersonal companionship. Melvilles characters are often engaged in a search for deeper truths, but he does not in any way guarantee that his characters will gain definite truths through their searching. As a result, people who obsessively grasp for certainty without redirecting their desire when the stakes become too high have the frightening potential to destroy both themselves and others in the process of reaching for it. This division between Ahabs obsessive, isolated grasp for definiteness and Ishmaels pleasureful, communal chase after knowledge illustrates Melvilles gradual rejection of an absolutist Ahabic approach as a form of madness, and his embrace of Ishmaels pragmatism which unifies with foreign cultures and experiences while gleefully chasing after the unknown.


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Chapter 1. Melville, Pragmatism, and the Ever-Elusive Phantom of Truth
The pursuit of deep existential truths is a theme that infuses a significant portion of Herman Melvilles works. Melville depicts several characters, including Ahab and Ishmael, who search for truths and refuse to accept a secure, non-exploratory existence. At the same time, Melville differentiates between those who pursue knowledge simply because they enjoy the endless search for potential answers and those who insist on acquiring only one objective truth and consider any failure to do so unacceptable. Melvilles interest in documenting the dangers of obsession with definitive truth through his depiction of Ahabs demise reflects a proto-pragmatist desire to reject absolutism while still endeavoring to find experiential truths, as Ishmael discovers. Ishmaels pursuit of truth as he sits atop the masthead or attempts to understand the whale are both imbued with a desire to experience truth without feeling that he must arrive at certainty. While Melville is, in many ways, progressive in his expression of views that seem to reflect the pragmatism of late nineteenth-century philosophers such as William James, he also is drawn to the same absolutism that pragmatic philosophy rejects. In his depiction of Ahab and of Ishmael, Melville attempts to detach himself from what he considers to be the destructive implications of absolutism while moving toward a pragmatic view of philosophy which can happily search for truth through interpersonal and multicultural experiences rather than obsessively grasping for absolute truth.
Melville introduces the tension between the obsessive pursuit of absolutes and a more pleasureful search for truth in The Albatross chapter of Moby-Dick, where he vocalizes through Ishmael the desire to explore but also expresses the potentially deadly consequences of being too determined to grasp at a singular, objective truth:


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Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed. (196)
In this passage, Melville explores the appeal of knowledge by describing Ishmaels desire to continuously discover new sights and wonders along a joy in endlessly searching for knowledge. However, Ishmael also uses this passage to express his concern that the pleasureful pursuit of knowledge can descend into an obsessive solitary chase of an elusive demon phantom that leaves the pursuer lost in barren mazes, void of the significance the pursuer was initially seeking. Alternatively, the obsessive pursuit of knowledge can also leave the pursuer with too much knowledge, leaving him whelmed in a flood of abstract thought (Moby-Dick 196). Ishmael uses this description specifically to refer to Ahabs obsession with the white whale because his musing on the tormented chase of that demon phantom is immediately preceded by an encounter between Ahabs Pequod and another nameless vessel that is bound for home (196; 195). Ahabs directive for his ship to sail round the world in pursuit of the white whale instead of pursuing a homeward voyage indicates his rejection of both pleasureful non-absolutive exploration and of rejecting the pursuit of truth altogether by returning to the safety of Nantucket by instead favoring an isolated, unidirectional pursuit (195). Captain Ahab embodies Ishmaels concern with chasing a solitary form of knowledge because he chooses to pursue a tormented chase of the whale, being willing to go through any pain or sacrifice in order to destroy Moby-


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Dick. As Ahab explains when he is detailing his desire to destroy Moby-Dick to the rest of his crew: I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out (139). Ahabs single-minded desire to destroy Moby-Dick regardless of the consequences to himself and his crew is emblematic of his desire to acquire one absolute truth as the result of his searching. As Craig Svonkin observes Ahab attempts to find the one true meaning for any symbol and thereby dies while Ishmael accepts a plurality of meanings and thereby lives {Self-othering 59). Ishmael notes Ahabs behavior throughout the voyage and his fixation with the one truth embodied in Moby-Dick and then uses his reflections in The Albatross chapter to express the joy of constant discovery but also the sorrow that stems from the solitary desire for an absolute demon phantom, because it instigates an obsessive, self-destructive search.
In some ways, the larger human desire to pursue deeper philosophical knowledge, a desire shared by both Ahab and Ishmael, holds the same magnetic attraction over humanity as does the sea itself as described in the first chapter of Moby-Dick. Ishmael explains that the sea draws all individuals to the Manhattan dock in an almost unconscious manner: Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenuesnorth, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? (Moby-Dick 19). Ishmael, and by proxy Melville, seems to be arguing that the ocean calls to all individuals regardless of their occupation or desires, bringing them as close as they can get to vast watery surfaces. Melvilles discussion of the appeal of the sea in this passage again expresses a universal human desire to grasp for deeper truths combined with the


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concern that the desire to grasp for truths that seem attainable and objective on the surface but remain just out of reach can lead to a self-destructive commitment to grasp for these truths at all costs. As Lisa Ann Robertson explains in her exploration of epistemology in Moby-Dick, the act of sailing and abandoning the security of home and solid ground expresses the desire to pursue a more dangerous existence in search of deeper truth: A comfortable physical existence is a metaphor for a comfortable ontological experience that is not characterized by doubt and an obsessive drive to know. In contrast to the shore is ship life, fraught with danger, representing the search for meaning, which Melville clearly privileges. (13). Life on land is one that remains concerned primarily with physical existence and secure, non-risky questioning and does not concern itself with the deeper secrets of existence that often contain shifting premises, contradictory answers, and unsolvable enigmas. In contrast, the sea which is composed of these deeper secrets is void of definitive, objective answers, a feature illustrated in the fact that true places, such as Queequegs native island Kokovoko, are not down in any map (59).
Melville solidifies the destructive potential of excessively searching for the definitive in enigmatic waters by connecting Ishmaels reveries on the lure of the sea to the self-obliterating death of Narcissus: And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all (19). Melville again asserts the universal appeal of knowledge but worries that, like Narcissus, human desire for knowledge may morph into an obsessive pursuit of supposed certainty that is ultimately uncertain-an impossible quest that threatens to drown us and leave us whelmed (196). While the mind may attempt to stay afloat in the midst of deep contemplative thought, the potential for epistemological


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uncertainty can lead to peril, a potentiality seen in Ishmaels experiences in The Mast-Head chapter. While standing atop the masthead, Ishmael remarks on the possibility that those who engage in oceanic contemplation without remaining aware of the precarious nature of their position could fall into the very seas that they are contemplating and drown: But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover.1 And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever (136). As Ishmaels reflections illustrate, contemplation is potentially dangerous, but only if the individual slips his hold on the physical, interpersonal world, allowing abstract thought to dominate his consciousness to the point where he sinks no more to rise from the contemplative depths.
Melvilles potential concern with drowning in the depths of epistemological contemplation due to an excessive need to ascertain definitive truth is remarkably similar to the philosophical view of pragmatism which achieved prominence during the late nineteenth century (Becker 5). While Melville himself did the bulk of his writing before the advent of pragmatism, Maurice Lee observes that Melville and also Fredrick Douglass possessed some traits in their writing that echo pragmatist thought: Herman Melville and Fredrick Douglass anticipate aspects of pragmatism by turning away from absolutes and their debilitating extremesdogmatism and skepticism, fanaticism and quietism (396). Because Melville and Douglass express thoughts that are similar to pragmatism before the traditionally accepted beginning of pragmatism, Lee
1 Ishmaels comment about hovering over Descartian vortices in this case may be a criticism of the Rationalist philosophy of Rene Descartes. This is an intriguing possibility if Melville is, in fact, embracing pragmatist philosophy in his works. Pragmatism is considered a form of empiricism, as evidenced by William James frequent quotations which treat the two synonymously (V). Empiricist philosophy believed that the mind began as a blank slate and gained knowledge through experience which was directly oppositional to the Rationalist idea that some knowledge is innate or bom with the individual before they have experienced anything (Markie).


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suggests that it is helpful to think of Melville and Douglass as transitional, hyphenated figuresproto-pragmatists, quasi-antifoundationalists, pre-post-metaphysicians (396).2 The pragmatist concept of truth that Melvilles writing seems to display is the idea that truth is a highly subjective concept, primarily gleaned on an individual level through experiences that challenge or reinforce an individuals preexisting beliefs. As Lauren Becker explains: [Wjhen your current truth conflicts with your experience, you work out how to integrate the new knowledge in with your previous opinions, eventually creating a balance that works. And a new truth is born! That truth will survive until the next conflicting experience, and the cycle continues (11). While individuals may eagerly pursue truth within a pragmatist model, they must also embrace the idea that any truth that they discover may ultimately be disproven by a conflicting experience which would cause them to abandon whatever initial truth that they believed in up to that point.
Because truth has the potential to be amended or added to at any moment, pragmatists do not believe that any person can be completely certain that he has arrived at an absolute truth that would apply to himself and others in spite of shifting circumstances. William James, one of the founding philosophers of pragmatism, points out this underlying skepticism that the individual has discovered a definitive form of truth is the primary mark of distinction between a pragmatist and what he refers to as an absolutist way of thinking:
We may talk of the empiricist [pragmatist] way and of the absolutist way of believing in truth. The absolutists in this matter say that we not only can attain to knowing truth, but we can know when we have attained to knowing it; while the
2 The idea that Melville may be a proto-pragmatist is also supported by Lauren Becker in her thesis, Melville's White Whale: Pragmatisms Role in Moby-Dick. Becker argues that Melvilles proto-pragmatism came through his reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson whose writing also influenced William James and John Dewey, some of the founders of pragmatism (25).


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empiricists think that although we may attain it, we cannot infallibly know when.
To know is one thing, and to know for certain that we know is another (V). Absolutists are not only convinced that they can acquire definite, absolute truths if they apply themselves sufficiently to the task, but they also are certain that they will be able to recognize when they have found the absolute truths that they are searching for, something which James and other pragmatists are wary of believing. Because pragmatists believe that the searcher can never be entirely certain that he has found a final answer to his queries, pragmatists also frame absolutist searches for the definite as both potentially obsessive and endless. As Maurice Lee explains, William James invokes the idea that pragmatist philosophy helps to preserve the individual from the depths of excessive absolutist diving: James compared pragmatism to a raft that is difficult to sink because it floats on the surfaces of life and eschews the quest for absolutes (399). Pragmatist philosophy that embraces the ebb and flow of experience instead of diving for truths that would apply universally to everyone or remain steadfast regardless of changing circumstances seems to represent almost precisely what Ishmael embraces as his defining epistemological model. IshmaeTs pursuit of knowledge comes without the fixation on absolute truths, creating a search for knowledge that interacts with his experiences and is subject to change, if necessary.
Like a pragmatist, Ishmael happily enjoys searching for truths without feeling that he must always find a definite answer to every question, in some cases finding multiple answers or even finding no answer at all. Svonkin describes Ishmael as a man who accepts the quest to know the unknowable, to decipher the indecipherable, to solve insoluble riddles, symbols and mysteries, while simultaneously seeing the paradox involved, a process that Ishmael is able to undertake because he welcomes uncertainties, dualities, paradox and the possibility that a


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myriad of contradictory readings for one symbol need not lead to chaos or meaninglessness {Self-othering 59). Ishmael therefore pursues truth with a level of enthusiasm which suggests he hopes to acquire this truth, while simultaneously realizing that he will never achieve the level of absolute certainty that Ahab requires from the universe and will instead be presented with numerous contradictory truths or meanings for any given object. This level of devotion to seeking truth without an accompanying need to grasp at definitive answers suggests that Ishmael is ultimately more satisfied by the search for meaning than he is by the acquisition of any particular answer. The multiple discoveries that Ishmael hopes for by sailing across the ocean are seen as a pleasant side effect of searching for truths rather than a rigidly set pursuit of one definite truth which would define the search as a failure if that answer is not located. This attitude toward pursuing knowledge, a desire to acquire knowledge without an accompanying drive to discover absolute truths is precisely what William James writes about the pragmatist pursuit of truth. While this philosophy eschews the a belief in absolute truths, James asserts that it does not necessarily refrain from searching for truths in general: But please observe, now, that when as empiricists we give up the doctrine of objective certitude, we do not thereby give up the quest or hope of truth itself. We still pin our faith on its existence, and still believe that we can gain an ever better position toward it by systematically continuing to roll up experiences and think (VI). James description here of the ongoing search or hope for truth without the absolutist impulse to acquire one definite truth is the same impulse felt by Ishmael who loves to search for answers, but also recognizes his own limited ability to reach absolute answers.
Ishmaels recognition of the inaccessibility of absolute truth can be seen in his attempts to understand the meaning of the whale, and his recognition that the ultimate truth or essence remains just out of reach. For example, as Ishmael is attempting to interpret the meaning of the


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Sperm Whales brow, he ultimately finds that he is unable to discover the meaning and gleefully surrenders interpretive control of the whales brow to the reader: If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you can (275). While Ishmaels decision to pass interpretive authority on to the reader could seem like a failure of interpretation on Ishmaels part, he is more interested in exploring knowledge than he is in gaining specific answers. As Ramon Espejo Romero explains: Sometimes he has to conclude his investigations of the whale [...]. But Ishmael is not gloomy at such moments; on the contrary, he is happy to be at least engaged in a process which is giving him so much (9). Ishmael enjoys attempting to discover the meaning of the whales brow simply because the pursuit of knowledge itself is a thrilling experience; as a result, he is willing to share his search with readers and is not disillusioned by the possibility that deciphering the brow is ultimately an impossible pursuit. Lauren Becker observes that Ishmaels attempts to define the meaning of whales in general, or Moby-Dick in particular ultimately leads him to unanswerable questions that reinforce the pragmatic disbelief in absolute truths: Moby Dick upsets any definition that Ishmael is able to come up with. The white whale teaches him that some mysteries can never be solved, no matter how hard you try to puzzle them out, thereby proving that there is no such thing as an absolute (54). Melville seems to be arguing through Ishmaels embrace of unknowability that the inability to find answers to specific questions is not itself a failure of knowledge but rather an opportunity to continue searching.
Ahabs search for truth differs from Ishmaels because he directs his efforts only toward his own selfish, personal mission to decipher and dissect the meaning of Moby-Dick, to strike


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through the mask of the whales enigmatic surface and discover the underlying secrets within (140). His pursuit of the whale is a pursuit of absolutes and as a result, Ahab requires unitary, objective answers in order to locate the whale and extract the knowledge that he seeks. When Ahab is presented with his own version of Ishmaels undecipherable whale brow in the head of a decapitated whale that the crew has harvested, he asks this severed head to reveal the solitary secret contained within, telling it to speak and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest (249). Ahabs assertion in this passage that the whale has dived the deepest affirms Melvilles metaphoric treatment of diving as a symbol for deep knowledge and abstract interpretation. As Ishmael attempts to interpret the white whale and his significance, he notes that explaining the full mystery of the whale would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go, indicating his interest in understanding the whale coupled with recognition of his own limitations and the inaccessibility of the deepest depths of knowledge (158). Additionally, the notion of diving as an indication of interpretation can be seen in The Doubloon chapter where the efforts of various crewmembers to interpret the coin that Ahab has nailed to the main mast causes their faces to take on an aspect that might be somewhere within nine fathoms long. And all from looking at a piece of gold (333). The change in facial expression noted in this passage stems from the crewmembers interpretive process. Each crewmembers attempt to discover meaning in the ambiguous images depicted on the coin causes their faces to become nine fathoms longtheir faces paralleling the diving movements of their minds into the oceanic depths of epistemological mysteries. Melvilles link between diving and deep interpretive thought serves to explain Ahabs claim that the deep diving whale may be able to provide answers to the mysteries that plague his life such as the ultimate reason or purpose behind the loss of his legor even if there even is one at all; and the identity of the instigating


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force that caused his suffering, whether it is God, the devil, or an accidental maiming by a dumb brute who simply smote [Ahab] from blindest instinct, as Starbuck says of the whale (139). Ahabs need to understand the significance of his injury and his desire to pursue these answers continually in spite of the dangers to himself and his crew represents an absolutist impulse, a need to ascertain absolute truths beyond practical limits. As Lauren Becker observes: Ahab represents pragmatic absolutism. His monomania can be seen as an obsessive desire with his Truth, regardless of its practical consequences. Even when he learns of his Truths impracticality, his stubbornness will not allow him to give it up (43). Ahabs insistence, not only that the severed whale head holds access to truth, but also that the head contains only one truth or secret thing, illustrates his devotion to seeking out a singular, definite answers as the purpose of his quest. When Ahab is interrupted in his attempted dialog with the whale head by news of another ship being sighted, he abandons the voiceless whale for another potential source of the absolute answers he seeks, another vessel that he can ask about the whereabouts of the white whale (249).
Ahabs incessant search for solitary and satisfactory answers that will enable him to locate Moby-Dick also causes him to experience frustration when he is provided with interpretive surfaces that lack clear answers for him to utilize, a frustration that can be seen when Ahab is introduced to the mystery of Queequegs tattoos. When Ahab witnesses Queequegs intricate tattoos that are imbued with a meaning that has been lost even to Queequeg himself, Ahab expresses frustration that this tattooing will perish with Queequeg and its mysteries will remain unanswered:
Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in
one volume; but whose mysteries not even himself could read [...] these mysteries


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were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last. And this thought it must have been which suggested to Ahab that wild exclamation of his, when one morning turning away from surveying poor QueequegOh, devilish tantalization of the gods! (366-367).
Ahab is unwilling to accept the possibility that the underlying meaning or truth behind Queequegs tattoos will ultimately die without a solution and without any revelation of what the enigmatic tattoos ultimately mean. Ahabs frustrated cry that the inaccessible meaning behind Queequegs tattoos is a devilish tantalization reflects his difficulty coping with the possibility that some epistemological mysteries will never truly be solved. As Craig Svonkin observes, Ahabs frustration stems from his feeling that his pursuit of truth has been thwarted: Ahab reads both the whale and Queequegs tattoos as denying him what he most desiresto Know (Self -othering 45). By presenting the dangers of searching for solitary truths and depicting both Ahab and Ishmael as characters who brave these dangers with varying degrees of success, Melville is offering a warning about pursuing knowledge in an absolutist, Ahabic manner that is convinced it can access objective truth. Glen Scott Allen notes in his study of Ahab and other obsessive figures such as Dr. Frankenstein that their stories come with the suggestion that to search for higher truth is to (nearly automatically) be deceived (38). Ahabs behavior is marked by a solitary demand for certainty without embracing the possibility of multiple perspectives or even the potentiality that some truths are ultimately unknowable. Although Ahab and Ishmael differ in their method of pursuing truth, with Ahab pursuing absolutism to his own detriment and Ishmael embracing a more pragmatist pursuit that seeks truth without the obsession with absolutes, they both initially find themselves pursuing the same search for knowledge and take this pursuit to


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differing extremes. It is a quest for the unknown that takes pursuers away from the safety of familiar patterns of thought, calling both Ahab and Ishmael to search for the infinite.
Melvilles concern with the potential danger of absolutism may also be linked to his biblical knowledge and his familiarity with the book of Ecclesiastes, a book that reflects on the emptiness of most earthly pursuits, including the pursuit of knowledge. The second verse of Ecclesiastes sets the tone for most the book by highlighting the pervading meaninglessness of existence: Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,3/ vanity of vanities! All is vanity (Eccles 1.2). In the same way that the beginning to this book asserts that everything is meaningless or empty, this book further claims that the pursuit of wisdom can be equally void of meaning, or of the underlying objective significance that a seeker such as Ahab would hope to find. The possibility that Melvilles knowledge of Ecclesiastes served to reinforce his negative depiction of obsessive, unrestrained epistemological searches can be seen in Melvilles correspondence and in specific references to Ecclesiastes in the text of Moby-Dick itself. In a letter to Hawthorne, Melville writes that he has been greatly enriched by Solomon, who in the nineteenth century was generally considered the author of Ecclesiastes: I read Solomon more and more, and every time see deeper and deeper and unspeakable meanings in him (.Letters 130). Melvilles interest in the darker melancholy themes present in Ecclesiastes, the deeper and unspeakable meanings can also be seen in a reference that he makes to Ecclesiastes within the text of Moby-Dick. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. All is vanity. ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet (328). Melvilles recognition of Solomons dark wisdom as well as his observation that at least part of the wisdom from Ecclesiastes has escaped
3 The speaker of Ecclesiastes, referenced above in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) as the Preacher, is also known in Hebrew by Kohelet.


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the general Christian populace suggests that Melville had himself learned a valuable lesson about the unattainable nature of absolutes. The first chapter of Ecclesiastes affirms the speakers efforts to pursue knowledge and his grief in discovering that it is unattainable: And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind (Eccles 1.17)4. Efforts to acquire a complete, objective knowledge of either wisdom or madness is ultimately an unending, obsessive pursuit, not unlike striving to chase after the wind in the hopes of grasping it, wind which has no discemable origin or end source and no concrete form that can be physically grasped. The desire to grasp or hold onto the wind in an Ahabic manner differs from the desire to simply follow the wind as a form of play without the expectation of actually capturing it, a practice which seems more emblematic of IshmaeTs pragmatic pursuit of knowledge which recognizes the ultimate ungraspable nature of objective truth and yet happily chases it anyway.5
Time spent striving after the wind of abstract thought is ultimately isolating because efforts to grasp one absolute truth alienate the individual from others who hold different views about underlying truth and the best means of attaining it. He may even encounter frustration if he is exposed to people who are more indifferent to finding absolute truth as in the case of Ahabs encounter with Queequeg who is not particularly concerned about the fact that his tattoos are indecipherable (367). Additionally, the individual who endeavors to learn as much as possible about the answers to his own specific problems may be inclined to push away other people, even those who are similar to himself, because they distract him from his accomplishing his goal.
4 The RSV differentiates Ecclesiastes 1:2 which is written in poetic form from Ecclesiastes 1:17 which is written in prosaic form.
5 The difference between playfully following the wind and striving after or attempting to grasp the wind is not a distinction made in the book of Ecclesiastes. But based on the profound differences between his characterization of Ahab and his characterization of Ishmael, both of whom pursue knowledge; I think it is possible that Melville saw the playful following of knowledge as a positive pursuit that chases knowledge or the wind without feeling obligated to discover the absolutist origins of this knowledge. In contrast, I think Melville may have interpreted the RSV striving after the wind as a more destructive absolutist impulse to grasp at certainty.


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Glen Scott Allen notes a similar link between isolation and abstract thought in his research on nineteenth-century perceptions of scientists when he observes that mad scientist figures accomplished their research pursuits through an unnatural indulgence in abstract, intellectual endeavors, endeavors that motivated the scientific theorist to live outside the confines of natural communities, such as his or her family and social network (40). In a similar manner to these nineteenth-century scientists who allowed their obsession with their absolutist research projects to isolate them from other human beings, Ahabs desire to decipher Moby-Dick is a source of isolation to him, causing him, in a moment of clarity, to mournfully cry out to Starbuck before his final assault on the whale that his life has been a desolation of solitude (405).
Ahabs reflection on his isolation causes him to acknowledge the detachment that began with his role as a captain and intensified during his pursuit of Moby-Dick:
When I think of this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the masoned, walled-town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance to any sympathy from the green country without [....] and then, the madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking brow, with which, for a thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously, foamingly chased his preymore a demon than a man! (405).
Ahabs interaction with Starbuck is surprisingly frank and open at this point, but it reflects a life that has been continuously private and closed off, both due to the isolating attributes of his authoritative career as a captain and, more significantly due to the dehumanizing isolation of his obsession, a fixation with definitive truth that the other crewmembers cannot necessarily
understand.


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Although Ahab briefly reaches out to Starbuck as a potential companion in his moment of vulnerability in The Symphony chapter, he ultimately loses a personal connection with Starbuck for the same reason that he abandons his more significant relationship with Pip, a potential friend and son figure, because he is unwilling to sacrifice his obsession with grasping truth in order to serve the interests of others. Ahab seals his disastrous fate and sabotages his connection with Starbuck because he reasons abstractly on the possibility that God, or some other spiritual force, is distancing him from natural concerns and compelling him to pursue his quest relentlessly. Ahab theorizes that he is urged on by this spiritual force or what he refers to as a remorseless emperor to turn against his own humanity and the interpersonal nature that comes with it:
[W]hat cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? (406).
Ahabs argument that he is being commanded to desert his interpersonal connections in a manner that defies his natural inclinations transforms him into an industrial tool, of sorts, that is pushing and crowding and jamming itself forward in constant pursuit of his goal, a sort of drilling for absolute truths. By presenting himself as an involuntary tool of fate, Ahab suggests that his obsession is the antithesis to natural loving relationships with other human beings and is also beyond his ability to control. As Ahab continues in his reflection on his predestined detachment, he causes Starbuck to flee in despair, leaving Ahab to launch into his pursuit of the


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whale in the final chapters of the novel, a pursuit that destroys Ahab and the entire crew with the exception of Ishmael (406).
Given the potential risk of chasing the phantom of epistemological exploration into perilous mazes, or forgetting to hold onto the masthead of human connection and drowning in the immensity of absolute searching, it would probably seem sensible for Melville to advocate the avoidance of epistemological searching altogether, but Melville does not advise rejecting epistemological searching and, in fact, condemns characters in his works that immerse themselves in the physical without considering larger concerns about truth. An avoidance of deeper epistemological searching is also addressed by William James who explains that the refusal to pursue truth in order to avoid believing a destructive truth is a cowardly response which does not embrace the epistemological vision of pragmatism: [H]e who says, Better go without belief forever than believe a lie! merely shows his own private horror of becoming a dupe. He may be critical of many of his desires and fears, but this fear he slavishly obeys (VII). James adds that the suggestion of avoiding epistemological pursuit [I]s like a general informing his soldiers that it is better to keep out of battle forever than to risk a single wound (VII). James proposes through this quote that it is better to fight for a knowledge of deeper truths, even in the face of obsessive absolutism and deception, than it is to quit the search for truth before it has even started.
One of the clearest examples that Melville, like James, condemns an existence that shies away from the deeper questions of truth is in his depiction of Flask, the third mate on the Pequod after Starbuck and Stubb. Unlike Starbuck, who is defined by his Christianity, and Stubb, who is viewed through his determination to remain optimistic, Stubb is defined in more limited terms, he is not motivated by a deeper worldview but is instead introduced to the reader as a man who is


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fueled by a simplistic hatred of whales and has lost sight of the spiritual significance of these leviathans: [Flask] somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had personally and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of honour with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their majestic bulk and mystic ways [...] he followed these fish for the fun of it
(.Moby-Dick 105). Melvilles first description of Flask provides several insights about Melvilles negative feelings toward Flask as well as the similarly negative way that the reader is supposed to respond to him. Flask is not given a deeper philosophical worldview or basis for his life in this passage, he is simply given a motivation for hunting whales based on a preexisting and potentially multi generational grudge. Additionally, Flasks attitude towards whales as mere animals that he can hunt for sport rather than as creatures with deep metaphoric meaning as Ahab might see in them is designed to clash with the reverence that readers have been conditioned to feel up to this point in the novel by reading Melvilles various collected references to whales in his Extracts chapter and by listening to Father Mapples sermon on Jonah and the whale in the ninth chapter of Moby-Dick (8; 48). By presenting a somewhat spiritual and significant perspective on whales then offering a portrait of Flask that focuses on his grudge and gleeful hunting of whales, Melville emphasizes Flasks features as a man who conducts his life on a level that is generally unconcerned with deeper philosophical or spiritual meaning.
Melville further expresses Flasks limited connection to epistemological exploration when he depicts Flasks interpretation of the doubloon that Ahab has nailed to the main mast as a reward for sighting Moby-Dick. As Ahab observes when he analyses the coin, each mans effort to interpret the coin illustrates that mans own worldview and convictions: [T]his round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn


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but mirrors back his own mysterious self (332). As each character reflects on the doubloon, their interpretation reveals core attributes about their identities and values. Starbucks interpretation is embedded in his religious values and fears, causing him to identify the features on the coin as symbols of Gods presence (333). Stubb, the next officer to analyze the coin, also produces a meaning that reflects his worldview and notes that the coin can reveal deeper spiritual insights: There's a sermon now, writ in high heaven (334). Stubb, like Starbuck, recognizes a deeper significance to the doubloon as a source of epistemological exploration and provides an interpretation that expresses his own personality and values as a symbolic application of this deeper meaning. In contrast to the epistemological probing of Stubb and Starbuck who recognize the doubloon as a sermon or a token of truth, Flask looks at the doubloon and sees nothing more than an object with economic value: I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and whoever raises a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what's all this staring been about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that's true (334). Not only does Flask see the doubloon simply as a coin, void of symbolic meaning, but he also fails to understand why the other crewmembers have found a deeper meaning in the doubloon at all, an interpretation that reveals his deep integration in a physical non-exploratory existence. Svonkin observes that Flask sees the doubloon only as a literal, material thing, demonstrating his lack of imagination and low, materialistic nature {Self-othering 56). Flasks mediocrity and his inability to contemplate deeper epistemological truths transforms him to a tool that Ahab can manipulate to his purposes. In spite of the risk of madness presented to characters such as Ahab, Melvilles focus is not directed to characters who avoid epistemological pursuit in favor of the painless safety of familiar forms of thought, characters such as Flask, but rather those who risk the potential dangers of pursuing truth in order to discover more about themselves and the world that they


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inhabit, pursuing the path that Ahab and Ishmael choose to follow. This pursuit of epistemological truth is treacherous, but Melville considers the pursuit of truth to be intrinsically valuable, regardless of whether the search results in discovering absolute answers in the end.
Melville seems to have personally been drawn to the appeal of deeper truths as indicated by his depiction of both Ahab and Ishmael as characters who pursue truth. However, Melvilles investigation of knowledge in his works also seems to suggest that the act of pursuing truth can prove to be hazardous to the individual if it is not balanced by communal concerns and personal grounding, a sentiment which is also present in a pragmatic pursuit of truth. As Lauren Becker explains, community is essential to the pursuit of truth, even if some truths are out of reach: Without a community, therefore, it becomes impossible to reach a greater understanding of truth. We must reach outside of our subjectivities and attempt to penetrate others in order to make a step towards universal truths, while at the same time acknowledging that there is no such thing as an attainable universal truth. This is a paradox, to be sure (22). By detailing the efforts of pragmatism to embrace other subjectivities in order to follow deeper truths, Becker is describing an impulse to embrace the communal instead of the isolation that comes with absolutism. As Ishmael ponders the circumnavigational pursuit of truth and the potential for the explorer to discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, he also observes that any voyage around the world ultimately leads the quester back to the loved ones that he left behind: [Wjhereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us (196). As Ishmael is engaged in his search for truth, his cyclical path is also directed to community as a potential destination, a place where he can find


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alternate perspectives, rather than defining his destination as Ahab does in the solitary, ever-elusive figure of absolute truth embodied in Moby-Dick.
One of the methods that Melville proposes in order to maintain the balance and safety of the epistemological quester is a strong promotion of interpersonal connection alongside the quest for abstract truths. Melville reinforces the significance of community in The Monkey-Rope chapter when he describes the way that Ishmael and Queequeg are joined together by a chord known as a monkey rope in order to allow Queequeg to engage in the difficult task of stripping the whales skin while he is standing atop the mostly submerged whale (255). The cord that connects Queequeg to Ishmael, who remains on board the ship during the harvesting process, serves to prevent Queequeg from plunging into the sea and drowning. As Melville indicates in a footnote to this chapter, monkey ropes were not generally used for joining two crewmembers together on other whaling vessels, but this practice was enforced on the Pequod because it caused the attached crewmate to be more attentive to the safety of the harpooner who was harvesting the whale: [I]t was only on the Pequod that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together. This improvement on the original usage was introduced [...] in order to afford the imperiled harpooner the strongest possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey-rope holder (256). Melvilles emphasis on the hazardous position of the harpooner during the harvesting process invokes the same sense of danger that Ishmael references in The Masthead chapter, the peril of plunging into the Descartian vortices of abstract epistemological questing (136). Queequegs peril is mediated by Ishmaels presence and their direct link which pulls him out of the depths. Although Queequeg and Ishmaels connection of two may seem to implicate the advantages of marriage rather than the wider implications of community, Ishmaels musings on the monkey-rope ultimately lead him to realize that he leads a communal existence with his


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own life being sustained and preserved by a plethora of cords connecting him to humanity in a larger sense: I saw that this situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die (255-56). Ishmael realizes that his well-being does not rest in his determination or actions alone but instead is dependent on the other members of his community for continued preservation. By presenting this lesson on the interdependent nature of society, Melville displays the importance of community in maintaining the well-being of the individual, a communal act that extends to the area of mental health and allows the individual to balance solitary contemplation and communal embrace. While Ahab hurtles both himself and his crew into disaster, Ishmael is spared by the monkey ropes of interpersonal and multicultural relationships that suspend him, preventing him from plunging too deeply into abstract epistemological investigation. In this way, Ishmael becomes Melvilles beacon, a token of how to live a healthy life without becoming lost in the desire for definite truths.
Although Ishmael seems to represent Melvilles ideal figure, this does not necessarily mean that Melville fully villainizes Ahabs desire for definite truths. Ahabs madness, or absolutist drive, causes him to isolate himself and dive into a deadly contemplative search for meaning, the meaning of the whale being the primary source of his quest. Ahabs efforts to grasp an absolute truth cause him to destroy both himself and the vast majority of his crew which would certainly ascribe him some villainous attributes. At the same time, Melvilles depiction of Ahabs courageous quest after the whale also frames him as a heroic figure, his soliloquies and his profound presence in the novel reinforce this heroic essence. As Ishmael muses on Ahab, he reflects a lingering admiration for the regal figure of Ahab, an admiration that presumably


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extends to after Ishmaels rescue by The Rachel at the conclusion of the novel: But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket grimness and shagginess [...] Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied air! (127). Ishmaels admiration for Ahabs grandness and his reflection on how this grandness involve diving into deep interpretive depths, reflects a more positive portrait of Ahabs desire to grasp for absolute truths. It is equally interesting that Ishmael writes this description even after he knows that Ahab will cause the death of his own crew, a knowledge that comes from the fact that Ishmael is writing his narrative in hindsight. Lauren Becker notes the simultaneous appeal and aversion to Ahabs absolutist traits as a reflection of Melvilles own conflicted relationship with pragmatist thought: Melville values qualities in Ahab that make him seem to desire absolute truth in an unpragmatic way, but that he also believes it is foolish to believe so wholly in one truth (42-43). The simultaneous appeal of Ahabs Romanticized quest for the definite and aversion to the disaster and isolation that grasping for the definite can cause is also expressed by Craig Svonkin who observes that Melvilles depiction of Ahab, then, is perhaps paradoxically both critical and celebratory, for this aspect of himself that Melville wishes to purge as destructively monomaniacal is also an aspect of himself that seems Romantically heroic and questing (,Self-othering 42). Because Ahab is both an admirable and a reprehensible figure, the process of transforming Ishmael into a communal searcher for truth as opposed to an obsessive grasper for absolute truth becomes a fraught, dialectical battle between Ahab and Ishmael within the pages of Moby-Dick. Emory Elliott encapsulates this idea by stating that Melville creates two protagonists, Ahab and Ishmael, who are engaged in an antagonistic relationship, vying for center stage of the drama (189). While the conflict between Ahab and Ishmaels diverging views on knowledge and


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community is ultimately resolved by having Ishmael emerge as the sole survivor of the Pequod, this solution only presents itself after a novel-length struggle between the two viewpoints culminating in the destructive madness of Ahabs grasp at truth and the salvation of Ishmaels communal chase after truth which preserves his life.
Melvilles depiction of the benefits of Ishmaels communal, but still active pursuit of truth reflects his interest in pragmatist philosophical values before the onset of pragmatist itself. These values include the pursuit of knowledge, and even the hope for deeper truths but the rejection of absolutist pursuits such as those pursued by Ahab. Melville continues his depiction of the positive nature of pragmatism by rejecting the non-exploratory nature of Flask, a nature which reflects a fear of or apathy toward epistemological searching. However, in spite of Melvilles plethora of indications that he is drawn to the pragmatist values displayed in Ishmael, he is still a liminal figure, drawn to both pragmatism and absolutism, just as Ahab is simultaneously appealing and appalling. As Melville wrestles between the appeal of pragmatism and the vestiges of Ahabs absolutism, he depicts Ahabs absolutism as a form of madness, a madness which also represents many of the consequences of absolutist thought. Allowing him to eventually sacrifice Ahab and seek an Ishmaelic outlook on life.


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Chapter 2. Rational Madness: The Madness of Ahab in Moby-Dick
Melvilles interest in the link between madness and obsessive rationality or absolutism can be seen quite vividly in an annotation that he inscribed on the backleaf of his last volume of Shakespeares works during the summer of 1849. In this annotation, Melville presents madness and right reason as two aspects of the same underlying pursuit:
Ego non baptizo te in nominee Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti sed in nomine Diaboli.6 Madness is undefinable
It & right reasons [sic] extremes of one.7 Not the (black art) Goetic but Theurgic magic8 seeks converse with the Intelligence, Power, the Angel (Olsen 52)
The significance that Melville ascribes both to this annotation and to the relationship between madness and reason can be seen in a letter to Hawthorne where Melville writes: This is the books motto (the secret one),Ego non baptiso te in nominebut make out the rest yourself (Letters 133). Within the text of Moby-Dick itself, this annotation also appears in the form of an incantation uttered by Ahab when he is fashioning his harpoon to kill Moby-Dick and
6 This Latin phrase is commonly translated: I do not baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but in the name of the devil.
7 Sanborn notes that right reasons is a transcription error on Melvilles part when he was transferring the quote from Palgraves essay, Superstition and Knowledge (Name of the Devil 219).
8 Theurgic and goetic magic were traditionally seen as the difference between evil, dark magic (Goetic), and good, celestial magic (Theurgic). While these two terms may seem mutually exclusive, Sanborn notes that the distinction between theurgic and goetic magic crumbles as soon as it is established in Palgraves essay (Name of the Devil 233). Palgrave destabilizes these terms by explaining how the line between legitimate reverence for the saints and idolatrous saint worship was extremely difficult to locate (262). This is the same pattern seen in Ahabs depiction as both Christ-like and satanic.


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baptizing this harpoon in the name of the devil rather than God (372).9 While the phrase at first glance seems to cast Ahab as an entirely satanic figure, I believe the phrase actually serves to meld two diverging pictures of Ahab: as a Christ figure and as a satanic icon similar to Miltons Satan. Ahabs baptism of this harpoon is cast in a darker light as the harpoon barbs are baptized using the blood of Queequeg, Tashtago, and Daggoo rather than water, and the harpoon is commended to the devil instead of to God, as would generally be the case in a baptismal ceremony.
Although Ahabs blood-baptism of his harpoon seems to set up a direct binary between an unholy baptism and a holy baptism, Melville ultimately blurs this binary division because Ahabs invocation is highly embedded in the Christian religious practices that he attempts to subvert, thus creating an expression that cannot be interpreted without these preexisting Christian rituals. While Ahabs demonic invocation is set as the opposite extreme of Christian religious fervor, his appropriation of baptism and the accompanying Latin blessing causes this oppositional display to blur into the very religious values that it is attempting to displace. In Melvilles exploration of madness and reason that follows this Latin invocation, he defines both madness and reason, two states of being that would generally be seen as oppositional, as two extremes of one. Madness and excessive reason are linked in their meaning because both are set as binary extremes that refuse to adhere to internal balance. Ahabs liminality between two extremes religious extremes and Melvilles exploration of madness and reason as two extremes of the same thing both serve to destabilize the binary opposition between two conflicting poles.
In this way, Melville is somewhat similar to deconstructive theorist Jacques Derrida. John Caputo explains that Derrida also endeavors to reject the limiting dualism presented by binary
9 The Latin invocation that Melville uses within Mohy-Dick differs slightly from quote written in his marginalia because he omits the Son and the Holy Spirit from his version (Sanborn, Name of the Devil 213).


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structures by complicating or undermining a dualistic opposition: [I]f Derrida is not an essentialist, neither is he a conventionalist, for conventionalism is just an alternate way of regulating and containing the play of traces. Deconstruction is, rather [...] bent on giving things a new bent or twist, on twisting free of the containing effects of both essentialism and conventionalism, in order to release certain unforeseeable effects (103-104). Like Melville who depicts Ahab as both satanic and angelic and acknowledges the underlying sameness of madness and reason, Derrida, and Deconstruction in general, endeavors to avert the poles of both essentialism and conventionalism in order to at an unforeseeable, free, alternative to two limiting options.
Melvilles annotation also indicates that both madness and reason endeavor to reach the Intelligence, the Power, the Angel, all of which are suggestive of a higher epistemological truth which both the madman and the excessive rationalist hope to find. When Melvilles annotations about madness and right reason as two extremes of one are interpreted alongside Melvilles depiction of Ahab as simultaneously Christ and anti-Christ, they reveal Melvilles own internal conflictedness about the extreme pursuit of truth found in both madness and excessive rationalism. While Melvilles interest in plurality and balance might prompt him to reject extremes, labelling them as devilish, Melville cannot escape from the allure of an obsessive pursuit of absolute truth. As a result, Ahab, and the obsessive absolutism that he personifies remains linked to divine imagery in spite of Melvilles efforts to extricate himself from absolutist pursuit. In order to find a solution for his mixed desire for and aversion to grasping for epistemological certainty, Melville creates Ishmael, a character who actively engages in a search for knowledge without requiring a solitary objective answer to the questions that he is posing. While it is possible that Melville remains interested in absolutist thinking even after the demise


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of Ahab at the end of Moby-Dick, Ishmael remains the sole survivor of the Pequod in order to remind Melville of the dangers present in absolutist ideals.
Melvilles marginalia here is a strong indication of his own interest in the blurring or undermining of what may seem to be a clear dichotomy between excessive rationality and madness, but his complex concerns about excessive rationality as an extreme manifestation of enlightenment scientific knowledge can be seen even more vividly in the original source that Melville used for this annotation. As Geoffrey Sanborn observes, the Ego non baptizo annotation is not an original creation by Melville himself but rather Melvilles notes from his reading of Sir Francis Palgraves essay Superstition and Knowledge, an essay published in The Quarterly Review in 1823 but which Melville most likely read in 1849 (Name of the Devil
217; 222). In this essay, Palgrave charts the history of witch trials in order to expose a judicial proceeding that was conducted in supposedly rational ways but ultimately motivated by an irrational, superstitious fear of the occult. Palgrave reminds readers that [ejxtremes are ever fated to meet, which ultimately prompts him to acknowledge the similarities between superstition and an obsessive belief in scientific progress (179). When Palgrave brings up modern advances in science in order to chart the development of positivism, he blurs the line between science and superstition by suggesting that scientific belief is itself a form of superstition: But the very increase of knowledge, which dispelled [superstition], has ended in bringing new perplexities on mankind. The confidence which it has imparted to the pride of human intellect has cheated us into another species of credulity no less mischievous and degrading (180). Palgraves description of science as a newer form of superstition calls into question the binary division between empiricism and belief, undermining the supposedly mutually exclusive nature of these two terms by affirming their internal similarities. Sanborn


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suggests that Melvilles interaction with Palgraves essay served to confirm or even originate Melvilles own interest in a nuanced approach to opposites and dichotomies that recognizes how two seemingly oppositional forces can blur or merge together: Melville appears to have selected these passages because he saw that they could be used as examples of continuities within inversions, reinforcing or perhaps inspiring his treatment in Moby-Dick of the radical identity shared by seemingly mutually exclusive modes of being and behavior (Name of the Devil 220). Melvilles decision to annotate quotations on madness and binary classification from Superstition and Knowledge reflects an interest in the complex binary roles of madness and reason or science and superstition that Palgrave was exploring. Additionally, the fact that Melville used Palgraves Latin invocation in the text of Moby-Dick suggests that Melville was fascinated by the critique of enlightenment rationalism presented by Palgrave and that he may have chosen to weave a similar critique into his masterpiece.
The cryptic nature of Melvilles Ego non baptizo annotation has led to considerable speculation about precisely what Melville was attempting to explore by referencing both madness and right reason as two extremes. While some scholars, particularly Geoffrey Sanborn, have analyzed Melvilles annotation in terms of Palgraves Superstition and Knowledge essay, others have interpreted this annotation and its existence as the secret motto of Moby-Dick to argue that Melville is critiquing Christianity; Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence Thompson merge Ahabs irreligious display of madness with the claim in Melvilles annotation that madness and reason are two extremes of one that both seek to pursue truth, to argue that Ahabs madness is simply an atheism that has grasped the truth of existence. Brentano and Thompson argue that true existence that Ahab has acquired is namely composed of atheistic, anti-spiritual insights that are directly opposed to standard Christian belief. Alisa von Brentano


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argues that Melville is critiquing Christianity by juxtaposing the rational madness of Ahab in contrast to the irrational sanity of Ahabs Christian First Mate, Starbuck: In Ahabs (and Melvilles) eyes conventional Christian belief, as expressed by Starbuck, is the real madness; in Melvilles ambiguous language (where white, not black signifies evil) Ahabs madness stands for ultimate sanity (152). Brentano argues through this quote that Melvilles novel actively inverted the common understanding of good and evil by making the white whale an icon of evil instead of the virtue that white commonly symbolizes. Once Melville has accomplished this inversion, he can easily invert other common binaries within his text, allowing him to transform Starbuck into a character who has become irrational due to his religious beliefs and Ahab into a rationally sane figure because he rejects these same Christian values. Brentano notes the rational features of Ahabs madness and suggests that his characterization as an insane figure is more related to the fact that he defies Christian values that were widely accepted in the nineteenth century than to any physical symptoms of insanity that he may possess. Ahabs self-awareness of his own madness serves to reveal his underlying sanity because, Brentano argues, a truly delusional person would not be able to identify themselves as mad due to the force of their delusions (153). While Brentano provides substantial support for the rational nature of Ahabs madness, she uses this support to suggest that Ahab is ultimately a sane man who has been misunderstood by society. While Brentano makes a strong case for the idea that Ahabs madness is a positive trait that has been misunderstood by society, her argument does not fully take into account the complexity of Melvilles depiction of Ahab, a point which I will explore in more depth shortly. Lawrence Thompson pursues a similar argument to Brentano in his book Melvilles Quarrel with God, discussing the idea that Ahab is a character who has deliberately set himself up against the right reason of God through his madness. Thompson states that Ahab


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was originally a devout man with right reason that quickly turns to madness after he loses his leg to Moby-Dick and decides to defy the God who caused this suffering (139). By rejecting God, Thompson argues that Ahab exhibits freethinking and challenges existing norms of religion that were accepted during Melvilles lifetime (243). In this way, Thompsons analysis also frames Ahabs madness as a positive, defiant rejection of restrictive or otherwise inadequate Christian values in the nineteenth century and thus is only labelled madness due to the dominant Christian ideology of the time.
While both Von Brentano and Thompson make strong arguments about Ahabs defiance of God as a positive trait that is considered insane to the general populace rather than a genuine case of insanity, their arguments depend on a binary reversal wherein Ahab is transformed from a negative madman to a positive revolutionary. Because Melville was working with a complex view of binary oppositions as indicated by his depiction of Ahab and his influence from Pal graves Superstition and Knowledge, a reversal of Ahabs nature from negative to positive is insufficient as it perpetuates a positive/negative Ahab binary rather than blurring it as Melville seems to have done. Jacque Derrida, a deconstructive scholar who challenged the dominance of speech over text explains in an interview that his work is not designed to reverse the dynamic by placing the privilege on writing or graphocentrism over the preexisting privilege on speech known as logocentrism because this reversal would still be a case of one extreme dominating the other: [I]t has never been a question of opposing a graphocentrism to a logocentrism, nor, in general, any center to any other center [...] nothing would be more ridiculously mystifying than such an ethical or axiological reversal, returning some elders right to writing (Implications 13). What Derrida seems to be expressing in this quote is that a reversal of the dominant power, as Brentano and Thompson do by defining Ahab as a positive figure rather than a negative


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figure, still creates a situation with a dominant and subordinate figure in a dichotomy; the only difference is that it changes which figure is dominant and which is subordinate. This flip in the perception of Ahab does not take into account the complexity that Melville wove into the character of Ahab or the possibility that that Melville had more complex views about religion than both authors may have considered in their arguments, views that blurred or fluctuated between binary poles instead of choosing one pole, such as Christian or a positive characterization of Ahab over another pole, such as unbeliever or a negative character construction.
One example of Melvilles conflicted religious views can be seen in the journal of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne assesses Melvilles religious identity as a state of contentious internal liminality between the poles of belief and unbelief:
[Melville], I think will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persistsand has persisted ever since I knew him, in wandering to and fro over these deserts [...]. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too courageous not to try to do one or the other, (qtd. in Leyda 529)
Melvilles struggle between belief and unbelief as described in Hawthornes description reveals Melvilles interest in exploring both sides of a religious binaryskepticism and faithwhile also suggesting that there was a part of Melville that longed to embrace a solitary form of truth, a definite belief that would come with an acceptance of one of these two extremes. Craig Svonkin explains that this quote from Hawthorne expresses Melvilles lifelong desire to know and to find Truth, a search that occurs simultaneously with attempts to move away from a faith in a univocal, fixed, singular Truth {Self-othering 38). Melville experienced an inner conflict between embracing one or another extreme of a binary as a form of security and,


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alternatively, pursuing a third, epistemologically insecure option that actively merges and transcends two limiting binary poles. Because Melville adhered to a more conflicted and complex form of belief that fluctuated between a desire for certainty and a willingness to embrace plurality or the indefinite, it is unlikely that Melvilles representation of Ahab would be purely positive or negative in nature. If Ahab is, to a certain extent, an embodiment of Melvilles internal state as Ishmael also is, it is likely that Ahabs attributes would be a mixture of virtuous and reprehensible rather than definitively placing Ahab as a positive or negative figure.
In addition to Melvilles conflicted religious valueshis desire to acquire a definite belief coupled with his intense disbelief, he also chooses to characterize Ahab in a conflicted way which simultaneously frames him as a Christ figure and a satanic figure. Ahab seems directly opposed to religious values and atheistic at some points, but he maintains a religious degree of fanaticism amidst his anti-religious expressions. Ahab is both a Christ figure and an antichrist/demonic figure at any given time and Melville doesnt necessarily commit to either one as his ego non baptiso invocation indicates in its simultaneous embrace of the satanic along with the way that it necessitates a Christian knowledge of the baptism ceremony. In a similar manner, Melville blurs the distinction between the holy and the occult by depicting a mock communion ceremony of sorts when Ahab recruits his crew to chase after Moby-Dick. Once Ahab has ensured that his crew will devote themselves to destroying Moby-Dick, he tells the harpooners to seal their oath of service to him by drinking from their goblets as a means of confirming their devotion to Ahab in the same way that communion confirms a commitment to Christ: Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death! The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted; and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss (142). Ahabs reenactment of the


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communion ceremony sets him up as a Christ figure who connects with a group of followers before sacrificing himself to defeat what he believes to be the embodiment of evil in the world. At the same time, Ahab causing the deaths of most of his crew and his communion ceremony ending with alcohol being quaffed down with a hiss brings more parodic, Satanic associations. The presence of both Christ-like and satanic associations in Ahabs communion scene on the quarterdeck turns Ahab into a morally ambiguous character who cannot simply be placed in a binary reversal from evil to good as Brentano and Thompson argue in their description of Ahabs righteous religious defiance because Ahab is both admirable and reprehensible. While Thompson and Brentanos critique takes readers in a progressive direction by presenting Ahabs positive attributes amid a plethora of other scholars who strive to villainize Ahab, their works fail to capture Melvilles deliberate undermining of good/evil, mad/sane and other binary structures within Moby-Dick. By presenting Ahab as a character with both devilish and Christ-like traits that are muddled together, Melvilles work suggests that Melville himself may not consider Ahab to be either a fully admirable or a fully villainous person, in the same way that his religious views do not commit to either extremes of belief or unbelief.
In addition to the possibility that Melville was exploring a more complex religious consciousness in Ahab than the Anti-Christianity proposed by Von Brentano and Thompson, it is also important to note that Brentanos and Thompsons arguments do not take into account the religious attributes that were already present in insanity and delusion. Norman Dain explains in Concepts of Insanity in the United States, 7759-1865, his book on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conceptions of madness, that it was quite common for madmen to manifest religious delusions and religiously inspired expressions as a significant attribute of their insanity. Because most Americans were heavily exposed to religious concepts during the nineteenth century


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through the church and local community, it was common for insane individuals to express their insanity using the same religious motifs and expressions that they had grown up with: Since most people, even the non-religious, received some religious training, they often exhibited insanity in a religious guise (94). This common religious expression within madness means that Melville may not necessarily have been specifically addressing Christianity through his literary expressions of madness even though Ahabs religious expressions such as his ego non baptizo invocation seem to lead to a religious interpretation. If Melvilles critique is not strictly linked to Christianity, then it is certainly possible that he could be addressing other concerns, such as extreme scientific absolutism through the character of Ahab.
The possibility that Melville could be using Ahabs madness to address excessive rationality can be seen in the fact that intellectualism and genius were often considered potential causes of madness in the nineteenth century, in contrast to religious expressions that, as Norman Dain points out, colored almost every experience of madness regardless of the initial cause (94). However, it is important to note that perceived causes of insanity were highly gendered. Lynn Gamwell and Nancy Tomes explain that women in the nineteenth century were often thought to have lost their sanity due to domestic difficulties and emotional stressors, causes which contrasted with perceived male causes of insanity, including, intemperance, prolonged study, intense application to business, or sexual indulgence (masturbation), all of which men were likely to encounter in their busy, capitalist society (105). John Barlow, a British author writing in 1843, reinforces the idea that an individual who sets his mind on one solitary idea will strain his mind and bring madness upon himself, writing that [tjhoughts too long and too intensely fixed on one, object, weary the part of the brain so employed, and we usually then seek relief by varying our occupation: if that is not done, the weariness may end in disease (166). Henry Nash


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Smith discusses the nineteenth-century belief in a link between madness and intellectual pursuits, explaining that one of the defining attributes of monomania, the specific variant of madness that Ahab is said to have, is that the individual cannot stop pondering one solitary idea (38). While Melville asserts several times inMoby-Dick that Ahab is suffering from monomania, Ahabs interest in obsessive interpretation as a result of his monomania can best be seen in The Doubloon chapter. As Ahab is walking by the doubloon that he has nailed to the main mast, he suddenly becomes interested in exploring the inherent significance of the doubloon itself, an interpretive act that is defined and supported by his monomania: [TJurning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher (Moby-Dick 331). Melvilles assertion that interpretation can be conducted in a monomaniac way suggests a link between monomania and the study of significance. Although Melville notes that the whole world is imbued with significance, an obsessive dedication to grasping one significance in particular, as the prefix mono implies, is problematic because this one particular meaning overshadows other potential meanings. After Ahab interprets the doubloon, he quickly departs, preventing himself from hearing the interpretations of the doubloon provided by the other crewmembers. Various nineteenth-century sources which linked excessive contemplation to madness would have been useful to Melville in his depiction of the dangers of scientific absolutism.
In addition to the link between madness and excessive contemplation, Melville was specifically introduced to forms of madness that would allow the individual to behave rationally in most areas that were not connected to their own particular obsession but selectively irrational


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when any issue or conflict arose that was associated with this obsession. At the time that Melville was preparing to writq Moby-Dick in 1849, he was also most likely reading from The Penny Cyclopaedia, a series of encyclopedias published in England between 1833 and 1843 (Marovitz 105).10 In The Penny Cyclopedia, the entry for Insanity includes the description of monomania as a relatively rational variant of madness. While the mind of the individual is occupied by some form of delusion, this individual may still be able to continue reasoning correctly on matters unconnected with the subject of his delusion (484). Using this knowledge, Melville could certainly have been capable of creating Ahab, a character who is able to make rational choices, even when he is under the influence of his madness. Ahabs continued rationality in spite of his madness is manifested in his ability to create a persuasive guise of sanity that convinces the ship owners to give him command of a vessel even after his amputation. Melville suggests in his description of Ahabs performative sanity that this performance is a strategic way to pursue his insane objective: Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad. Yet without power to kill, or change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to mankind he did long dissemble; in some sort, did still (Moby-Dick 157). Ahabs deliberate strategic behavior evidenced in his performance of sanity for the ship owners and his continued pretense of sanity for his crew both reflect the ability to maintain rational thinking in spite of his madness. As a figure who is both rationally strategic and mad, Ahab becomes the perfect expression of the rational insanity of enlightenment science which also necessitates clear, objective thinking and a display of professionalism.
10 Sanford Marovitz argues for the strong likelihood that Melville read The Penny Cyclopedia by explaining that Melville ate dinner with the editor of these encyclopedias, Charles Knight, in December 1849 and indicated his interest in several of Knights publications during their dinner conversation (105).


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In addition to his likely dictionary knowledge of nineteenth-century concepts of rational madness, Melville may also have been influenced in his creation of Ahab by his newly developed friendship with Dr. George Adler, a man who displayed similar attributes of rational madness. During his voyage to Europe in 1849, Herman Melville was introduced to Dr. George Adler, a brilliant man who specialized in language and literature but who also suffered from severe paranoia and occasional delusions (Marovitz 107). Adlers expertise in philology led to his writing of the Dictionary of the German and English Languages in 1848, but his work on this dictionary also took a toll on his mental health. As Richard Dean Smith explains: The labor of producing the dictionary so impaired his health that he suffered intermittently from mental illness for the rest of his life (65). Melville met Adler on a voyage to Europe during which Adler hoped to recuperate from his stressful experiences of working on the dictionary. In his journal, he writes of his initial meeting with Adler as well as his knowledge of Adlers compromised mental state due to working on the dictionary: [Adler] is author of a formidable lexicon, (German and English); in compiling which, he almost ruined his health. He was almost crazy, he tells me, for a time. He is full of the German metaphysics, & discourses of Kant, Swedenborg &c. He has been my principal companion thus far (qtd. in Leyda 319). Melvilles awareness of Adlers mental instability is significant because it sets a template for him to represent rational madness in the character of Ahab. Melvilles interaction and companionship with Adler during the voyage also developed into a friendship with Melville listing several instances discussing metaphysics with Adler until late in the night, a pattern which indicates a friendly intellectual companionship between Melville and Adler (Leyda 319; 325; 343). Sanford Marovitz, in his exploration of the relationship between Melville and Adler, notes that Melvilles assessment of Adler primarily focuses on his fondness for their intellectually stimulating


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conversations and for Adlers pleasantness as a traveling companion rather than on Adlers mental instability and paranoia (108). At the same time, Melville was most likely quite aware that Adler was still suffering from a mentally compromised state because he would have noticed indications of it as they talked and traveled together over a period of several weeks (Marovitz 108). Melville arguably borrowed from his experience with Adler so as to create rationally mad characters such as Ahab, characters Melville used to explore larger societal issues such as the excessive detachment caused by obsessive an absolutist pursuit of knowledge.
Ahabs madness displays rationality and even intensifies it in some cases so that he remains mostly rational, even in matters connected to his obsession with Moby-Dick. One example of Ahabs rationality can be seen shortly after he reveals his vengeful quest to his crew. Although the entire crew has sworn to help him slaughter the white whale, Ahab knows that the crew, and Starbuck in particular, may mutiny if they pursue Moby-Dick alone without also pursuing their original task of hunting whales in general. In order to maintain continued order on his ship and preserve his crew for a future encounter with Moby-Dick, Ahab chooses to hunt other whales along the way: For all these reasons then, and others too analytic to be verbally developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still to a good degree continue to be true to the natural, nominal purpose of the Pequods voyage; observe all customary usages (178). As Richard Dean Smith notes, Ahabs strategic and rational manipulation of his crew at this point in the novel gives the madness of the chase a base in rational planning, creating a composite that is the embodiment of rational madness (75). By weighing the attitudes of his crew, Ahab is able to deduce that the most efficient way to achieve his desired vengeance is to allow his crew to continue pursuing their original mission. In this way, Ahab manifests a form of rationality that
even imbues his obsession itself.


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Ahabs manifestation of profound rationality in this and other cases illustrates the idea that Ahabs madness is tied to a separate part of his mind than his intellect. Melville makes this point quite clear within the text of Moby-Dick itself when Ishmael discusses how Ahabs continued intellectual prowess remains regardless of his madness: But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahabs broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of Ahabs natural intellect had perished (157). Ahabs sustained intellect transforms him into the perfect embodiment of right reason as an extreme similar to madness in Melvilles initial Ego non baptizo annotation that describes madness and right reason as two extremes of one (qtd. in Olsen 52). The idea that Ahab can potentially be placed in the category of extreme reason, rather than a more stereotypical understanding of madness can be seen in his consistent rationality and intellect, even in the midst of madness. As Paul McCarthy notes, Ahab is able to reason correctly on all points, including own madness: Except under the greatest strain, Ahab thinks rationally on any subject, including his own obsession (70). This ability to reason correctly, even on matters related to his obsession suggests that Ahab has a rare form of monomania that has little or no impact on his reasoning process (McCarthy 16). During his final assault on the whale, Ahab reflects on his extremely cold, calm thinking process, a process which indicates his continual use of rationalism in his thought: Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I've sometimes thought my brain was very calmfrozen calm, this old skull cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and shiver it (419). Ahabs awareness of his own mental calmness, especially as he prepares for his final battle with Moby-Dick is telling because it reveals a mind that, more often than not, is controlled by rational thinking processes rather than pure emotion. Craig Svonkin points out in an interview on Melvilles Ego non baptizo


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annotation that Ahab never seems out of control in his obsessive mad/rational quest. He doesn't seem conventionally mad to the other characters (Chat Regarding Book Annotation).
Ahabs unconventional madness sets him in sharp contrast to other characters such as Pip who are identified as insane and are clearly dissociated from standard rationality. But Melville continues in his complex treatment of binary structures such as Ahabs conflicted divine/satanic essence by positioning the folly in the destructive nature of Ahabs rational madness against the wisdom of Pips irrational madness. Melville points out in Pips onset of madness that he was exposed to the unspeakable depths of contemplative wisdom: [CJarried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps [...] He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense (.Moby-Dick 321). While Pips madness is also framed as problematic, his madness differs from Ahabs because Ahab constantly pursues truth, even to his detriment, while Pip drowns in the immensity of wisdom and expresses truths that are indecipherable to those around him. For example, after observing several of the other crewmembers in their attempts to interpret the doubloon, Pip interprets the coin for himself saying: I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look. (Moby-Dick 335). While Pips interpretation might provide some insight into the role of ideology by analyzing the way that the doubloon produces several interpretations, each initiated by the crewmates act of looking at the coin, Stubb, the crewmember who overhears Pips interpretation assumes first that Pip is engaging in a grammar exercise and eventually leaves because he finds Pip too crazy-witty for my sanity (Moby-Dick 335). In contrast to Pip, Ahabs madness is of a rational variety which allows him to represent an excessive grasper for absolute truth rather than simply personifying an irrational prophet who


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already has access to a unique form of knowledge that is easily be dismissed by society. By setting Ahab as a portrait of rational madness, Melville is able to position himself so that he can discuss absolutist obsession and the destructive attributes of enlightenment science as a whole.
Melvilles specific exploration of extreme forms of rationality helps to reveal his ultimate concern with these extremes as destructive to humanity regardless of their prominent position within society due to scientific advancement and the Industrial Revolution. In his analysis of madness and other themes in Moby-Dick, Thomas Cooley points out that during the nineteenth century in the United States, there seemed to be an underlying, subconscious fear and disgust of excessive intellectuality, a trait that is gendered as male. If masculine intellectualism is taken to the extreme, Cooley observes that it would be devastatingly void of other needed attributes (85). Starbuck asserts the extreme, hyper-masculine nature of Ahabs madness when he reflects on the way that Ahab has dominated him and forced his compliance. Starbuck expresses Ahabs control in predominantly masculine terms that have overcome the first mates own masculinity: My souls more than matched; shes overmanned [...]. [H]e drilled down and blasted all my reason out of me (Melville, Moby-Dick 144). Starbucks use of she to describe his soul in connection to Ahab, his phallic description of Ahabs domination as a form of drilling, and the fact that Ahab has stripped him of his rationality, all indicate that Ahab has used his strongly masculine persona to rob Starbuck of the stereotypically masculine trait of rationality, leaving Starbuck with the more feminine trait of emotionality. As Melvilles religious liminality and his satanic/Christ-like depiction of Ahab both suggest, Melville was wary of the danger posed by extremes, even though he was also drawn to the pursuit of absolute truth. Melville resists the urge to pursue an absolutist extreme by promoting ambiguity, blurred binaries, and the oppositemating approach suggested by his Art poem which states that unlike things must meet and


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mate (Art 4). Melvilles concerns about excess are paralleled in nineteenth-century American accounts of madness which considered any form of imbalance to be both mentally and physically dangerous (Dain 17). Melvilles placement of Ahab as a prominent character within Moby-Dick and his repeated references to Ahabs monomania reveal that Ahab has devoted himself completely to one extreme of excess, rationalistic, hyper-masculine commitment to acquiring truth, a commitment that ultimately results in his death. Ahab takes his desire to strike through the mask of surface appearances to such an extreme extent that he stakes his whole life on successfully piercing through the external surface of reality, exclaiming among his last words: [F]rom hell's heart I stab at thee, a continued expression of his obsession with piercing through the truths that have been hidden from him (Moby-Dick 140; 426)
Melvilles presentation of Ahab as a rationalistic extreme helps to reveal Melvilles concern with other one-sided extremes that are supported by absolutism such as suppression of community and the dehumanizing impact of detachedly manipulating individuals to achieve self-serving desires. While other critics have suggested that Melville is criticizing forms of Christianity as an insufficient approach to pursuing epistemological truth, Melville does not seem to be critiquing a Christian epistemological system in particular, but rather an approach to epistemology that is itself intellectually extreme. Melville was familiar with individuals who maintained their reason amid their madness and his ultimate concern with this madness seems to emanate from the idea that an insane individual could potentially maintain his rationality while being utterly void of moral sense and interpersonal concern. Ahab is strategic in allowing his crew to pursue other whales, but this allowance does not stem from concern for his crew on an individual level, instead it suggests that Ahab views his crew in a highly detached manner as chess pieces that he can manipulate to achieve his desires. Ahabs detachment is evident in


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Surmises as well as in the fact that he waits until the ship is far from shore to reveal his true intentions in The Quarterdeck chapter, giving the crew no other option than to follow him. As Melville develops the madness of Ahab and other characters in his works, he captures a monstrous mind that is intellectually curious but morally blind, a nightmarish extreme that can only serve to cause more unfortunate consequences in the future.


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Chapter 3. Oppressed Bodies: Scientific Isolation, Dissection, and the Suppression of
Community in Moby-Dick
One of the many attributes that accompany Ahabs excessive rationalism is a positivist belief that truth can be objectively and decisively grasped in the natural world. One example of Ahabs obsession with definite truths can be seen in his interpretation of the doubloon in The Doubloon chapter of Moby-Dick. Melville presents the example of some characters who begin their interpretive efforts by affirming that they are offering up potential readings of the coin rather than a definitive meaning of the coin as a whole, a distinction manifested in Starbucks statement that he has never truly read the coin before and desires to try reading it once Ahab goes below deck, as well as in Stubbs declaration that: I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here (Moby-Dick 333). In contrast to crewmembers who affirm that they are offering a reading or raising one potential meaning of the doubloon out of many, Ahab immediately launches into an interpretation that is filled with definitive statements such as The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab (Moby-Dick 332). Rather than seeing his interpretation as one perspective among many, Ahabs reading of the coin is filled with declarative phrases such as: that is Ahab, which suggests that he sees his interpretation of the coin as a form of objective truth (332). As Melvilles writing in Moby-Dick suggests, an excessive belief in truth or scientific objectivism is unhealthy and ultimately unreliable because man cannot fully master his environment, in spite of Ahabs belief that he has fully mastered the meaning of the coin. Nature is often accompanied by surprises that will shatter or outdo even the most thorough scientific projects as Melville notes when describing scientific innovation: [Hjowever baby man


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may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make (224). Because nature is so wildly unpredictable and unmanageable at times, even the best attempts at harnessing this power can fail, just as the best attempts at getting to definitive truth also fall short. Richard Dean Smith observes that Melvilles depiction of science throughout Moby-Dick expresses a belief that science, like religion, is a fictive creation of man, bom of his attempts to penetrate beneath the surface of an enigmatic world (80). The belief that science is a construct does not necessarily suggest that Melville thought science as a whole was wrong but rather that an obsessively detached pursuit of scientific discovery, like Ahabs obsessive pursuit of absolute truths, could potentially result in disaster.
Melvilles assertions about the dangers of excessive faith in science, especially when people are immersed in an unpredictable world may have, in part been inspired by insights from Sir Francis Palgraves Superstition and Knowledge, the original source for Melvilles ego non baptizo annotation and, as I argued in the previous chapter, part of the inspiration behind Melvilles complex depiction of Ahabs positive/negative madness. In Superstition and Knowledge, Palgrave reflects on the ultimate similarity between superstition and an inordinate belief in rationality because scientific rationalism has caused individuals to place an unreasonable amount of confidence or faith in positivist scientific pursuit (280). Palgrave notes in his charting of intellectual history that it is possible for reason to be pursued excessively, remarking that for some people [t]he reasoning powers were highly cultivated; but men reasoned too much and rested in abstraction (270). Palgrave was concerned that as people continued in their excessive faith in scientific progress, they would began to emulate the


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scientists of the Middle Ages who looked for medical and scientific miracles, believing them to be acquirable: Driven beyond its bounds, an undue estimation was formed of the force and tenacity of every science. The Chemist would make gold; the Astronomer search out the astral characters of the book of fate; and the Physician avert the lot of mortality (Palgrave 276). By attempting to reach goals such as immortality and alchemy, people exhibited an illusory faith that science could solve all of lifes greatest mysteries, a faith that is be just as problematic in the nineteenth century as it was in the Middle Ages.
Melvilles concerns about excessive rationalism came as a response to an era that was excessively dedicated to clinical, mechanizing tendencies and industrialization in a manner that detached individuals from one another. Milton Stem notes in his study: Melville, Society and Language, that Melville would grow to have contempt for rationalistic eighteenth-century optimism, which he felt was produced by mere watchmakers brains (442). The metaphor of a watchmaker, of a society that is cold, mechanical, and regimented is also used by Melville himself when he remarks in a letter to Hawthorne on the reason why some people may feel distanced from God: The reason the mass of mankind fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch (.Letters 129, emphasis Melvilles). Melvilles letter and his observation that a judgment of excessive intellect would cause people to dislike even God himself suggests that Melville saw excessive intellect or scientific, absolutist aspirations as an alienating source, severing communal bonds. Melvilles observations on the dangers of excessive intellect also sound similar to William Wordsworths assessment of intellect in his poem The Tables Turned, that a detached, excessively intellectual (absolutist) approach to life turns an investigation of lifes mysteries into a commodifying dissection of these very secrets:


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Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
We murder to dissect. (28-31)11
Wordsworths poem suggests that an intellectualized approach to understanding life can destroy some of the natural beauty that already exists in the world. That objectivism can overshadow the milder, but equally significant beauties of life. Jamie Lorentzen makes a similar observation, noting that scientific objectivism victimized subjectivity during the nineteenth century: The equally loud forces of objectivity, empirical demonstration, speculation, probability, systemization, cataloguing, compartmentalizing and mass production that shot out of the canon of the Enlightenment to embolden the 19th-centurys Industrial Age nonetheless counted human inwardness, possibility, and subjectivity as friendly fire casualties (98). Lorentzen argues that while the nineteenth century made significant efforts to suppress subjectivity and interiority, Melville made equally determined efforts to heal and regain the subjectivism that the Industrial Age had severely maimed (98).
The possibility that Melville is responding to an age of objectivism, commodification, and an excessive faith in scientific/industrialist progress can be seen in his depiction of Ahab, a character who comes to resemble a mad scientist figure, of sorts, because he is devoted to acquiring definitive truths and achieving his own ends, even at the expense of the people around him. In fact, Ahabs internal state is even described as a throne room where Ahabs whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique buried beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes!
11 It is quite possible that Melville read this particular poem of Wordsworths because he owned and annotated a copy of The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth and most likely had access to this book as early as 1853. The documentary note to Melvilles copy of Wordsworths poems writes that Melville parodied Wordsworths Resolution and Independence in the text of his short story Cock a Doodle Doo written in 1853 {Melvilles Marginalia Online)


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(Moby-Dick 157). The fact that Ahabs soul is described as a space where he is seated atop a mound of bodies illustrates the way he has dominated his crew, ignoring their personal interests and desires in order to utilize them as tools to accomplish his own goals of deeper knowledge. As Taylor Stoehr explains, the gothic mad scientist figure is almost invariably a Faustian experimenter, sacrilegiously meddling with the souls of his victims and thereby forfeiting his own innocence (252-253). Glen Scott Allen makes a similar observation about mad scientists in his study of mad scientists such as Hawthornes Ethan Brand, arguing that mad scientists engage in detached intellectual searching which turns mankind into the subject of their experiments instead of allowing their scientific discoveries to benefit mankind (25).12 Based on this assessment of isolated searching and interpersonal exploitation, Allen argues that Ahab represents the quintessential mad scientist figure and further argues that Moby-Dick is consistent with a pervading American theme of dichotomy between the communal, domestic setting and obsessive pursuit of scientific knowledge: This particularly American thematic of the irreconcilable dichotomy between the natural, communal, productive, and tranquil commitment to domestic stability and the unnatural, selfish, counter-productive, and overzealous obsession of scientific passion is perhaps best set forth m Moby Dick (28). Ahabs desire for definitive answers and certainty reflects the impulse of scientific obsession, even if this certainty comes at a cost to him and his crew. One of the primary reasons for Ahabs hatred of the whale is his inability to understand the true motives or meaning behind the whale and as he declares to his
12 Melvilles interest in the Faustian mad scientist figure may have come from his reading of mad scientists in Hawthrones short stories including The Birth-Mark, Rappacinis Daughter, which he read in July of 1850 (Leyda 380-381). He also read and commented on Ethan Brand, which deals with obsession and a lack of interpersonal compassion (Leyda 411). Hawthorne held a profound influence on Melville, particularly during the drafting of Moby-Dick, causing Melville to dedicate this book to Hawthorne in admiration to his genius (Moby-Dick 3). Additionally, Geoffrey Sanborn theorizes that Hawthorne had also read Palgraves Superstition and Knowledge in preparation for writing The Birthmark (24). As this text frames a significant portion of my assertion that Melville is critiquing detached obsession, it is possible that Hawthornes similar interest comes from this shared text.


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crew: [Moby-Dick] tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him (Moby-Dick 140). Ahabs frustration with the whale comes from its indecipherable nature which destabilizes any claim to certainty. Because Ahab desires certainty at any cost, he is willing to undertake any sacrifice in order understand the meaning of Moby-Dick and of his suffering. In some cases, holding onto certainty and security in an uncertain world brings on more suffering. For example, as the carpenter is tightening Ahabs replacement leg, he tells Ahab that the tightening process may cause a pinching sensation and potentially broken bones if tightened too much, Ahab responds to this warning by stating that he prefers the security that this tightness brings, even if the stability bought by this tightened limbor in a more metaphoric sense, the definitive answers that he seekscome with some pain: Oh, sir, it will break bonesbeware, beware!/ No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this slippery world that can hold, man (359).13 Ahabs desire to feel securely attached to his prosthetic leg reflects a desire to feel securely attached anything definitive in a slippery world where knowledge can come from multiple sources or even posit inconclusive results.
In addition to possibility that Ahab represents an excessively rational mad scientist figure, Richard Dean Smith presents a convincing argument that Ahab himself was based on Charles Wilkes, a captain who was an expert in Astronomy and who nearly killed his crew in his efforts to complete a scientific exploratory mission. As Smith notes, Melville referenced Charles Wilkes narrative in one of his other novels, Mardi and in the Extracts chapter of Moby-Dick which indicates that Melville was familiar with Wilkes and his obsessive mission (91). Charles
13 Melville emulates the style of a play in Ahabs discourse with the carpenter by distinguishing speakers through line breaks without traditional quotation makers. The quotation leading up to the line break represents the carpenters cautioning, while the words placed after the line break consist of Ahabs response to this warning.


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Wilkes was a Navy Captain who was sent on a voyage to the Pacific and Antarctica in 1838 that was designed to increase scientific knowledge through research. While this expedition was a success, Wilkes was court-martialed and charged with numerous infractions related to his unrestrained obsessive behavior, his arrogance and his mistreatment of his own crew (Richard Dean Smith 91). Wilkes court-martial and charges proved to be justified as Captain Wilkes became so obsessed with accomplishing his exploratory objective during the expedition that he endangered his crew on several occasions by exposing them to treacherous oceanic terrain: Wilkes drove his men though arctic gales, in constant danger of icebergs, with the crew halfdead from fatigue and exposure; a letter signed by two doctors called for Wilkes to turn back (92). The possibility that Wilkes was a model for Ahab is significant because Wilkes obsession exemplifies a fixation with acquiring new knowledge and an insensitivity to the needs of his crew. Ahab shows this same insensitivity and obsession with knowledge in The Symphony chapter when he ignores Starbucks pleas to return home to his family: Come, my captain, study out the course, and let us away! (406). Instead of responding to Starbucks desperate call to return home, Ahab silently averts his gaze and muses on the fact that his obsession is compelling him to neglect all natural lovings and longings (406). Like Wilkes, Ahab is unwilling to turn back even when his quest brings danger to his crew.
Enlightenment science, the scientific approach that Melville seems to have been criticizing by depicting Ahab as a mad scientist figure or a fictionalized Charles Wilkes, was highly interested in objective truths and dedicated itself to avoiding subjective interference. As a result, this excessively objective model missed out on the experiential knowledge that William James and other pragmatists valued and instead focused primarily on what could be observed and measured objectively. As Sue Zemka explains: [Scientists of the second half of the nineteenth


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century were eager to purge their research of sense-based observation, on the grounds that it interposed subjective distortions (25). In this repression of the senses, these scientists chose to rely on obtaining knowledge through a mechanical objectivity that was detached from the embodied experience of emotionality (Zemka 25). It is in the use of mechanical imagery that Melville emphasizes the detached lack of emotionality employed by Ahab who comments on his overarching strategic maneuvering of his men by stating that his one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve (143). Additionally, Ahab uses this language of mechanization to indicate his unwavering resolve not to allow emotionality to disrupt his objective purpose: Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run (Moby-Dick 143). As Glen Scott Allen observes Ahab sees the world as a gigantic mechanism and all the living organisms as components of that machine (30). By describing himself as a machine, Ahab is distancing himself from his own human, embodied experience and attempting to cement his absolutist, objective pursuit.
One of the dangers of the impulse to see mankind as cogs in a machine that can be utilized in order to accomplish the purposes of the researcher is that this perspective can cause the individual to study and dissect people from other cultures rather than attempting to adopt aspects of their culture. This attitude of dissection can be observed in Ahab when he comes into contact with Queequegs exotic and mysterious tattoos. When Ahab observes these tattoos, he does not see these markings as a cultural identity that he can embrace, but rather, as a mystery that he will never be able to decipher. Melville describes Ahabs analysis of the tattoos as an act of surveying the mysterious surface that lies before him (Moby-Dick 367). Upon analyzing Queequeg and discovering the indecipherability of Queequegs tattoos, Ahab bemoans the


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mysterious nature of these tattoos as a devilish tantalization of the gods because he will never be able to discover the true meaning behind these markings (367). In his study of Queequegs tattoos, Ahab sees a puzzling surface that has the potential to dissolve before he can interpret the true meaning of the engraved surface, an assessment which causes Ahab to fail to recognize Queequeg as a physical person that he could unite with in a loving multicultural embrace. Ahabs active study of Queequegs body represents a living dissection, or vivisection, because it expresses an idea that Samuel Otter argues is also invoked by the plethora of chapters on the whale, both suggesting that the body is a book of secrets, waiting to be read by the observer (135). By seeing Queequegs tattoos as a source of knowledge, one that Ahab fears will be lost to him, Ahab places his desire to know definitively what these tattoos mean over any desire to know Queequeg as Ishmael does.
Ahabs desire to decipher and study Queequeg as an objectified source of knowledge causes him causes to resemble nineteenth-century anatomists, and other scientists who studied cultural others in a detached an commodifying manner. In the case of anatomists, their desire to examine the body also caused them to sever the bodies they were examining from any notion of subjectivity or human essence: The medical gaze, acquired through the act of dissecting the dead, was the scalpels cognitive equivalent [...] The body, so full of force, must be divided, colonized, and drained of agency, made over into a subject or materiel (Sappol 80). The active dehumanization required by dissection and anatomical study is part of the excessive scientific consciousness that Melville seems to have been critiquing. Like white Ahabs detached study of racially diverse Queequeg, the study of anatomy was also racialized with the white scientist obsessively studying the bodies of other races. Matthew Rebhorn explains that the nineteenth-century study of anatomy created a hierarchy of the dissecting mind-identified with


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the white doctor-over the inert body-embodied literally in nineteenth-century America in the corpses that were cut up, corpses that were overwhelmingly those of working-class Irish, blacks, or Indians (164). This racialized analysis of the other by a scientific authority can also be seen in the work of Samuel Morton who analyzed several African American and Native American skulls, ultimately coming to the racist conclusion that differences in skull type were indicative of five different species of human being that differed in their cranial capacity (Nelson 111). Just as Ahabs fixation on Queequegs tattoos represents an interest in deciphering the meaning of these tattoos rather than achieving multicultural understanding, the efforts of anatomists who studied the bodies of other races in order to gather knowledge of human physical diversity ultimately focused on how these racial identities differed from white cultural norms rather than an attempt to embrace a wider sense of empathy or understanding.
In addition to the notion that study of other cultural bodies can lead to exploitation and objectification instead of understanding, excessive study or contemplation is also an isolating pursuit, distancing the individual from his community and the benefit he can gain from communal interaction. Glen Scott Allen notes that the mad scientist figure is often presented with a clear choice between the domestic/community and his scientific obsession, choosing his obsession at every opportunity: [T]he mad scientist is represented as someone whose soul is torn between his love for his wife and his intellectwith the intellect the clear and undisputed winner every time (35). By choosing the intellect over the communal, the scientist figure finds himself suffering from feelings of solitude. The isolating effects of excess contemplation are also explored in William Rounseville Algers book, The Solitudes of Nature and of Man, a book that Melville owned and annotated, but had not yet read when he was composing Moby-Dick.14 Alger
14 Melvilles personal copy of The Solitudes of Nature and of Man was published in 1867, meaning that it didnt have a direct influence on Moby-Dick which was published in 1851, but it shares many insights that are useful in


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observes in this book that almost every man who has expressed an interest in deep contemplation has also experienced feelings of isolation: Almost every great man addicted to contemplation, and of literary habit, has left on record some expression of his loneliness (71). Algers observation that isolation is prominent among the contemplative is also seen in the isolation of Ahab which is highly emphasized m Moby-Dick, with Ahab even remarking during his final pursuit of Moby-Dick that he stands alone among the millions of the peopled earth (413). Although this loneliness is likely painful to the individual, Alger only considers it problematic when the individual allows this isolation to create feelings of hatred for humanity: To dwell alone is an evil when we use our solitude to cherish an odious idea of our race, and a disgust for the natural affections of life (126). Algers description of how isolation can potentially cause a person to despise the natural affections can certainly be seen in Ahab whose isolated obsession with Moby-Dick causes him to turn against all natural lovings and longings, a phenomenon displayed in Ahabs disregard of Captain of the Rachels plea to launch a search for his missing twelve-year-old son because it would cost valuable time that he could instead be using to search for Moby-DickI will not do it. Even now I lose time (406; 398).
Melvilles concern about the dangers of isolation, particularly when it leads to misanthropy can also be seen in his own reading and annotation. In his last volume of Shakespeares works on the opposite side of the page where he wrote his ego non baptizo annotation from Palgraves essay, Melville also copied several lines from the essays of Leigh Hunt including the words: Secret grief is a/cannibal of its own heart (qtd. in Sanborn Lounging 106). This quotation, taken from Hunts essay Advice to the Melancholy, explores the inherent dangers of isolation and proposes that melancholia, a potential symptom of
assessing the degenerative impact of isolation. Additionally, Melvilles purchase of this book illustrates an interest in solitude that may have been ongoing {MelvillesMarginalia Online Documentary Notes on Solitudes).


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excessive contemplation, can be treated through communal embrace. In Leigh Hunts essay, he encourages individuals who are suffering from the crippling mental anguish of melancholia to build up an effective community as a means of combatting their depression (24). Melvilles notation on self-cannibalization comes from Hunts quoting and paraphrasing of Francis Bacon who encourages individuals to confide in one another and create an active support network because they who keep their griefs to themselves are cannibals of their own hearts (25). The self-cannibalization that Leigh Hunt describes in his essay is expressed by Ahab in Moby-Dick, who self-identifies as a cannibal in the same portion of The Symphony chapter where he also describes his life as a desolation of solitude (405). As Ahab tells Starbuck about his isolated life, he describes his own wife and son whom he has barely seen but who wait for him to return and how his wife tells his son of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come back to dance him again (406). Rather than being a literal affirmation that he devours other human beings, Ahabs self-affirmation of cannibalism in such close proximity to his other quotations about isolation and detachment from human affections seems to invoke Leigh Hunts concerns about self-cannibalization, an act that is initiated by Ahabs obsessive quest. Melville makes it evident within Moby-Dick that intense, obsessive thoughts can create a monster that devours the heart in the same manner described by Hunt: God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates (170). Ahabs intense thinking in matters connected to the whale has caused the devouring of his own heart and interpersonal connections, transforming his quest quite literally in to a self-cannibalizing
process.


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Melvilles concern in his depiction of Ahab is not with intellectual pursuits in and of themselves but rather of an obsessive pursuit of knowledge that overshadows and devours the natural affections. In a letter to Hawthorne, Melville even theorizes that a man of great intellect could possess an equally great heart to compensate for his obsessive inclinations: It is a frightful poetical creed that the cultivation of the brain eats out the heart. But it's my prose opinion that in most cases, in those men who have fine brains and work them well, the heart extends down to hams (.Letters 129). The combination of affection and intellect was important to Melville which is reflected in his familiarity with 1 Corinthians chapter 13, which he marked in his copy of The New Testament and Psalms {New Testament and Psalms 293). 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the Love Chapter, illustrates the point that no matter how much knowledge the individual has access to, this knowledge is all for naught if the individual does not also have love to accompany it: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13.1-2). Ahab fits into the category of a man whose possesses profound intellect but does possess the requisite love for his fellow man or even appreciation for the simple beauty of a sunset: Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power (143). Ahabs observation on his inability to enjoy the simple beauties of the world is quickly followed by his boastful declaration of his power to manipulate his crew into accomplishing his desires: Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve (143). Ahabs lack of love for his crew and his focus on manipulating


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them into satisfying his desires reveals what Jamie Lorentzen considers to be Ahabs biggest flaw which is his rejection of the other, his belief that all he needs to endure and prevail is Ahab, that his self-consuming narcissism that rejects humanity outright is enough and thus has no need for a heart (243, emphasis Lorentzen). Marina Van Zuylen reaches a similar conclusion in her exploration of monomania, noting that monomaniacs have only learned to tolerate what is themselves and are forever blind to what is other (205).
Ahabs interpersonal blindness and insensitivity also reveals itself in a profound distaste for interdependence that offers Ahab the illusion of complete insight and self-sufficiency. When forced to depend on others, Ahab must admit that he is not a fully self-sufficient individual, something that he is reluctant to do and ultimately detests. Susan McWilliams observes that [f]or Ahab, a man who has long been habituated to a norm or standard of solitude, being so obviously dependent on other people seems a humiliation (242). When Ahab goes to the Carpenter to have his leg repaired, he soliloquizes his frustration with dependence on mankind: Here I am, proud as a Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this blockhead for bone to stand on! Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; (Moby-Dick 376). Due to the loss of his leg, Ahab must frequently rely on the assistance of his crew and he curses these circumstances because he is forced to depend on people that he deems to be considerably less capable than himself. Ahabs distinct lack of trust for community causes him to manipulatively dominate his men to his monomaniacal purpose rather than allowing himself to be benefitted by their differing perspectives (Watters 109). Ahab displays his yearning for a unified, non-diversified existence when he expresses his desire to dissolve [himself] down to one small, compendious vertebra (360). Ahabs desire in this case to dissolve into a being that can no longer be bifurcated or amputated exposes Ahabs deep


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need to maintain a unitary, controlled existence that must suppress or reject attempts at multiplicity or interdependence. As Jamie Lorentzen suggests, Ahab is ultimately doomed by his inability to depend on others or allow others to depend on him (246)
Although Ahab is defined by his solitude and aversion to interdependence for the majority of Moby-Dick, his brief relationship with Pip presents the opportunity for Ahab to be saved from his disastrous fate. Pip, an African American crewmember who loses his sanity after being left adrift at sea for several days, earns Ahabs sympathy and temporarily becomes a surrogate son, with Ahab even breaking his solitude by allowing Pip to share his cabin with him: Ahabs cabin shall be Pips home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my innermost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart strings (392). Ahabs affection is reciprocated by Pip who comments on the possibility that a loving personal connection with another human being would have preserved his sanity, an assessment is equally true of Ahab: Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the white, for I will not let this go (392). Pips statement that his connection with Ahab represents a man-rope echoes Ahabs exclamation that he and Pip are joined together by cords, statements that not only express interpersonal connection but also invoke Ishmaels experience being joined to Queequeg by a monkey-rope designed to save Queequeg from an untimely death as he was harvesting whales: [T]he monkey-rope was fast at both ends; fast to Queequeg's broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then [...] it should drag me down in his wake (255). Seen in this light, Ahabs relationship with Pip has the potential to preserve him from drowning


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in the depths of his obsession and may also help to preserve Pip from perishing due to his own madness. Joseph Fruscione comments on the mutual communal benefit that Ahab and Pips relationship brings, noting that by holding Ahabs hand, Pip experiences a feeling of belonging. Ahab, too, breaks his isolation and welcomes Pip into his privacy; thus, these two outcasts form their own community (Fruscione 18). By joining together, Ahab and Pip enter into a mutually beneficial interpersonal and multicultural union, one that would likely have preserved both of them had it not been so short lived.
Unfortunately, Ahab and Pips association is forced to come to an end, the line being cut by Ahab himself once he realizes that his relationship with Pip is actually curing him of his obsession. As Lisa Ann Robertson observes, the experience of multicultural contact would enable Ahab to be free of his madness: Touch would be a redemptive experience, giving [Ahab] reprieve from the maddening quest and allowing him to regain his sanity. In fact, it would be a mutually redemptive experience because it would also allow Pip to grow so sane again. Yet Ahab denies them both this opportunity (16). Although this multicultural, communal cure would be an incredible benefit to individuals who are crippled by their madness, Ahabs use of his obsession to dominate and solidify the world around him has turned his madness into a great source of security for him, a security that he wishes to preserve so that he can definitively discover the meaning of Moby-Dick, the ultimate source of epistemological insecurity in his life. To retain this security and his vengeful quest, Ahab rejects the cure presented by Pip and plunges into his own destruction: There is that in thee, poor lad which I feel too curing for my malady. Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired health (399). Ahabs rejection of Pip in order to resume his former exclusive and secure oneness serves to finalize Ahabs disastrous fate in his last encounter with Moby-Dick.


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While Melvilles depiction of Ahabs isolated and obsessive destruction strongly suggests that isolationparticularly when accompanied by an obsessive quest for absolutesis harmful, Melville also recognized isolation as necessary and beneficial to the creative process. This mixture of both positivity and peril within isolation is reinforced in Melvilles mixed depiction of Ahab as a character who is evil, but also romanticized and heroic, a figure that is both angelic and demonic. The potential for isolation to foster creativity can be seen in the autobiography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a book that Melville was reading in 1850 during the composition of Moby-Dick (Melvilles Marginalia Online Note on Goethe Autobiography"). In this book, Goethe comments on the benefit of isolation, writing: I clearly felt that a creation of importance could be produced only when its author isolated himself. My productions which had met with so much applause were children of solitude (38). This comment on the need for isolation in order to produce praiseworthy works was marked in Melvilles copy of the book, indicating that Goethes thoughts on the necessity of isolation were of some interest to Melville as well (Goethe 38). The possibility that isolation can hold some creative benefit is displayed prominently in Ahabs solitary creation of meticulous course headings as he is analyzing sea charts in The Chart chapter:
[I]n the solitude of his cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost every night they were brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were effaced, and others were substituted. For with the charts of all four oceans before him,
Ahab was threading a maze of currents and eddies, with a view to the more certain accomplishment of that monomaniac thought of his soul. (167)
Even though Ahabs only purpose in charting these courses is to locate and vanquish Moby-Dick, his work on these charts does have an artistic function as he is necessarily creating a new


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chart that can effectively curve around potential obstacles. However, while Ahabs isolation leads to creative potential, it is also highly embedded in his preexisting obsession and serves to strengthen it.
A similar pattern of isolation and creativity can be seen in Melvilles own life with his tendency to spend many hours in isolation crafting his works, causing many of his friends and family became concerned about the extent to which he pushed himself. Lemuel Shaw, Melvilles father-in-law, wrote a letter to his son, Samuel in 1853,writing that Melville often overworked himself as he was writing: When [Melville] is deeply engaged in one of his literary works, he confines him[self] to hard study many hours in the day, with little or no exercise [...] He probably thus overworks himself & brings on severe nervous affections (qtd. in Leyda 521). Melvilles writing practices in this case resemble both Ahabs isolation and existing research on madness at the time which thought that prolonged study would lead to madness, which explains why Shaw thought that Melvilles intensely isolated writing would cause severe nervous affections. Melvilles mother was also quite concerned about the stress that Melvilles intellectual pondering and excessive writing were placing on him, remarking in 1853 that [t]his constant working of the brain & excitement of the imagination is wearing Herman out (qtd. in Updike 27). Concerns about Melvilles mental health continued for several years, with some family members even attempting to orchestrate a separation between Melville and his wife in 1867 (49). The fears of Melvilles family members and Melvilles own creative isolation illustrate that Melville considered isolation to be a necessary source of creativity while other family members saw it as damaging to Melvilles mental health. The concerns of various family members may have led Melville to be equally concerned about his own mental state, but his continued pursuit of writing throughout his life suggests that he empathizes with Ahab, seeing


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some instances of isolation as a necessary tool for creative potential, an acceptable short-term sacrifice in order to explore the intellectual themes that he considered significant and meaningful.
Melvilles exploration of Ahab as an absolutist mind obsessed with definitive answers reflects a critique of nineteenth-century industrialism and the detached dissecting scientific fixation on discovering truth through examination. Ahab displays many of these obsessive traits including his treatment of Queequeg as a body that he can probe for answers rather than a human being that he should embrace. In his interactions with his crew as a whole, he sees them as tools to accomplishing his goals and is relatively unconcerned with their individual well-being or interests, privileging his own needs and generally avoiding contact with or dependence on his crewmembers. The one exception to Ahabs isolated norm is his brief bond with Pip which begins the process of restoring him because it is both an instance of interpersonal bonding and an experience of multicultural contact that extends beyond scalpels and other tools of dissection. Rejecting Pip is also Ahabs defiant declaration that he needs his obsession in order to remain engaged in a pursuit of definitive truth, an obsession that Pips companionship would serve to mediate. Although Melvilles own behavior suggests that he himself was drawn to the creative implications of isolation, a trait that is also displayed in Ahabs occasionally heroic portrayal, Melvilles ultimate destruction of the Ahab character at the end of Moby-Dick reveals that Ahabs particular method to pursuing truth is inadequate and destructive. Like a phoenix that arises out of the ashes, Melvilles alternate character, Ishmael rises out of Ahabs watery grave and presents more effective means to search for knowledge, a method that embraces other perspectives and searches happily for multiple answers.


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Chapter 4. Raciocultural Redemption and Fraternity of Feeling: Ishmael's Balance of Community and Solitude through Multicultural Union
The significance that Melville placed on community as a mediating force for absolutist searching can be seen in Melvilles friendships, particularly in his friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne which Melville considered to be both emotionally rich and intellectually stimulating. In a letter written to Hawthorne after reading a review that Hawthorne wrote on Moby-Dick, Melville expressed the connection that he felt with Hawthorne as a fellow author and friend who genuinely understood both him and what he had attempted to accomplish in writing Moby-Dick. I felt pantheistic thenyour heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours and both in Gods. A sense of unspeakable security is in me at this moment, on account of your having understood the book [... ] I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the supper and we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling (.Letters 142). Melvilles expression of his profound connection to Hawthorne is significant because it is both an emotional connection and an intellectual connection due to his belief that Hawthorne has recognized his major themes in the text of Moby-Dick. His intellectual bond with Hawthorne is also reflected in the deep philosophical conversations they shared, some lasting for several hours. As Hawthorne writes: Melville and I had a talk about time and eternity, things of this world and of the next, and books, and publishers, and all possible and impossible matters, that lasted pretty deep into the night (qtd. in Leyda 419). Melvilles interest in discussing meaningful topics with friends such as Hawthorne, and also Adler, expresses the significance of community, particularly when exploring abstract truths, a combination which Melville expresses in the character of Ishmael who combines his friendship with Queequeg with a contemplation of deep truths.


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Although Ahabs destructive demise suggests that isolation and an obsessive desire to grasp absolute truth can be destructive, Melvilles desire to write, ponder and explore complex ideas and his similar depiction of Ishmael reveal that intellectual searching is still a valuable pursuit as long as it is conducted in a safe manner, one that is tethered to other human beings in the same way the monkey-rope joins Ishmael and Queequeg (Moby-Dick 255). Lisa Ann Robertson notes that the attempt to decipher truth can be beneficial so long as it is balanced by human companionship and the awareness that many absolute truths are unattainable: We are incapable of knowing if metaphysical reality exists objectively because it is empirically unverifiable. Still, trying to discover these truths makes for a grand adventure, as Melville so aptly demonstrates, and a proper quest into the wilds of philosophical truth [...] must be accompanied by human touch (7). The potential for human contact or companionship to save a mind mired in abstract searching can be observed in a metaphorical sense in the Cistern and Buckets chapter when Queequeg rescues Tashtago from drowning in a sinking whale head in which he has become trapped. As Tashtago is helping to harvest sperm from one of the whales, he falls inside the whales head while it is sinking into the water, which is associated with abstract contemplation: Tashtagolike the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well, dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight! (271). The combination of Tashtagos descent into the contemplative depths of the sea and his physical placement of falling head-foremost into this whales head both convey the concept of excessive contemplation/absolutism, while the fact that he is drowning in these depths confirms the inherent risk of this pursuit. Samuel Otter remarks that when it comes to the intellectual space inside the whales head, the result is considerably disappointing because: Its disgusting. Its oily. Its gurgling. And youre drowning in it (151).


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As Tashtago plunges into this intellectual abyss, he has the potential to face the same isolated destruction as Ahab; however, Melville prevents Tashtago from facing a solitary demise by having Queequeg leap into the water and save Tashtagos life:
[DJiving after the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there; then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and upwards, and so hauled out poor Tash by the head [...] And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully accomplished (272)
Tashtagos life is saved by Queequeg in a delivery which highlights both community and the need to be reborn from destructive habits. Within this dire circumstance, Samuel Otter explains that Queequegs rescue provides both a literal release from the whales head and a figurative release from conceptual cages (Otter 152). This release is both initiated and completed by interpersonal contact which frees the Tashtagos mind from isolated intellectual destruction. It is also significant that Queequegs rescue is framed as a form of delivery or childbirth, because his role in saving Tashtago from death in contemplative depths represents a form of redemption that harkens back to Christian Salvation which necessitates being bom again into a new mindset and outlook on life. Jesus explains the concept of Salvation in the book of John by saying: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is bom of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born anew (John 3.5-7). Tashtagos experience of a second birth by being saved from drowning in contemplative depths allows Melville to set up a metaphorical salvation narrative through the redemptive efforts of Queequeg.


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Queequegs role as a savior and his rescue as a form of salvation is displayed in more overt sense through Queequegs influence on Ishmael in the early chapters ofMoby-Dick. Just as Queequeg saves Tashtago from an untimely death in intellectual waters, he also saves Ishmael from a fate similar to Ahabs disastrous pursuit of definitive truths, allowing Ishmael to embrace multiple sources of knowledge.
Ishmaels first encounter with Queequeg and their later companionship initiates a transition in Ishmaels mind from an Ahabic dependence on detached observation and excessive elevation of contemplation to a balanced embrace of both intellect and community. When Ishmael arrives at the Spouter Inn, to rest for the night before setting out on his whaling voyage, he is informed that all the rooms are currently occupied and that he will need to share a bed with a harpooner. Ishmaels initial reluctance to sharing a bed with Queequeg stems largely from the innkeeper Peter Coffins description of Queequeg as a dark complexioned chap who eats nothing but steaks, and likes em rare (28). Coffins description of Queequeg as a harpooner from an unfamiliar cultural and racial background is a source of anxiety for Ishmael, an anxiety which he attempts to assuage by silently watching Queequeg undress and conduct his worship practices. Ishmaels observation of Queequeg lasts for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time, objectifying and stereotyping Queequeg as a terrifying Other: It was now quite plain that he must be some abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas, and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think of it. A peddler of heads tooperhaps the heads of his own brothers. He might take a fancy to mineheavens! look at that tomahawk! (34-35). Ishmaels stereotypical view turns Queequeg into a frightening figure rather than allowing him to appreciate a new culture that he could embrace. Observing Queequegs alternate cultural practices from the safety of the bed, Ishmael sees Queequeg as an enigmatic figure with


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tattoos and other features that are mysterious to Ishmael and cause him to long for answers: I am no coward, but what to make of this head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed my comprehension [...] I was so afraid of him that I was not game enough just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer concerning what seemed inexplicable in him (34). Ishmaels obsessive observation of Queequegs tattoos and his interest in discovering the inexplicable in Queequeg at this point is almost identical to Ahabs later observation of Queequegs tattoos. When Ahab is exposed to Queequegs tattooing, imbued with a meaning that will inevitably moulder away upon Queequegs death and remain unsolved to the last, he studies it and expresses his frustration that he may constantly study or survey Queequeg, but will never discover ultimate meaning: And this thought it must have been which suggested to Ahab that wild exclamation of his, when one morning turning away from surveying poor QueequegOh, devilish tantalization of the gods! (366-367).
However, unlike Ahab, who dies as a detached obsessive observer in pursuit of absolute truth, Ishmael is forced out of his observer status and into the role of a participant and companion. Ishmaels anxious observation of Queequeg quickly transforms into outright terror when Queequeg extinguishes the lights, jumps into the bed, and initiates physical contact with Ishmael: I sang out. I could not help it now; and giving a grunt of astonishment he began feeling me (35). As Joseph Fruscione observes, Queequegs physical contact with Ishmael shatters the illusion that Ishmael can arrive at knowledge through observation and forces him into the role of a participant: For Ishmael, this safe distance at which to experience the spell of looking disappears; he quickly transforms from an audience of to a participant in Queequegs pre-sleep ritual (15). Ishmaels sudden transition from observer to participant shatters his dependence on detached observation and causes him to embrace loving physical contact as a source of


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knowledge because sole dependence on sight is an inadequate empirical method. Lisa Ann Robertson explains that the detached visual senses are simply unable to arrive at interpersonal truths about Queequeg and Ishmaels relationship: Just as his early visual impressions of Queequeg as an infernal and wild cannibal are revealed to be incorrect, so his sense of sight fails to provide him with accurate information about his new relationship with Queequeg (13). Ishmaels physical contact with Queequeg serves to initiate his embrace of Queequegs cultural identity, an embrace which Ishmael expresses only a few paragraphs later: Whats all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myselfthe mans a human being just as I am (36). Contact with Queequeg transforms Ishmael, disrupting his confidence in the detached intellectual gaze and allowing him to recognize the need for interpersonal contact in order to discover multicultural truths. Paul McCarthy notes in his exploration of madness, The Twisted Mind: Madness in Herman Melville's Fiction, that the fact that touchy, imaginative Ishmael manages to keep his equilibrium without declining into madness himself is primarily due to the direct influence of Queequeg (348).
While Ishmael discovers the shortcomings of detached observation through his contact with Queequeg in The Spouter Inn chapter, Ishmael does not achieve a complete and genuine acceptance of Queequeg until the A Bosom Friend chapter. As Ishmael muses on Queequegs influence, his perspective changes from seeing Queequeg as an intriguing enigma to viewing him as a potential companion. Ishmaels acceptance of Queequeg is described as a salvation of sorts, accompanied by an internal transformation: I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed it (56). Ishmaels loving friendship and contractual quasi-marriage to Queequeg gives him a form of redemption, endowing Ishmael


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vicariously with a degree of cultural plurality. Ishmael then equates his newfound plurality to a religious revival that has saved him from damnation, in this case the interpersonal and multicultural relief from an obsessive need for certainty.
The possibility that Queequeg is personally saving Ishmael from obsession and insanity and possibly the reason why Queequeg is a diverse Pacific Islander rather than a more homogeneous American identity is also present in literature on insanity from the nineteenth century which considered individuals from non-white cultures, or savages to be less likely to lose their sanity. As Norman Dain notes, researchers in the nineteenth century observed fewer cases of insanity among Native Americans and African Americans and thus assumed that insanity was primarily a consequence of civilization and industrialization (89). Lynn Gamwell and Nancy Tomes add that the belief that other cultural identities were not susceptible to madness was fairly prevalent in the nineteenth century and influenced whether individuals from other denigrated races could be admitted into insane asylums: Because medical authorities linked mental derangement with advanced civilization, they tended to assume that the more childlike, dependent races, including Indians and African Americans, suffered less frequently from insanity and therefore did not need asylum care (56). By depicting Queequeg as the cure for Ahabic madness, Melville invokes some contemporary notions of the Other as less influenced by insanity, but he rewrites or perhaps redeems the imperialist nineteenth-century implications of this worldview by allowing Ishmael to find healing by embracing Queequegs cultural identity. As Ishmael begins to unite with Queequeg in A Bosom Friend, he also integrates attributes of Queequegs culture into his own lifestyle by joining Queequeg in some of his cultural practices. Shortly after Ishmael and Queequeg begin to pursue a relationship, Ishmael asks Queequeg if he can share a smoke with him on his tomahawk pipe, an action that illustrates the cultural merger


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between Ishmael and Queequeg as well as an embrace of community: Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing his pipe and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly passing between us (56). By sharing Queequegs pipe, Ishmael allows himself to embrace a new cultural practice and engages with Queequeg as an equal and sociable compatriot.
Ishmaels transformation through the influence of Queequeg is so profound and dramatic that he eventually transitions from observing Queequegs unique tattooing in a detached manner in The Spouter Inn, to placing similar tattooing on his own body: The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed (346). Ishmael then expresses his desire to leave the rest of his body blank so that his remaining skin can serve as the canvas for a poem he is composing, possibly in remembrance of Queequeg (346). Ishmaels description of these tattoos is particularly significant because unlike Queequeg or Ahab, the description of his tattoos serves as his primary physical description in the novel. Samuel Otter observes in his exploration of embodiment, Melvilles Anatomies that: In contrast to the pages devoted to the details of Ahabs aspect and ailments, the regard for Queequegs figure and figures, and chapter after chapter lavished on the whale, no words in Moby-Dick describe the features of Ishmael (165). As a result of Ishmaels limited physical description, his description of his tattoos serve to define him because he offers up no other physical identifiers: [When] Ishmael reveals that he has the measurements of a whale skeleton tattooed on his arm, the fact that he has a tattoo, and even the fact that he has a right arm, come as something of a surprise (Otter 165). By physically identifying, and in some ways defining Ishmael by his tattoos, Melville suggests that Ishmael has embraced Queequegs culture to such an extent that it has defined his identity, in much the same way that a new religious belief might


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serve to redefine an individuals consciousness. However, it is important to note that Ishmaels acceptance of tattooing is not just an acceptance of racial conversion by Queequeg, but it is also an example of cultural syncretism because his tattoos are English words and figures rather than tattoos that resemble Queequegs. Ishmaels act of embracing Queequegs culture through smoking Queequegs pipe and tattooing his body without necessarily abandoning his original cultural identity expresses a model of cultural hybridity and merging within Ishmaels mind.
Ishmaels willingness to cover his body with tattoos in this way is particularly striking when compared to Tommo, the protagonist from one of Melvilles earlier novels, Typee, who refuses to accept tattooing, and, by extension refuses the raciocultural conversion that accompanies it:
Not knowing to what extremities [the tattoo artist] might proceed, and shuddering at the ruin he might inflict upon my figure-head, I now endeavoured to draw off his attention from it [... ] A fact which I soon afterwards learned augmented my apprehension. The whole system of tattooing was, I found, connected with their religion; and it was evident, therefore, that they were resolved to make a convert of me. (Typee 133-134)
Tommos reluctance to having his face subjected to the ruin of tattooing and his connection between tattooing and conversion both indicate that Tommo is not fearfully rejecting tattooing in particular but is instead rejecting an opportunity for raciocultural salvation through the Typee, the same salvation provided by Queequeg inMoby-Dick. Samuel Otter notes that Tommos aversion to tattooing reveals an anxiety about racial conversion, an open embrace of an alternate racial consciousness or cultural practice: Tommo is afraid not of theological conversion but of racial conversion. Tattoos are engrafted upon white skinas though the


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operation involved a translation of living tissue from Polynesian to American (40). Ishmaels embrace of Queequeg and tattooing therefore reflects an embrace of the very racial conversion which Tommo rejects, allowing him to embrace multiculturalism and community instead of solitude and obsession with definitive truths.
Ishmaels connection with Queequeg is not only significant because it converts him to a more pluralistic way of seeing the world but also because it serves to introduce him to a wider web of human interconnectivity, a connectivity that is displayed quite prominently in The Squeeze of Hands chapter. While Ishmael is breaking down the tiny globules of sperm with his crewmates, he experiences a moment of radical interconnectivity where the boundaries between himself and the other crewmembers destabilizes: I found myself unwittingly squeezing my colaborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget [...] Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness (322-323). This extreme dissolution of interpersonal boundaries presents a strong depiction of lovea love which, as William Ellery Sedgwick observes, must eschew divisions and segmentation: [A]ll that withdraws men from men and puts barriers between them, and obstructs the flow of vital sympathies, all that is evil [...] Virtue does not keep herself to herself on the quarterdeck but descends and fraternizes with the men (161). As Sedgewicks quote suggests, love and interpersonal connection should not be concerned with the hierarchies that generally carve up human existence as a dissecting scalpel would, but love should instead find companionship in a variety of people, including those from diverse or oppressed perspectives.


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The experience of blurred boundaries through squeezing the sperm also presents an alternate approach to pursuing knowledge as Ishmael engages in tactile contact along with his crewmates rather than isolated dissection. Samuel Otter expresses the function of The Squeeze of Hands in dissolving hierarchies when he writes: In this scene, fingers are extended and boundaries stretched. The monumental difference represented by the whale is caressed and inhaled rather than dissected, calibrated, or deciphered (159). This tactile and communal method of engaging with the whale is the exact opposite of Ahabs obsessive dive for truth and reveals a communal presence which can sustain the individual as they pursue deeper truths. The benefit of interpersonal connection as a means of ameliorating obsession can also be observed in this instance as Ahabs manic quest which has infected the entire crew to a certain extent, is forgotten and replaced by community: I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it (322). IshmaeTs communal interaction has the power to supersede the destructive influence of Ahabs obsessive quest for absolute truth because it provides him with a different source of focus and fulfillment, in much the same way that pragmatism seeks out community and eschews the pursuit of absolute truths. Leigh Hunt observes a similar curative influence through community in his essay Advice to the Melancholy, claiming that communal and domestic pursuits helped to alleviate melancholy feelings which also constituted a form of mental illness: [Ijncrease all of your natural and healthy enjoyments. Cultivate your afternoon fire-side, the society of your friends, the company of agreeable children (24). The mediating potential of community can also help to remedy the ailments of the mad scientist, as Taylor Stoehr points out in his exploration of the scientist figure in Hawthornes The Great Stone Face: [B]y thinking only of others and never of himself, the lonely and reflective man may arrive at philosophic wisdom instead of forbidden knowledge


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(82). Because the scientist figure shifts his gaze to a more generous view of communal enrichment rather than simply accomplishing personal goals, he is able to discover knowledge in a safe and beneficial manner. Lisa Ann Robertson adds that contact with other human beings is a source of peace, something that the individual can rest in securely from the impossibility of locating the secrets to the universe: Periodic physical contact with another human being is Melvilles antidote to the maddening fact that the secrets of the universe are impenetrable (7). By engaging in human affection which ideally breaks down hierarchal and interpersonal boundaries, individuals are exposed to a variety of comingling perspectives and may even become less certain that there is a definitive truth to pursue in the first place.
While Ishmaels alternate, communal and multicultural pragmatic approach to understanding the world is promoted as a better option than Ahabs obsessive destruction, this does not necessarily mean that Ishmaels approach is void of challenges or free of frightening implications. While Ishmaels mode of thinking can be quite liberating in its disassociation from the limitations of categorization and domination by obsessive extremes, it is also an insecure, perilous and frightening existence because the individual is no longer able to rely on formulaic, ingrained cultural knowledge. As an antifoundationalist worldview that shuns objective truths, pragmatists are adrift in a world that they can never fully understand, a world where their experiences are rewriting their view of truth on a constant basis. Edwin Shneidman explores a similar idea to the instability of pluralism when he writes that a complex worldview that embraces ambiguity and duality is terrifying because it is completely oppositional to the ordered world that people are familiar with: To exist with the knowledge of ambivalences, dualities, and oxymorons is a more complicated challenge than to live in the more simple world of the sixteen valid moods of Aristotelian syllogism. And even more frightening, for unlike the


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ordered Aristotelian world, there are no magic talismanic formulas to guide us (Shneidman 556). Ishmaels hierarchal destabilization in Squeeze of Hands is a good example of the uncertainty that Shneidman is referring to in this case. While Ishmael is exposed to a state of transcendental union with the crew in the communal act of sperm-squeezing, an experience of all individuals being squeezed into each other and becoming one is a radical new state of being that can potentially be just as terrifying as it is exhilarating. Ishmaels active blurring and merging of hierarchies and cultural boundaries enables him to move beyond the limitations of objective analysis and enter into an exciting state of being that is free from the pitfalls of absolutism. However, in spite of the joys of Ishmaels communal blurring, his experiences also signify the entry into a frightening world of uncertainty, liminality and the unsettling potential for aimlessness.
Ishmael exists in Melvilles narrative as a means of introducing an alternate way to negotiate the world, one which does not depend on detachment, dissection, or absolutism.
Ishmael observes after investigating the whales tale that in spite of his efforts and repeated explorations, he will never fully comprehend the mysterious attributes of the whale: Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when face he has none? (296). Ishmael accepts that some answers are beyond the scope of his knowledge even though he also enjoys searching for this knowledge of the whale. Ishmaels intellectual pursuit and his embrace of unknowability reflects the pragmatic desire to pursue truth, even as it rejects the pursuit of absolutes. Ishmaels recognition and acceptance of his own limited knowledge as well as the fact that he cannot dissect the whale in order to arrive at definitive truth sets Ishmael in direct contrast to Ahab who must strike though the mask in order to break


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through appearances and arrive at absolute truth (140). The same Ahabic behavior which studies Queequeg obsessively and expresses his frustration when he cannot arrive at an explanation for what Queequegs tattoos mean (367). While Ahab is himself a mixed character at many points, both romanticized and destructive, the juxtaposition between Ahab and Ishmael allows Ishmael to present himself as the solution for the pitfalls and devastation encountered by Ahab. As Emory Elliott explains, Ishmaels survival is a form of balance because he combines deep, in some cases even scientific, contemplation with interpersonal union: One moment, he is the empirical scientist cataloguing and defining in detail each type of whale in the Cetology chapter while at another he is squeezing the sperm and the hands of other seamen, appreciating the universal communication and spirit that flows through them (190). Because Ishmael engages in both communal enrichment and a search for knowledge, the knowledge that he discovers is more multicultural, interpersonal and less vulnerable to the obsessive destruction encountered by Ahab. Ishmaels survival provides hope to readers because it offers an alternative to the destructive fate met by Ahab, as Elliott notes: Ahabs quiet enemy is not the whale, but Ishmael, for he possesses the countemarrative that offers hope for evading or escaping the Ahabs of the world (191). Lisa Ann Robertson also comments on Ishmael as an alternative to Ahab when she writes: Once his voyage has begun, Ahab will not abandon it, but others learn ways to make it manageable. Ishmael is Ahabs problem solved. The quest requires a shuttle-like approach that alternates between seeking and resting, questing and communing (14). Because Ishmael embraces community, he achieves a balance between questing and communing a balance which changes his outlook on the pursuit of knowledge, allowing him to appreciate the chase after knowledge more than any definitive knowledge that he may gain from the pursuit.


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Embodied Balance: Conclusion
Melvilles solution to the appealing but problematically obsessive isolation of Ahab, is to become like Ishmael and embrace a combination of community and contemplative searching. Because Ishmael has learned to appreciate multicultural perspectives through his interactions with Queequeg and the rest of the crew, he is given access to an unending source of knowledge without the destructive implications of absolutist obsession, which allows Ishmael to thrive when Ahab is ultimately destroyed. Lisa Ann Robertson explains that human connection is the key, pulling the individual away from the destructive implications of contemplative searching: Physical contact with other human beings is the way to achieve equilibrium between the maddening lub of philosophical contemplation and restorative dub of the return (14). While I agree with Robertsons assertion that human contact is the key to balance, I would argue that human contact alters the psyche of the individual so that their search for truth is fundamentally transformed from a search for absolute truths, as pursued by an enlightenment scientist, to a search for intriguing truths and knowledge that enrich the individual without claiming to be the ultimate answer to the questions posed, a pragmatic search for truth. Ramon Espejo Romero follows a similar train of thought by noting a difference in Ishmaels mentality, commenting on the fact that Ishmaels frequent musing does not limit his interpersonal relationships in the same way that it does for Ahab: Unlike Ahabs, Ishmaels thoughtfulness is not an obstacle for him initiating fruitful bonds with people like Queequeg (7). Because Ishmael allows Queequeg to become a companion and redeemer to him, Ishmael is able to discover a new form of epistemological searching that employs his inquisitive mind without the destructive, obsessive consequences. Ishmaels redemption comes from his embrace of multiple perspectives which


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opens his mind to endless truths that he can pursue. The positive attributes that come from embracing multiple views of the world can be seen in the physiological nature of the whale who possesses one eye on each side of his body, enabling him to unify two unique views of the world: How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? (263). The marvelous nature of the whale exemplified in his ability to contemplate and combine two seemingly unconnected views of the world is similar to IshmaeTs combination of Queequegs cultural values and his own, or, in a larger sense, IshmaeTs combination of community and contemplative exploration.
IshmaeTs ability to combine oppositional traits embodies William Ellery Sedgwicks description of Melvilles creative process as a whole which joins dramatically different concepts and entities together in the same work: The most disparate things and considerations associated freely in his mind, like Solomon and cannibals, Byzantium and his own apple tree [...] Opposites like these come together and by their association took on new dimensions of meaning and gained a greater currency for expression in all directions (7). By describing Melvilles tendency to unite opposites, Sedgwick opens up the possibility that a merger of both abstract searching for certainty and multicultural union, which presents ambiguity and diverging viewpoints, can create a healthy lifestyle that steers clear of both Ahabs monomania and Flasks pervading mediocrity. Melvilles interest in synthesis as a form of balance can also be seen in a more overt sense in his poem Art which describes the way that artistic works must join together disparate or opposite things into one form:
But form to lend, pulsed life create,


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What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melta wind to freeze;
Sad patiencejoyous energies;
Humilityyet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacityreverence. These must mate (3-9).
Melvilles poem demonstrates the way that a unique work of art may combine opposites, allowing such traits as instinct and study or love and hate to mate and thereby create a new work that is the child of both while not fully personifying either initial trait. The concept of synthesis as a creative process may also have come from Melvilles familiarity with Samuel Taylor Coleridges Biographia Literaria15 In Chapter 14 of Biographia Literaria, Coleridge describes the process of creating poetry as an active, imaginative fusion of traits that are directly oppositional to one another and a balancing these opposites. As Coleridge explains, this power reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference; of the general with the concrete; the idea with the image; the individual with the representative; the sense of novelty and freshness with old and familiar objects (590). Ishmael becomes the embodiment of the poetic, opposite-mating spirit because his embrace of Queequeg steers him away from a melancholic, Ahabic lifestyle and toward an identity that actively chooses both when given an either/or choice. Shortly after Ishmael embraces Queequeg as a companion, he is given a choice between clam or cod for breakfast the following morning as potential meal items. Rather than choosing one or the other, Ishmael chooses both and even suggests additional meal items: But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for breakfast, men?
15 According to Jay Lcyda's Melville Log, Melville purchased Coleridges Biographia Literaria in February of 1848 (271).


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Both, says I; and let's have a couple of smoked herring by way of variety (68). Ishmaels active choice of both clam and cod is representational of his ability to unite the search for truth with the monkey rope of human companionship, allowing him to avoid drowning in the depths of absolutism, even if he occasionally wades in contemplative waters.
Melvilles depiction of Ahab throughout Moby-Dick foregrounds the idea that individuals seeking intellectual expansionespecially in an obsessive manner, are ultimately incomplete because community provides both balance to their searching and an appropriate outlook for the search itself. Ahab exemplifies this incomplete state through his amputated leg, and ultimately his refusal of Pips companionship when Pip offers to substitute for Ahabs leg and make him whole once more: [Y]e have not a whole body, sir; do ye but use poor me for your one lost leg; only tread upon me, sir; I ask no more, so I remain a part of ye (399). By rejecting community, Ahab is rejecting the one thing that can make him whole and cure him of his debilitating madness. Tragically, it is Ahabs recognition of the curative potential of community which prompts him to dismiss Pip and the wholeness that Pip would bring to him in the same manner that Queequeg has brought wholeness and redemption to Ishmael.
Ahabs pursuit of truth is framed as an extremely obsessive chase that is defined by attributes of isolation and fixation on definitive answers rather than pluralism which would allow him to embrace alternate answers and indeterminacy. Melvilles depiction of the destructive potential of Ahabs quest, even though it also takes on Romantic and heroic attributes at some points, illustrates the need for a balance between extremes of the communal and the intellectual. John Wenke observes a similar idea in his essay, Melvilles Ontological Heroics when he notes that Melville tends to celebrate the human need to forge a balance between experiential and intellectual extremes, to accommodate disparate possibilities for selfhood, to maintain


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flexibility and freedom within the limits prescribed by natural existence (587). By embracing a balance between the intellectual quest for meaning and the more experiential embrace of community and physical existence, Melville acknowledges through the character of Ishmael that mankind ultimately needs a secure footing in the extremes of both intellect and community in order to properly understand either of them. Jamie Lorentzen stresses Ishmaels function as a figure of balance in the text when he writes: Ishmaels life seems fully and passionately engaged in resisting prejudice, in balancing opposites, and in sympathizing with the errors and risks of not only living lives of extremes but also of striving to live a life in the no-mans life of the middle (290). Lorentzens observation that Ishmael directs his life toward both resisting prejudice and balancing opposites is significant here, as Ishmaels ability to resist his initially prejudiced feelings toward Queequeg ultimately allows him to internally balance the opposite worldviews of his own initial perspective and Queequegs drastically different worldview and also in his ability to merge an embrace of Queequeg with an embrace of abstract contemplation.
Melvilles depiction of Ahab and Ishmael provides an illustration of what it means to be a complete, thriving human being in this world, a man who can explore deeper concepts of existence without becoming dangerously obsessive and cut off from human contact. Lewis Mumford comments on Melvilles revolutionary reworking of the human mind when he writes: [T]he fact is that [Moby-Dick] is a challenge and affront to all the habits of the mind that typically prevailed in the nineteenth century, and still remain, almost unabated, among us; it comes out of a different world, and presupposes, for its acceptance, a more integrated life and consciousness than we have known or experienced (qtd. in Lorentzen 291). The integrated life proposed by Mumford as a central theme of Moby-Dick is embodied in the idealized, but occasionally frightening form of existence exemplified by Ishmael which contrasts with the


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destructive but strangely compelling existence of Ahab. As William Ellery Sedgwick notes, Melvilles works are an unfolding of inward vison, a vision not so much of life as of what it is to be alive, and alive as a complete human being and not a mere two-thirds or three-quarters of one (15). The role of a complete human existence, at least as Melville seems to see it, is an existence that embraces the community, particularly in the form of significant one-on-one relationships such as the bond between Melville and Adler, Melville and Hawthorne, Queequeg and Ishmael, or the tragically short bond between Ahab and Pip. At the same time, a complete, thriving existence must also embrace a search for deeper truths, one that does not necessarily intend to grasp for absolute truth as Ahab does, but instead chases after several competing perspectives and ideas because of the exhilarating nature of the chase itself. Melvilles depiction of Ishmael suggests that he believes that the salvation of Ishmael is one that is available to any person who is willing to embrace views that differ from his own until he sees the world, the people in it, and knowledge in a pluralistic and comprehensive way. This new outlook prevents the individual from grasping for the ungraspable and instead allows him to chase after several different iterations of knowledge, wherever they may be found.


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Full Text

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Moby Dick By Emily Butler Probst An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the M etropolitan State University of D enver Honors Program May 2016 Dr. Craig Svonkin Dr. Jennifer Weddig Dr. Megan Hughes Zarzo Primary Advisor Second Reader Honors Program Director

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Butler Probst 1 Moby Dick by Emily Butler Probst

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Butler Probst 2 Introduction Moby Dick is a prominent issue in the scholarship devoted to interpr eting and the underlying significance or meaning of madness within this novel has produced a variety of differing interpretations Some scholars, such as Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence Thompson have even questioned the legitimacy of Ahab century deviant behavior. In contrast to Brentano respective argument s that Ahab is being unj ustly labelled as a madman due to his religious defiance, it seems instead that Melville is defining Ahab through a legitimate nineteenth century understanding of monomania, or rationally functional madness to criticize the isolating and interpersonally exploitative tendencies of absolutism and enlightenment science. Melville c riticizes desire to ascertain definitive truths not because Melville rejects quests for answers, but rather due to his concern that the obsessive pursuit of certainty may le a d to the objectification and commodification of other human beings tools in his search for Moby Dick both reflect a desire to gain deeper knowledge in a manner that isolates Ahab and harm s both Ahab and those who accompany him on his quest. manipulation and appropriation of other human beings in order to access absolute truths would seem to set him as a negative c haracter, Melville complicates his depiction of Ahab by also making him a romanticized figure imbued with allusions to Christ. By complicating his depiction of Ahab, Melville illustrates his own continued desire for absolutes and occasional indulgence in

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Butler Probst 3 i solated pondering, even though Melville is ultimately wary of the impact this drive for absolute truths has on communal relations. Melville presents an alternative to the obsessive, absolutist destruction of Ahab in the transformat ive redemption of Ishmael Ishmael begins the novel tendency to obsessively analyze other cultures a tendency seen in his exoticized description of Queequeg in the early chapters of Moby Dick r other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South M oby Dick 34). Ishmael is, however, soon transformed by his relationship with Queequeg. Embracing a relationship with Queequeg serves as a form of salvation for Ishmael teaching him to welcome commu nity on a larger scale and thus remain secure in the midst of his epistemological exploration. leads him to adopt a proto pragmatist philosophy which merges an interest in communal, experiential knowledge with an underlying sk epticism of absolute truths This transformative cross cultural relationship thus allow s Ishmael to continually search for knowledge without experiencing an obsessive drive to attain any particular form of truth. Because the majority of the novel captures a distinction between Ahabic and Ishmaelic ways of viewing the world, the ensuing chapters of my thesis wi ll explore this tension by spending time exploring the characters Ahab and Ishmael and what their respective differences may indicate about Melville himself and nineteenth century Americ a. My first chapter, incapacitate d by Moby specific answers to his questions is contrasted by Ishmael who searches for knowledge without an obsession with absolutes. This distinction between Ahab and Ishmael that frames Ahab as a

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Butler Probst 4 figure who is fixated on univocal pursuits and Ishmael as a more open minded searcher is expressed in the research of both Craig Svonkin and Emory Elliot who represent the tension between Ahab and Ishmael as one positioned between two distinct w ays of viewing the world. pragmatist philosophy, an empiricist philosophy championed by men such as William James near the end of the nineteenth c entury. Although Me lville was writing Moby Dick in 1851, writing included proto pragmatist elements, including an inclination to reject absolute truths. The second chapter of this the Rational Madness: The Madness of Ahab in Moby Dick manner that both recognizes nineteenth century conceptions of insanity and reframes these conceptions to address concerns with an excessively detached, supposedly rational way of viewing the world. This chapter also responds specifically to Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence poi have influenced his depiction of madness that blurs into its antithesis that two things that are traditionally diametrically opposed, such as "superstition" and "science," or "madness" and "reason" can occasionally blur or blend together. This is use ful in two ways: first, it helps to explore how Melville uses the concept of madness to critique empirical scientific absolutism, presenting this absolutism as a form of madness. Secondly, it reveals Melville's conflicted depiction of Ahab as a character, a man who is both Christ like and devilish at the

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Butler Probst 5 same time. Melville's complex depiction of Ahab reveals Melville's potential longing for absolutism even as he desires to move to a more pragmatic philosophical identity. Oppressed Bodies: Scientific Isolation, Dissection, and the Suppression of Community in Moby Dick s similar to contemporary examples of scientists and explorers who abused or commodified others in order to access knowledge. Melville's desire to move away from an Arabic absolutist lifestyle seems to be strongly motivated by his observation of how an abs olutist mindset causes the individual to mistreat the people around him, using them as a means to achieving his own personal goals instead of embracing and recognizing their unique value as individuals. This specific objectif ication is strongly expressed i n historical cases with the example of Captain Charles Wilkes who abused his crew in order to complete an exploratory mission and nineteenth century anatomists who dissected and analyzed African American and Native American bodies in order to satisfy their curiosity about the human body remarkably applicable to the fictional mad scientist figure, a similarity noted by Glen Scott Allen who includes Ahab in his study of the American mad scientist. By positioning Ahab into the role of the obsessive enlightenment scientist/mad scientist Melville is able to criticize pursuits of knowledge that are founded on exploiting other individuals or cultures and rejecting companionship rather than seeking to embrace these distinct cul tures and perspectives. While Melville was concerned about the destruction caused by this Ahabic isolational impulse, he also felt that he possessed some of these traits worldview presents both creative potential and the potential for isolation and death, it is a difficult worldview for Melville to eliminate entirely.

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Butler Probst 6 The final chapter of my thesis shifts its focus from Ahab to Ishmael and his pursuit of knowledge. Ishm ael begins Moby Dick as a character who is similar to Ahab in his pursuit of abstract truths and his isolation. Ishmael is saved from the "madness" of absolutism by Queequeg, a South Pacific harpooner a process which e xpresses the nineteenth c entury perce were less aff licted by madness, but also one that Melville revises because Is cultural identity Queequeg by engaging in his cultural practices and placing tattoos on his body represents a After meeting and connecting with Queequeg, Ishmael discovers a community and a more optimistic worldview which sees the chase after truth as more interesting and worthwhile than the acquisition of absolute truth. By investing in community, Ishmael discovers a way to balance his search for truth with a multicultural perspective which intro duces multiple truths, allowing him to infinitely enrich hims elf with fascinating knowledge. is highly communal, instead of exploiting community as pragmatism is also slightly frightening because it is void of the foundational absolutes and norms that people can traditionally depend upon, forcing the individual to constantly experience discomforting, unfamiliar experiences. In sp ite of these Ahab and Ishmael are drastically different in their und erlying approach to seeking truth. Ahab believes that the search for knowledge is only valuable if it will allow him to receive answers to his own specific inquiries and he is resolutely unwilling to stop his pursuit when it

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Butler Probst 7 endangers or commodifies the li ves of others. In contrast, Ishmael enjoys searching for truth simply because the act of searching is an enjoyable experience regardless of the specific knowledge that he gains from the pursuit and he is willing to halt his searching in order to make way in a search for deeper truths, but he does not in any way guarantee that his characters will gain definite truths through their searching. As a result, people who ob sessively grasp for certainty without redirecting their desire when the stakes become too high have the frightening potential to destroy both themselves and others in the process of reaching for it. This division between adual rejection of an absolutist Ahabic approach as a form of madness and h which unifies with foreign cultures and experie nces while gleefully chasing after the unknown.

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Butler Probst 8 Chapter 1. Melville, Pragmatism, and the Ever The pursuit of deep existential truths is a theme that infuses a significant portion of epicts several characters, including Ahab and Ishmael, who search for truths and refuse to accept a secure, non exploratory existence. At the same time, Melville differentiates between those who pursue knowledge simply because they enjoy the endless search for potential answers and those who insist on acquiring only one objective truth cts a proto pragmatist desire to reject absolutism while still endeavoring to find experiential truths, as Ishmael whale are both imbued with a desire to exper ience truth without feeling that he must arrive at certainty. While Melville is, in many ways, progressive in his expression of views that seem to reflect the pragmatism of late nineteenth century philosophers such as William James, he also is drawn to the same absolutism that pragmatic philosophy rejects. In his depiction of Ahab and of Ishmael, Melville attempts to detach himself from what he considers to be the destructive implications of absolutism while moving toward a pragmatic view of philosophy whic h can happily search for truth through interpersonal and multicultural experiences rather than obsessively grasping for absolute truth. Melville introduces the tension between the obsessive pursuit of absolutes and a more pleasureful search for truth in Moby Dick where he vocalizes through Ishmael the desire to explore but also expresses the potentially deadly consequences of being too determined to grasp at a singular, objective truth:

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Butler Probst 9 Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented c hase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed. (196) In this passage, Melville explores the appeal of knowled continuously discover new sights and wonders along a joy in endlessly searching for knowledge. However, Ishmael also uses this passage to express his concern that the pleasureful pursuit of knowledge can descend into an seeking. Alternatively, the obsessive pursuit of knowledge can also leave the pursuer with too much k Moby Dick 196). eceded by of pursuing a homeward voyage indicates his rejection of both pleasureful non absolutive exploration and of rejecting the pursuit of truth altogether by returning to the safety of Nantucket concern with chasing a so

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Butler Probst 10 Dick. As Ahab explains when he is detailing his desire to destroy Moby Dick to the rest of hi s I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides o f earth, till he spout s black minded desire to destroy Moby Dick regardless of the consequences to himself and his crew is emblematic of his desire to acquire one absolute truth as the result of his searching. Ahab attempts to find the one true meaning for any symbol and Ishmael accepts a plurality of meanings and thereby lives Self o thering 59). his fixat ion with the one truth embodied in Moby obsessive, self destructive search. In some ways, the larger human desire to pursue deeper philosophical knowledge, a desire shared by both Ahab and Ishmael, holds the same magnetic attraction over humanity as does the sea itself as described in the first chapter of Moby Dick Ishmael explains that the sea Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Te ll me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? Moby Dick 19). Ishmael, and by proxy Melville, seems to be arguing that the ocean calls to all individuals regardless of their occupation or desires, bringing them as close passage again expresses a universal human desire to grasp for deeper truths combined with the

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Butler Probst 11 concern that the desire to grasp for truth s that seem attainable and objective on the surface but remain just out of reach can lead to a self destructive commitment to grasp for these truths at all costs. As Lisa Ann Robertson explains in her exploration of epistemology in Moby Dick the act of sa iling and abandoning the security of home and solid ground expresses the desire to pursue a metaphor for a comfortable ontological experience that is not characteriz ed by doubt and an obsessive drive to know. In contrast to the shore is ship life, fraught with danger, representing one that remains concerned primarily with physical existe nce and secure, non risky questioning and does not concern itself with the deeper secrets of existence that often contain shifting premises, contradictory answers, and unsolvable enigmas. In contrast, the sea which is composed of these deeper secrets is vo Melville solidifies the destructive potential of excessively searching for the definitive in obliterating death of Narcissus: could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the foun tain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the Melville again asserts the universal appeal of knowledge but wor ries that, like Narcissus, human desire for knowledge may morph into an obsessive pursuit of supposed certainty that is ultimately uncertain an impossible While the mind may attempt to stay af loat in the midst of deep contemplative thought, the potential for epistemological

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Butler Probst 12 uncertainty can lead to chapter. While standing atop the masthead, Ishmael remarks on the possibility that those who engage in oceanic contemplation without remaining aware of the precarious nature of their sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inc h; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. 1 And perhaps, at mid day, in the fairest weather, with one half throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to ris world, allowing abstract thought to dominate his consciousness to the point where he contemplation due to an excessive need to ascertain definitive truth is remarkably similar to the philosophical view of pra gmatism which achieved prominence during the late nineteenth century (Becker 5). While Melville himself did the bulk of his writing before the advent of pragmatism, Maurice Lee observes that Melville and also Fredrick Douglass possessed some traits in thei r of pragmatism by turning away from absolutes and their debilitating extremes dogmatism and uglass express thoughts that are similar to pragmatism before the traditionally accepted beginning of pragmatism, Lee 1 philosophy of Rene Descartes This is an intriguing possibility if Melville is, in fact, embracing pragmatist philosophy in his works. Pragmatism ppositional to the Rationalist idea that some knowledge is innate or born with the individual before they have experienced anything (Markie).

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Butler Probst 13 figures proto pragmatists, quasi antifoundation alists, pre post 2 The highly subjective concept, primarily gleaned on an individual level through experiences that challenge or reinforc your current truth conflicts with your experience, you work out how to integrate the new knowledge in with your previous opinions, eventually creating a balance that works. And a new truth is born! That truth will survive until the next conflicting expe rience, and the cycle mately be disproven by a believed in up to that point. do not believe that a ny person can be completely certain that he has arrived at an absolute truth that would apply to himself and others in spite of shifting circumstances. William James, one of the founding philosophers of pragmatism, points out this underlying skepticism tha t the individual has discovered a definitive form of truth is the primary mark of distinction between a We may talk of the empiricist [pragmatist] way and of the absolutist way of believ ing in truth. The absolutists in this matter say that we not only can attain to knowing truth, but we can know when we have attained to knowing it; while the 2 The idea that Melville may be a proto pragmatist is also supported by Lauren Becker in her thesis, White Dick pragmatism came through his reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson whose writing also influenced William James and John Dewey, some of the founders of pragmatism (25).

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Butler Probst 14 empiricists think that although we may attain it, we cannot infallibly know when. To know is one t hing, and to know for certain that we know is another (V ). Absolutists are not only convinced that they can acquire definite, absolute truths if they apply themselves sufficiently to the task, but they also are certain that they will be able to recognize when they have found the absolute truths that they are searching for, something which James and other pragmatists are wary of believing. Because pragmatists believe that the searcher can never be entirely certain that he has found a final answer to his que ries, pragmatists also frame absolutist searches for the definite as both potentially obsessive and endless. As Maurice Lee explains, William James invokes the idea that pragmatist philosophy helps to preserve the individual from the depths of excessive ab that is difficult to sink because it floats on the surfaces of life and eschews the quest for diving for t ruths that would apply universally to everyone or remain steadfast regardless of changing circumstances seems to represent almost precisely what Ishmael embraces as his on on absolute truths, creating a search for knowledge that interacts with his experiences and is subject to change, if necessary. Like a pragmatist, Ishmael happily enjoys searching for truths without feeling that he must always find a definite answe r to every question, in some cases finding multiple answers or accepts the quest to know the unknowable, to decipher the indecipherable, to solve insoluble riddles, symbols and mysterie s, while simultaneously seeing the para uncertainties, dualities, paradox and the possibility that a

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Butler Probst 15 myriad of contradictory readings for one symbol need not lead to chaos or me aninglessness ( Self othering 59). Ishmael therefore pursues truth with a level of enthusiasm which suggests he hopes to acquire this truth, while simultaneously realizing that he will never achieve the level of absolute certainty that Ahab requires from t he universe and will instead be presented with numerous contradictory truths or meanings for any given object. This level of devotion to seeking truth without an accompanying need to grasp at definitive answers suggests that Ishmael is ultimately more sati sfied by the search for meaning than he is by the acquisition of any particular answer. The multiple discoveries that Ishmael hopes for by sailing across the ocean are seen as a pleasant side effect of searching for truths rather than a rigidly set pursuit of one definite truth which would define the search as a failure if that answer is not located. This attitude toward pursuing knowledge, a desire to acquire knowledge without an accompanying drive to discover absolute truths is precisely what William Jame s writes about the pragmatist pursuit of truth. While this philosophy eschews the a belief in absolute truths, James asserts that when as empiricists we gi ve up the doctrine of objective certitude, we do not thereby give up the quest or hope of truth itself. We still pin our faith on its existence, and still believe that we can gain an ever better position toward it by systematically continuing to roll up ex periences and impulse to acquire one definite truth is the same impulse felt by Ishmael who loves to search for answers, but also recognizes his own limited ability to reach absolute answers. understand the meaning of the whale, and his recognition that the ultimate truth or essence remains just out of reach. For ex ample, as Ishmael is attempting to interpret the meaning of the

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Butler Probst 16 If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow 75). decision to pass interpretive authority on to the reader could seem like a failure of interpretation exploring knowledge than he is in gaining specific answers. As Ramn Espejo Romero explain s: at least engaged in a process which 9). Ishmael enjoys attempting to discover the me thrilling experience; as a result, he is willing to share his search with readers and is not disillusioned by the possibility that deciphering the brow is ultimately an impossibl e pursuit. Moby Dick in particular ultimately leads him to unanswerable questions that reinforce the Moby Dick upsets any definition that Ishmael is able to come up with. The white whale teaches him that some mysteries can never be solved, no matter how hard you try to puzzle them out, thereby proving that there (54). Melville seems to be arg to find answers to specific questions is not itself a failure of knowledge but rather an opportunity to continue searching. his efforts only toward his own selfish, personal mission to decipher and dissect the meaning of Moby

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Butler Probst 17 (140). His pursuit of the whale is a pursu it of absolutes and as a result, Ahab requires unitary, objective answers in order to locate the whale and extract the knowledge that he seeks. When decapitated whale that the crew has harvested, he asks this severed head to reveal the solitary and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all dive age that the whale has knowledge and abstract interpretation. As Ishmael attempts to interpret the white whale and his significance, he notes that explaining the ful would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go his own limitations and the inaccessibility of the deepest depths of knowledge (158). Additionally, the not might be somewhere wit hin nine fathoms long And all from looking at a piece of gold the coin causes their faces paralleling the diving movements of their deep interpretive thought serves to explain Ahab to provide answers to the mysteries that plague his life such as the ultimate reason or purpose behind the loss of his leg or even if there even is one at all; and the identity of the instigating

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Butler Probst 18 force that c pursue these answers continually in spite of the dangers to himself and his crew represents an absolutist impulse, a need to ascertain absolute truths beyond practical limits. As Lauren Becker observes: Ahab represents pragmatic absolutism. His monomania can be seen as an obsessive desire with his impracticality, his stubbornness will only that the severed whale head holds access to truth, but also that the head contains only one purpose of his quest. When Ahab is interrupted in his attempted dialog with the whale head by news of another ship being sighted, he abandons the voiceless whale for another potential source of the absolute answers he seeks, another vessel that he can ask about the whereabou ts of the white whale (249). satisfactory answers that will enable him to locate Moby Dick also causes him to experience frustration when he is provided with interpretive surfaces that lack clear answers for him to utilize, a frustration that can be seen when Ahab is introduced to the When Ahab witnesses intricate tattoos that are imbued with a meaning that has been lost even to Queequeg himself, Ahab expresses frustration that this tattooing will perish with Queequeg and its mysteries will rem ain unanswered: Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in

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Butler Probst 19 were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereo n they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last. And this thought it must have been which suggested to Ahab that wild exclamation of his, when one morning turning awa y from surveying poor Queequeg Oh, devilish 366 367) Ahab is unwilling to accept the possibility that the underlying meaning or truth behind timately die without a solution and without any revelation of what the essible meaning behind that some epistemological mysteries will never truly be solved. As Craig Svonkin observes, Ahab reads im what he most desires Self othering 45). B y presenting the dangers of searching for solitary truths and depicting both Ahab and Ishmael as characters who brave these dangers with varying degrees of success Melville is offering a warning about pursuing knowledge in an absolutist, Ahabic manner that is convinced it can access objective truth. Glen Scott Allen notes in his study of Ahab and other obsessive is marked by a solitary demand for certainty without embracing the possibility of multiple perspectives or even the potentiality that some truths are ultimately unknowable. Although Ahab and Ishmael differ in their method of pursuing truth, with Ahab pursuing absolutism to his own detriment and Ishmael embracing a mor e pragmatist pursuit that seeks truth without the obsession with absolutes, they both initially find themselves pursuing the same search for knowledge and take this pursuit to

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Butler Probst 20 differing extremes It is a quest for the unknown that takes pursuers away from the safety of familiar patterns of thought, calling both Ahab and Ishmael to search for the infinite. absolutism may also be linked to his biblical knowledge and his familiarity with the book of Ecclesiastes a book that reflects on the emptiness of most earthly pursuits, including the pursuit of knowledge. The second verse of Ecclesiastes sets the tone for most the book by highlighting the pervading meaninglessness of existence: Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher 3 In the same way that the beginning to this book asserts that everything is meaningless or empty, this book further claims that the pursuit of wisdom can be equally void of meaning, or of the und erlying objective significance that a seeker such as Ahab would hope to find. The possibility correspondence and in specific references to Ecclesiastes in the text of Moby Dick itself. In a letter to Hawthorne, Melville writes that he has been g reatly enriched by Solomon, who in the nineteenth century was generally considered the author of Ecclesi Letters darker melancholy themes present in Ecclesiastes can also be seen i n a reference that he makes to Ecclesiastes within the text of Moby Dick truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and ath not got hold of unchristian wisdom as well as his observation that at least part of the wisdom from Ecclesiastes has escaped 3 The speaker Kohelet

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Butler Probst 21 the general Christian populace suggests that Melville had himself learned a valuable lesson about the unattainable nature of absolutes And I applied my mind to know wisdom a nd to know madness and folly. I perceived that this al so is but a striving after wind 4 Efforts to acquire a complete, objective knowledge of either wisdom or madness is ultimately an unending, obsessive pursuit, not unlike striving to chase after the wind in the hopes of grasping it, wind which has no discernable origin or end source and no concrete form that can be physically grasped The desire to grasp or hold onto the wind in an Ahabic manner differs from the desire to simply follow the wind as a form of play without the pragmatic pursuit of knowledge which recognizes the ultimate ungraspable nature of objective truth and yet happily chases it anyway 5 striving ract thought is ultimately isolating because efforts to grasp one absolute truth alienate the individual from others who hold different views about underlying truth and the best means of attaining it. He may e ven encounter frustration if he encounter with Queequeg who is not particularly concerned about the fact that his tattoos are indecipherable (367) Additionall y, the individual who endeavors to learn as much as possible about the answers to his own specific problems may be inclined to push away other people, even those who are similar to himself, because they distract him from his accomplishing his goal. 4 The RSV differentiates Ecclesiastes 1:2 which is written in poetic form from Ecclesiastes 1:17 which is written in prosaic form. 5 The difference between playfully following the wind and striving after or attempting to grasp the wind is not a distinction made in the book of Ecclesiastes. But based on the profound differences between his characterization of Ahab and his charac terization of Ishmael, both of whom pursue knowledge; I think it is possible that Melville saw obligated to discover the absolutist origins of this knowledge. In contrast, I think Melville may have interpreted the

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Butler Probst 22 Glen Sc ott Allen notes a similar link between isolation and abstract thought in his research on nineteenth tract, intellectual In a similar manner to these nineteenth century scientists who allowe d their obsession with their absolutist research Moby Dick is a source of isolation to him, causing him, in a moment of clarity, to mournfully cry out to Starbuck before his final 405). role as a captain and intensified during his pursuit of Moby Dick: When I think o f this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the masoned, walled town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance to any sympathy from the green country w ithout [....] and then, the madness, the frenzy, the boiling bloo d and the smoking brow, with which, for a thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously, foamingly chased his prey more a demon than a man! (405). that has b een continuously private and closed off, both due to the isolating attributes of his authoritative career as a captain and, more significantly due to the dehumanizing isolation of his obsession, a fixation with definitive truth that the other crewmembers c annot necessarily understand.

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Butler Probst 23 Although Ahab briefly reaches out to Starbuck as a potential companion in his moment of he ultimately loses a personal connection with Starbuck for the same reason that he abandons his more significant relationship with Pip, a potential friend and son figure, because he is unwilling to sacrifice his obsession with grasping truth in order to serve the interests of others. Ahab seals his disastrous fate and sabotages his connection with S tarbuck because he reasons abstractly on the possibility that God, or some other spiritual force is distancing him from natural concerns and co mpelling him to pursue his quest relentlessly. Ahab theorizes that he is urged on by this spiritual force or wha t he refers to as a comes with it: [W] hat cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ah ab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? ( 406). he is being commanded to desert his interpersonal connections in a manner that defies his natural inclinations transforms him into an industrial tool, of sorts, that is itself forward in constant pursuit of his goal, a s absolute truths. By presenting himself as an involuntary tool of fate, Ahab suggests that his obsession is the antithesis to natural loving relationships with other human beings and is also beyond his ability to control. As Ahab conti nues in his reflection on his predestined detachment, he causes Starbuck to flee in despair, leaving Ahab to launch into his pursuit of the

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Butler Probst 24 whale in the final chapters of the novel, a pursuit that destroys Ahab and the entire crew with the except ion of I shmael ( 406). perilous mazes, or forgetting to hold onto the masthead of human connection and drowning in the immensity of absolute searching, it would probably seem sensible for Melville to advocate the avoidance of epistemological searching altogether, but Melville does not advise rejecting epistemological searching and, in fact, condemns characters in his works that immerse themselves in the physical without conside ring larger concerns about truth. An avoidance of deeper epistemological searching is also addressed by William James who explains that the refusal to pursue truth in order to avoid believing a destructive truth is a cowardly response which does not embrac e who says, dupe. He may be critical of many of his desires and fears, but this fear he slavishly obeys proposes through this quote that it is better the face of obsessive absolutism and deception, than it is to quit the search for truth before it has even started. One of the clearest examples that Melville, like James, condemns an existence that shie s away from the deeper questions of truth is in his depiction of Flask, the third mate on the Pequod after Starbuck and Stubb. Unlike Starbuck who is defined by his Christianity and Stubb who is viewed through his determination to remain optimistic, Stu bb is defined in more limited terms, he is not motivated by a deeper worldview but is instead introduced to the reader as a man who is

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Butler Probst 25 fueled by a simplistic hatred of whales and has lost sight of the spiritual significance of these somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had personally and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of honour with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost was he to all sense of reverence for the many ma rvels of thei he follow ( Moby Dick negative feelings toward Flask as well as the similarly negative wa y that the reader is supposed to respond to him. Flask is not given a deeper philosophical worldview or basis for his life in this passage, he is simply given a motivation for hunting whales based on a preexisting and potentially multigenerational grudge. animals that he can hunt for sport rather than as creatures with deep metaphoric meaning as Ahab might see in them is designed to clash with the reverence that readers have been conditioned to feel up t ninth chapter of Moby Dick (8; 48). By presenting a somewhat spiritual and significant perspective on whales then offering a portrait of Flask that focuses on his grudge and gleeful level that is generally unconcerned with deeper phil osophical or spiritual meaning. reward for sighting Moby Dick. As Ahab o his round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn

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Butler Probst 26 but mir rors back his own mysterious self interpretation is embedded in his religious values and fears, causing him to id entify the features produces a meaning that reflects his worldview and notes that the coin can reveal deeper spiritual There's a sermon now, writ i n high hea deeper significance to the doubloon as a source of epistemological exploration and provides an interpretation that expresses his own personality and values as a symbolic application of this deeper me aning. In contrast to the epistemological probing of Stubb and Starbuck who recognize I see nothing here, but a round th ing made of gold, and whoever raises a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what's all this staring been about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that's true simply as a coin, void of symbolic meaning, but he also fails to understand why the other crewmembers have found a deeper meaning in the doubloon at all, an interpretation that reveals his deep integration in a physical non sees the doubloon only as a literal, material thing, demonstrating his lack of imagination and low, materialistic nature Self othering deeper epistemological truths transforms him to a tool that Ahab can manipulate to hi s purposes. In spite of the risk of madness presented to characters such as Ahab, s focus is not directed to characters who avoid epistemological pursuit in favor of the painless safety of familiar forms of thought characters such as Flask but r ather those who risk the potential dangers of pursuing truth in order to discover more about themselves and the world that they

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Butler Probst 27 inhabit, pursuing the path that Ahab and Ishmael choose to follow This pursuit of epistemological truth is treacherous, but Mel ville considers the pursuit of truth to be intrinsically valuable, regardless of whether the search results in discovering absolute answers in the end. Melville seems to have personally been drawn to the appeal of deeper truths as indicated by his depicti on of both Ahab and Ishmael as characters who pursue truth. However investigation of knowledge in his works also seems to suggest that the act of pursuing truth can prove to be hazardous to the individual if it is not balanced by communal conce rns and personal grounding, a sentiment which is also present in a pragmatic pursuit of truth. As Lauren Becker explains, community is essential to the pursuit of truth, even if some truths are out of reach: ssible to reach a greater understanding of truth. We must reach outside of our subjectivities and attempt to penetrate others in order to make a step towards universal truths, while at the same time acknowledging that there is no such thing as an attainabl of pragmatism to embrace other subjectivities in order to follow deeper truths, Becker is describing an impulse to embrace the communal instead of the isolation that comes wit h absolutism. As Ishmael ponders the circumnavigational pursuit of truth and the potential for the discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King he also observes that any voyage around the world ultimate ly leads the quester back W]hereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind 6). As Ishmael is engaged in his search for truth, his cyclical path is also directed to community as a potential destination, a place where he can find

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Butler Probst 28 elusi ve figure of absolute truth embodied in Moby Dick. One of the methods that Melville proposes in order to maintain the balance and safety of the epistemological quester is a strong promotion of interpersonal connection alongside the quest for abstract trut chapter when he describes the way that Ishmael and Queequeg are joined together by a chord ipping connects Queequeg to Ishmael, who remains on board the ship during the harvesting process, serves to prevent Queequeg from plunging into the sea and drowning. As Melville indicates in a footnote to this chapter, monkey ropes were not generally used for joining two crewmembers together on other whaling vessels, but this practice was enforced on the Pequod because it caused the attached crewmate to be more attent ive to the safety of the harpooner who was harvesting the harpooner the s trongest possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey rope 5 onnection of two may seem to implicate on the monkey rope ultimately lead him to realize that he leads a communal existence with his

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Butler Probst 29 own life being sustained and preserved by a plethora of cords connecting him to humanity in a breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a pluralit y of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you 56). Ishmael realizes that his well being does not rest in his determination or actions alone but instead is dependent on the o ther members of his community for continued preservation. By presenting this lesson on the interdependent nature of society, Melville displays the importance of community in maintaining the well being of the individual, a communal act that extends to the a rea of mental health and allows the individual to balance solitary contemplation and communal embrace. While Ahab hurtles both himself and his crew into disaster, Ishmael is spared by the monkey ropes of interpersonal and multicultural relationships that s uspend him, preventing him from plunging too deeply into abstract epistem to live a healthy life without becoming lost in the desire for definite truths. Although Ishma absolutist drive, causes him to isolate himself and dive into a deadly contemplative searc h for an absolute truth cause him to destroy both himself and the vast majority of his crew which would certainly ascribe him some villainous attributes. At th e whale also frames him as a heroic figure, his soliloqu ies and his profound presence in the novel reinforce this heroic essence. As Ishmael muses on Ahab, he reflects a lingering admirat ion for the regal figure of Ahab, an admiration that presumably

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Butler Probst 30 But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket grimness and shagginess Oh, Ahab! what sha ll be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied air! depths, reflects a more Ishmael writes this description even after he knows that Ahab will cause the death of his own crew, a knowledge that comes from the fac t that Ishmael is writing his narrative in hindsight. Melville values qualities in Ahab that make him seem to desire absolute tru th in an unpragmatic way, but that he also believes it is foolish to 43). The simultaneous appeal of solation that grasping for the definite can cause is also expressed by Craig Svonkin who observes that this aspect of himself that Melville wishes to purge as destructively monomaniacal is also an aspect of himself that seems R Self othering 42). Because Ahab is both an admirable and a reprehensible figure, the process of transforming Ishmael into a communal searcher for truth as opposed to an obsessive grasper for absolute truth becomes a fraught, dialectical battle between Ahab and Ishmael within the pages of Moby Dick Emory Ishmael, who

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Butler Probst 31 community is ultimately resolved by having Ishmael emerge as the sole survivor of the P equod, this solution only presents itself after a novel length struggle between the two viewpoints communal chase after truth which preserves his life. Melvil truth reflects his interest in pragmatist philosophical values before the onset of pragmatist itself. These values include the pursuit of knowledge, and even the hope for dee per truths but the rejection of absolutist pursuits such as those pursued by Ahab. Melville continues his depiction of the positive nature of pragmatism by rejecting the non exploratory nature of Flask, a nature which reflects a fear of or apathy toward ep istemological searching. However, in spite of he is still a liminal figure, drawn to both pragmatism and absolutism, just as Ahab is simultaneously appealing and appalling. As Melville wrestles between the appeal of pragmatism madness which also represents many of the consequences of absolutist thought. Allowing him to eventually sacrifice Ahab and seek an Ishmaelic outlook on life.

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Butler Probst 32 Chapter 2. Rational Madness: The Madness of Ahab in Moby Dick can be seen quite vividly in an an notation that he inscribed on the backleaf of his last volume of Ego non baptizo te in nominee Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti sed in nomine Diaboli. 6 Madness is undefinable It & right reasons [sic] extremes of one. 7 Not the (black art) Goetic but Theurgic magic 8 seeks converse with the Intelligence, Power, the Angel (Olsen 52) The sign ificance that Melville ascribes both to th is annotation and to the relationship between madness and reason Ego non baptiso te in nomine but make out the (Letters 133). Within the text of Moby Dick itself, this annotation also appears in the form of an incantation uttered by Ahab when he is fashioning his harpoon to kill Moby Dick and 6 I do not baptize thee in the name of the Fa ther and of the Son and of 7 219). 8 Theurgic and goetic magic were traditionally seen as the difference between evil, dark magic (Goetic), and good, between t 233). Palgrave destabilizes these terms by explaining how the line between legitimate reverence for the saints and idolatrous saint worship was extreme both Christ like and satanic.

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Butler Probst 33 than God (372). 9 While the phrase at first glance seems to cast Ahab as an entirely satanic figure, I believe the phrase actually serves to meld two diverging pictures of Ahab : a satanic icon similar to ptism of this harpoon is cast in a darker light as the harpoon barbs are harpoon is commended to the devil instead of to God, as would generally be the case in a baptis mal ceremony. baptism of his harpoon seems to set up a direct binary between an unholy baptism and a holy baptism, Melville ultimately blurs this binary division because practices that he attempts to subvert, thus creating an expression that cannot be interpreted without these preexisting Christian fervor, his appropriation of b aptism and the accompanying Latin blessing causes this oppositional display to blur into the very religious values that it is attempting to displace. In madnes s and reason, two states of being that would generally be seen as oppositional, as two set as binary extremes that refuse to adhere to internal balance. inality between two extreme of the same thing both serve to destabilize the binary opposition between two conflicting poles. In this way, Melville is somewhat similar to d econstructive theorist Jacques Derrida. John Caputo explains that Derrida also endeavors to reject the limiting dualism presented by binary 9 The Latin invocation that Melville uses within Moby Dick differs slightly from quote written in his marginalia 213).

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Butler Probst 34 structures by complicating or undermining a dualistic opposition: essentialist, neither is h e a conventionalist, for conventionalism is just an alternate way of a new bent or twist, on twisting free of the containing effects of both essentialism and 104). Like Melville who depicts Ahab as both satanic and angelic and acknowledges the underlying sameness of madness and reason, Derrida, and Deconstruction in general, endeavors to a vert the poles of both essentialism and conventionalism in order to limiting options. also Intelligence, the Power, the depiction of Ahab as simultaneously Christ and anti conflictedness about the extreme pursuit of truth found in both madness and excessive mpt him to reject pursuit of absolute truth. As a result, Ahab, and the obsessive absolutism that he personifies remains linked to divine imagery in spite of Mel pursuit. In order to find a solution for his mixed desire for and aversion to grasping for epistemological certainty, Melville creates Ishmael, a character who actively engages in a search for knowledge without requiring a solitary objective answer to the questions that he is posing. While it is possible that Melville remains interested in absolutist thinking even after the demise

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Butler Probst 35 of Ahab at the end of Moby Dick Ishmael remains the sole survivor of the P equod in order to remind Melville of the dangers present in absolutist ideals. undermining of what may seem to be a clear dichotomy between excessive rationality and madness, but his complex concerns about excessive rati onality as an extreme manifestation of enlightenment scientific knowledge can be seen even more vividly in the original source that The Quarterly Review in 1823 but which Melville mos 217; 222). In this essay, Palgrave charts the history of witch trials in order to expose a judicial proceeding that was conducted in supposedly rational ways but ultimately motivated by an irrational, superstitiou superstition and an obsessive belief in scientific progress (179). When Palgrave brings up modern advances in science in order to chart the development of positivism, he blurs the line between science and superstition by suggesting that scientific belief is itself a form of n], has ended in bringing new perplexities on mankind. The confidence which it has imparted to the pride of human intellect has cheated us into another species of credulity no less mischievous and wer form of superstition calls into question the binary division between empiricism and belief, undermining the supposedly mutually exclusive nature of these two terms by affirming their internal similarities. Sanborn

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Butler Probst 36 Melville appears to have selected these p assages because he saw that they could be used as examples of continuities within inversions, reinforcing or perhaps inspiring his treatment in Moby Dick of the radical identity shared by seemingly mutually exclusive modes of being and behavior exploring. Additionall y, the fact that Melville used Moby Dick suggests that Melville was fascinated by the critique of enlightenment rationalism presented by Palgrave and that he may have chosen to weave a simila r critique into his masterpiece. Ego non baptizo speculation about precisely what Melville was attempting to explore by referencing both ile some scholars particularly Geoffrey s of Moby Dick to argue that Melv ille is critiquing Christianity ; Alisa von Brentano and Lawrence Ah anti spiritual insights that are directly opposed to standard Christian belief. Alisa von Brentano

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Butler Probst 37 an belief, as expressed by Starbuck, is the real madness; in inver evil instead of the virtue that white commonly symbolizes. Once Melville has accomplished this inversion, he can easily invert other common binaries within his text, all owing him to transform Starbuck into a character who has become irrational due to his religious beliefs and Ahab into a rationally sane figure because he rejects these same Christian values. Brentano notes the rational related to the fact that he defies Christian values that were widely accepted in the nineteenth awareness of his o wn madness serves to reveal his underlying sanity because, Brentano argues, a truly delusions (153). While Brentano provides substantial support for the rational madness, she uses this support to suggest that Ahab is ult imately a sane man who has been is a positive trait that has been misunderstood by soci ety, her argument does not fully take into depth shortly. Lawrence Thompson pursues a similar argument to Brentano in his book discuss ing the idea that Ahab is a character who has deliberately

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Butler Probst 38 leg to Moby Dick and decides to defy the God who caused this suffering (139). By rejecting God, Thompson argues that Ahab exhibits freethinking and challenges existing norms of religion Christian values in the nineteenth dominant Christian ideology of the time. While both of God as a positive trait that is considered insane to the general populace rather than a genuine case of insanity, their arguments depend on a binary reversal wherein Ahab is transform ed from a negative madman to a positive revolutionary. Because Melville was working with a complex view of binary oppositions as indicated by his depiction of Ahab and his influence from from negative to positive is insufficient as it perpetuates a positive/negative Ahab binary rather than blurring it as Melville seems to have done. Jacque Derrida, a deconstructive scholar who challenged the dominance of speech over text explains in an int erview that his work is not designed to reverse the dynamic by placing the privilege on writing or graphocentrism over the preexisting privilege on speech known as logocentrism because this reversal would still be a case of one extreme dominating the other 13). What Derrida seems to be expressing in this quote is that a reversal of the dominant power, as Brentano and Thompson do by defining Ahab as a positive figure rather than a negative

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Butler Probst 39 figure, still creates a situation with a do minant and subordinate figure in a dichotomy ; the only difference is that it changes which figure is dominant and which is subordinate. This flip in the perception of Ahab does not take into account the complexity that Melville wove into the character of A hab or the possibility that that Melville had more complex views about religion than both authors may have considered in their arguments, views that blurred or fluctuated construction. as a state of contentious internal liminality between the poles of belief and unbelief: [Melville], I think will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists and has persisted ever since I knew him, in wandering to an d fro over these courageous not to try to do one or the other. (qtd. in Leyda 529) ion reveals skepticism and faith while also suggesting that there was a part of Melville that longed to embrace a solitary form of truth, a ce of one of these two extremes. Craig faith in a univocal, fixed, Self othering 38). Melville experienced an inner conflict between embracing one or another extreme of a binary as a form of security and,

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Butler Probst 40 alternatively, pursuing a third, epistemologically insecure option that actively merges and transce nds two limiting binary poles. Because Melville adhered to a more conflicted and complex form of belief that fluctuated between a desire for certainty and a willingness to f Ahab would be and reprehensible rather than definiti vely placing Ahab as a positive or negative figure. way which simultan eously frames him as a Christ figure and a satanic figure. Ahab seems directly opposed to religious values and atheistic at some points, but he maintains a religious degree of fanaticism amidst his anti religious expressions. Ahab is both a Christ figure a nd an go non baptiso along with the way that it necessitates a Christian knowledge o f the baptism ceremony. In a similar manner, Melville blurs the distinction between the holy and the occult by depicting a mock communion ceremony of sorts when Ahab recruits his crew to chase after Moby Dick. Once Ahab has ensured that his crew will devot e themselves to destroying Moby Dick, he tells the harpooners to seal their oath of service to him by drinking from their goblets as a means of confirming their devotion to Ahab in the same way that communion confirms a commitment to Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted; and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were simultan

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Butler Probst 41 communion ceremony sets him up as a Christ figure who connects with a group of followers before sacrificing himself to defeat what he believes to be the embodiment of evil in the world. At the same time, Ahab causing the deaths of most of his crew and his communion associations. The presence of both Christ scene on the quarterdeck turns Ahab into a morally ambiguous character who cannot simply be tique takes readers in a progressive direction other binary s tructures within Moby Dick By presenting Ahab as a character with both devilish and Christ may not consider Ahab to be either a fully admirable or a fully villainous per son, in the same way that his religious views do not commit to either extremes of belief or unbelief. In addition to the possibility that Melville was exploring a more complex religious entano and Thompson, it religious attributes that were already present in insanity and delusion. Norman Dain explains in Concepts of Insanity in the United Stat es, 1789 1865 his book on the eighteenth and nineteenth century conception s of madness, that it was quite common for madmen to manifest religious delusions and religiously inspired expression s as a significant attribute of their insanity. Because most Am ericans were heavily exposed to religious concepts during the nineteenth century

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Butler Probst 42 through the church and local community, it was common for insane individuals to express their insanity using the same religious motifs and expressions that they had grown up w most people, even the non religious, received some religious training, they often exhibited Melville may not necessarily have been specifically addr essing Christianity through his literary Christianity, the n it is certainly possible that he could be addressing other concerns, such as extreme scientific absolutism through the character of Ahab. rationality can be seen in the fac t that intellectualism and genius were often considered potential causes of madness in the nineteenth century in contrast to religious expressions that, as Norman Dain points out, colored almost every experience of madness regardless of the initial cause (94). However, it is important to note that perceived causes of insanity were highly gendered. Lynn Gamwell and Nancy Tomes explain that women in the nineteenth century were often thought to have al stressors, causes which contrast ed with perceived male causes of insanity including, likely to encounter in their busy, capital is t society (105). John Barlow, a British author writing in 1843, reinforces the idea that a n individual who sets his mind on one solitary idea will strain his o n one, object, weary the part of the brain so employed, and we usually then seek relief by

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Butler Probst 43 Smith discusses the nineteenth century belief in a link between madn ess and intellectual pursuit s, explaining that one of the defining attributes of monomania, the specific variant of madness that Ahab is said to have, is that the individual cannot stop pondering one solitary idea (38) While Melville asserts several times in Moby Dick that Ahab is sufferi ng from monomania interest in obsessive interpretation as a result of his monomania can best be suddenly be comes interested in exploring the inherent significance of the doubloon itself, an doubloon, he seemed to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions sta mped on it, as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself Moby Dick 331). between monomania and the study of significance. Although Melville notes that the whole world is imbued with significance an obsessive dedication to grasping one signif icance in particular, as the prefix other potential meanings. After Ahab interprets the doubloon, he quickly departs, preventing him self from hearing the interpretations of the doubloon provided by the other crewmembers. Various nineteenth century sources which linked excessive contemplation to madness would have been useful to Melville in his depiction of the dangers of scientific absolutism. In addition to the link between madness and excessive contemplation, Melville was specifically introduced to forms of madness that would allow the individual to behave rationally in most areas that were not connected to their own particular o bsession but selectively irrational

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Butler Probst 44 when any issue or conflict arose that was associated with this obsession At the time that Melville was preparing to write Moby Dick in 1849, he was also most likely reading from The Penny Cyclopaedia a series of encycl opedias published in England between 1833 and 1843 (Marovitz 105). 10 In The Penny Cyclopedia monomania as a relatively rational variant of madness. While the mind of the individual is Melville could certainly have been capable of creating Ahab, a character who is able to make rational choices, even when he is under the influence of his madness. continued rationality in spite of his madness is manifested in his ability to create a persuasive guise of sanity that convinces the ship owners to give him command of a v essel even after his performance is a Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are sane, m y motive and my object mad. Yet without power to kill, or change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to mankind he did long dis Moby Dick 157). evidenced in his performance of sanit y for the ship owners and his continued pretense of sanity for his crew both reflect the ability to maintain rational thinking in spite of his madness. As a ratio nal insanity of enlightenment science which also necessitates clear, objective thinking and a display of professionalism. 10 Sanford Marovitz argues for the strong likelihood that Melville read The Penny Cyclopedia by explaining that Melville ate dinner with the editor of these encyclopedias, Charles K night, in December 1849 and indicated his during their dinner conversation (105).

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Butler Probst 45 In addition to his likely dictionary knowledge of nineteenth century concepts of rational madness, Melville may also have been influe nced in his creation of Ahab by his newly developed friendship with Dr. George Adler, a man who displayed similar attributes of rational madness. During his voyage to Europe in 1849, Herman Melville was introduced to Dr. George Adler, a brilliant man who s pecialized in language and literature but who also suffered from his writing of the Dictionary of the German and English Languages in 1848 but his work on this producing the dictionary so impaired his health that he suffered intermittently from mental ge to Europe during which Adler hoped to recuperate from his stressful experiences of working on the dictionary. In his compromised mental state due to working on the lexicon, (German and English); in compiling which, he almost ruined his health. He was almost crazy, he tells me, for a time. He is full of the German metaphysics, & discourses of Kant, Swedenborg &c. He has b with Adler during the voyage also developed into a friendship with Melville listing several instances discussing metaphysics with Adler until late in the night, a pattern which indicates a friendly intellectual companionship between Melville and Adler (Ley da 319; 325; 343). Sanford assessment of Adler primarily focuses on his fondness for their intellectually stimulating

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Butler Probst 46 mental instability and paranoia (108). At the same time, Melville was most likely quite aware indications of 108). Melville arguably borrowed from his experience with Adler so as to create rationally mad characters such as Ahab, characters Melville used to explore larger societal i ssues such as the excessive detachment caused by obsessive an absolutist pursuit of knowledge remains mostly rational even in matters connected to his obsession with Mob y Dick. One Although the entire crew has sworn to help him slaughter the white whale, Ahab knows that the crew, and Starbuck in particular, may mutiny if the y pursue Moby Dick alone without also pursuing their original task of hunting whales in general. In order to maintain continued order on his ship and preserve his crew for a future encounter with Moby Dick, Ahab chooses to hunt other whales along the way: developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still to a good degree continue to be true to the Ric is the embodiment of rational madness (75). By weighing the att itudes of his crew, Ahab is able to deduce that the most efficient way to achieve his desired vengeance is to allow his crew to continue pursuing their original mission. In this way, Ahab manifests a form of rationality that even imbues his obsession itsel f.

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Butler Probst 47 point quite clear within the text of Moby Dick itself when Ishma flowing of on ) The idea that Ahab can potentially be placed in the category of his consistent rationality and intellect, even in the midst of madness. As P aul McCarthy notes, Ahab is able to reason correctly on all points, including own madness: (70). This ability to reason correctly, even on matters relate d to his obsession suggests that Ahab has a rare form of monomania that has little or no impact on his reasoning process (McCarthy 16). During his final assault on the whale, Ahab reflects on his extremely cold, calm thinking process, a process which indic Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I've sometimes thought my brain was very calm frozen calm, this o ld skull cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and (419). mental calmness, especially as he prepares for his final battle with Moby Dick is telling because it reveals a mind that, more often tha n not, is controlled by rational thinking processes rather than

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Butler Probst 48 never seems out of control in his obsessive mad/rational quest. He doesn't seem con ventionally mad to the other char But Melville continues in his complex treatment of binary structures conflicted divine/satanic essence by positioning the folly in the Melville points exposed to the unspeakable depths of contemplative wisdom: arried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser merma n, Wisdom, revealed his ho He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So m an's Moby Dick 321). his while Pip drowns in the immensity of wisdom and expresses truths that are indecipherable to those around him. For example, after observing several of the other crewm embers in their I look, you look, he look Moby Dick provide some insight into the role of ideology by analyzing the way that the doubloon produces exercise and even Moby Dick 335). In contrast to Pip, adness is of a rational variety which allows him to represent an absolute truth rather than simply personifying an irrat ional prophet who

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Butler Probst 49 already has access to a unique form of knowledge that is easily be dismissed by society By setting Ahab as a portrait of rational madness, Melville is able to position himself so that he can discuss absolutis t obsession and the destructi ve attributes of enlightenment science as a whole. concern with these extremes as destructive to humanity regardless of their prominent position within society du e to scientific advancement and the Industrial Revolution In his analysis of madness and other themes in Moby Dick Thomas Cooley points out that during the nineteenth century in the United States, there seemed to be an underlying, subconscious fear and d isgust of If masculine intellectualism is taken to the extreme Cooley observes that it would be devastatingly void of other needed attribute s (85). Starbuck asserts the extreme, hyper masculin reflects on the way that Ahab has dominated him and forced his compliance. control in predominantly masculine terms that have Moby Dick fa ct that Ahab has stripped him of his rationality, all indicate that Ahab has used his strongly masculine persona to rob Starbuck of the stereotypically masculine trait of rationality, leaving Starbuck with the more feminine trait of emotionality. As Melvil satanic/Christ like depiction of Ahab both suggest, Melville was wary of the danger posed by extremes, even though he was also drawn to the pursuit of absolute truth. Melville resists the urge to pursue an absolutist extre me by pr omoting ambiguity, blurred binaries, and the opposite u nlike things must meet and

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Butler Probst 50 nineteenth century American account s of madness which Moby Dick ted himself completely to one extreme of excess, rationalistic hyper masculine commitment to acquiring truth a commitment that ultimately results in his death. of surface appearances to such an extreme e xtent that he stakes his whole life on successfully piercing through the external surface of reality, exclaiming among his last words: [F]rom hell's heart I stab at thee, a continued expression of his obsession with piercing through the truths that have been hidden from him ( Moby Dick 140; 426) concern with other one sided extremes that are supported by absolutism such as suppression of community and the dehumanizing im pact of detachedly manipulating individuals to achieve self serving desires. While other critics have suggested that Melville is criticizing forms of Christianity as an insufficient approach to pursuing epistemological truth, Melville does not seem to be c ritiquing a Christian epistemological system in particular, but rather an approach to epistemology that is itself intellectually extreme. Melville was familiar with individuals who maintained their reason amid their madness and his ultimate concern with th is madness seems to emanate from the idea that an insane individual could potentially maintain his rationality while being utterly void of moral sense and interpersonal concern. Ahab is strategic in allowing his crew to pursue other whales, but this allowa nce does not stem from concern for his crew on an individual level, instead it suggests that Ahab views his crew in a highly detached manner as chess pieces that he can manipulate to achieve his desires

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Butler Probst 51 as well a s in the fact that he waits until the ship is far from shore to reveal his true As Melville develops the madness of Ahab and other characters in his works, he capt ures a monstrous mind that is intellectually curious but morally blind, a nightmarish extreme that can only serve to cause more unfortunate consequences in the future.

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Butler Probst 52 Chapter 3. Oppressed Bodies: Scientific Isolation Dissection, and the Suppres sion of Community in Moby Dick belief that truth can be objectively and decisively grasped in the natural world. One example of Moby Dick. Melville presents the example of s ome characters who begin their interpretive efforts by affir ming that they are offering up potential reading s of the coin rather than a definitive meaning of the coin as a whole, a distinction manifested in statement that he has never truly read the coin before and desire s to try read ing it once Ahab goes I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here Moby Dick 333). In contrast to crewmembers who affirm that they of the doubloon out of many, Ahab immediately launches into an interpretation t The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab Moby Dick 332). Rather than seeing his interpretation as one p objective truth (332). Moby Dick suggests, an exc essive belief in truth or scien tific objectivism is unhealthy and ultimately unreliable because man cannot fully master Nature is often accompanied by surprises that will shatter or outdo even the most thorough scientific projects as Melville notes when describing scientific innovation

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Butler Probst 53 may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augme nt; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, unpredictable and unmanageable at times, even the best attempts at harne ssing this power can fail, just as the best attempts at getting to definitive truth also fall short. Richard Dean Smith observes Moby Dick expresses a belief that n of man, born of his attempts to penetrate beneath the suggest that Melville thought science as a whole was wrong but rather that an obsessive ly detached purs potentially result in disaster. assertions about the dangers of excessive faith in science especially when people are immersed in an unpredictable world may have, in part been inspired by insights from and, as I argued in the previous chapter, part of the inspiration behind Palgrave reflects on the ultimate similarity between superstition and an inordinate belief in rationality because scientific rationalism has caused individuals to place an un Palgrave notes in his charting of intellectual history that it is possible for reason to be pursued excessively, highly cultivated; but men Palgrave was concerned that a s people continued in their excessive faith in scientific progress, they would began to emulate the

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Butler Probst 54 scientists of the Middle Ages who look ed for med ical and scientific miracles, believing them to be acquirable: tenacity of every science. The Chemist would make gold; the Astronomer search out the astral characters of the book of By attempting to reach goals such as immortality and alchemy, people exhibited an illusory faith that science c ould mysteries, a faith that is be just as prob lematic in the nineteenth century as it was in the Middle Ages as a response to an era that was excessively dedicated to clinical, mechanizing tendencies and industrialization in a manner that detached individuals from one another. Milton Stern notes in his study : century etaphor of a watchmaker, of a society that is cold, mechanical, and regimented is also used by Melville himself when he remarks in a letter to Hawthorne on the reason why some people may feel d at bottom dislike Him, is Letters 129, e would cause people to dislike even Go d himself suggests that Melville saw excessive intellect or scientific, absolutist aspirations as an alienat ing source, severing communal bonds. assess ment of intellect that a detached, excessively absolutist commodifying dissection of these very secrets:

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Butler Probst 55 Sweet is the lore which Nature br ings; Our meddling intellect Mis shapes the beauteous forms of things: We murder to dissect. ( 28 31 ) 11 some of the natural beauty t hat already exists in the worl d. T hat objectivism can overshadow the milder, but equally significant beauties of life. Jamie Lorentzen makes a similar observation, noting that scientific objectivis m victimized subjectivity during the nineteenth equally loud forces of obje ctivity, empirical demonstration, speculation, probability, systemization, cataloguing, compartmentalizing and mass production that shot out of the canon of the Enlightenment to embolden the 19 th inwardnes t zen argues that while the nineteenth century made significant efforts to suppress subjectivity and interiority, Melville made equally deter mined efforts to heal and regain the subjec ti vism that the Industrial Age had severely maimed (98). The possibility that Melville is responding to an age of objectivism, commodification, and an excessive faith in scientific/industrialist progress can be seen in his depiction of Ahab, a charac t er who comes to resemble a mad scientist figure, of sorts, because he is devoted to acquiring definitive truths and achieving his own ends, even at the expense of the people around him. hole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique buried beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes! 11 It is quite possible that Melville read this particular poem he owned and annotated a copy of The Comp lete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth and most likely had access to this book as early as 1853 ( Marginalia Online )

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Butler Probst 56 ( Moby Dick mound of bodies illustrates the way he has dom inated his crew, ignoring their personal interests and desires in order to utilize them as tools to accomplish his own goals of deeper knowledge. As experimenter, sacr ilegiously meddling with the souls of his victims and thereby forfeiting his 253). Glen Scott Allen makes a similar observation about mad scientists in his study of mad scientists such as Ethan Brand, arguing that mad scient ists engage in detached intellectual searching which turns mankind into the subject of their experiments instead of allowing their scientific discoveries to benefit mankind (25). 12 Based on this assessment of isolated searching and interpersonal exploitatio n, Allen argues that Ahab represents the quintessential mad scientist figure and further argues that Moby Dick is consistent with a pervading American theme of dichotomy between the communal, domestic setting and obsessive pursuit of scientific knowledge : irreconcilable dichotomy between the natural, communal, productive, and tranquil commitment to domestic stability and the unnatural, selfish, counter productive, and overzealous obsession of scientific passion is perhaps best set forth in Moby Dick answers and certainty reflects the impulse of scientific obsession, even if this cer tainty comes at a cost to him and his crew. le is his inability to understand the true motives or meaning behind the whale and as he declares to his 12 (Leyda 380 interpersonal compassion (Leyda 411). Hawthorne held a profound influence on Melville, particularly during the dr afting of Moby Moby Dick this shared text.

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Butler Probst 57 Dick] tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly w hat I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, Moby Dick frustration with the whale comes from its indecipherable nature which destabilizes any claim to certainty. Because Ahab desi res certainty at any cost, he is willing to undertake any sacrifice in order understand the meaning of Moby Dick and of his suffering. In some cases, holding onto certainty and security in an uncertain world brings on more suffering. For example, as the ca rpenter cause a pinching sensation and potentially broken bones if tightened too much Ahab responds to this warning by stating that he prefers the security that this tight ness brings, even if the stability bought by this tightened limb or in a more metaphoric sense, the definitive answers that he seeks come with some pain: Oh, sir, it will break bones beware, beware! / No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something i n this sl 13 desire to feel securely attached to his prosthetic leg reflects a desire to feel securely attached ev en pos it inconclusive results. In addition to possibility that Ahab represents an excessively rational mad scientist figure, Richard Dean Smith presents a convincing argument that Ahab himself was based on Charles Wilkes, a captain who was an expert in Astrono my and who nearly killed his cr ew in his efforts to complete a scientific exploratory mission. As Smith notes, Melville referenced Charles Wilkes narrative in one of his other novels, Mardi and in Moby Dick which indicates that M elville was familiar with Wilkes and his obsessive mission (91). Charles 13 discourse with the carpenter by distinguishing speakers through line breaks without traditional quotation makers. The quotation leading up to the line break represents the

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Butler Probst 58 Wilkes was a Navy Captain who was sent on a voyage to the Pacific and Antarctica in 1838 that was designed to increase scientific knowledge through research. While this expedition was a success, Wilkes was court martialed and charged with numerous infractions related to his unrestrained obsessive behavior, his arrogance and his mistreatment of his own crew ( Richard Dean martial and charges proved to be justifie d as Captain Wilkes became so obsessed with accomplishing his exploratory objective during the expedition that he endangered his crew on several occasions by exposing them to treacherous oceanic terrain: c tic gales, in consta nt danger of icebergs, with the crew half (92) The po ssibility that Wilkes wa exemplifies a fixation with acquiring new knowledge and an insensitivity to the needs of his crew. Ahab shows ou to return home, Ahab silently a verts his gaze and muses on the fact that his obsession is compelling kes, Ahab is unwilling to turn back even when his quest brings dange r to his crew. Enlightenment science, the scientific approach that Melville seems to have been criticizing by depicting Ahab as a mad scientist or a fictionalized Charles Wilkes was highly interested in objective truths and dedicated itself to avoiding subjective interference. As a result, this excessively objective model missed out on the experiential knowledge that William James and other pragmatists valued and i nstead focus ed primarily on what could be observed and measured objectively.

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Butler Probst 59 century were eager to purge their research of sense based observation, on the grounds that it interposed embodied experience of emotionality (Zemka 25). It is in the use of mechanic al imagery that Melville emphasizes the detached lack of emotionality employed by Ahab who comments on his one cogged circle fits into all their v arious 143). Addi tionally, Ahab uses this language of mechanization to indicate his unwavering resolve not to allow emotionality to disrupt his objecti ve Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, wh ereon my soul is Moby Dick 143). By describing himself as a mach ine, Ahab is distancing himself from his own human, embodied experience and attempting to cement his absolutist objective pursuit. One of the dangers of the impulse to see mankind as cogs in a machine that can be utilized in order to accomplish the purpo ses of the researcher is that this perspective can cause the individual to study and dissect people from other cultures rather than attempting t o adopt aspects of their culture. This attitude of dissection can be observed in Ahab when he comes into contact tattoos, he does not see these markings as a cultural identity that he c an embrace, but rather, as a mystery that he will never be able to decipher of the t attoos as an act the mysterious surface that lies before him ( Moby Dick 367). Upon analyzing

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Butler Probst 60 be able to discover the true meaning behind these markings (367). tattoos, Ahab sees a puzzling surface that has the potential to dissolve before he can interpret the true meaning of the engraved surface, an assessment which causes Ahab to fail to recognize Queequeg as a physical person that he could unite with in a loving multicultural embrace. or vivisection, bec ause it expresses an idea that Samuel Otter argues is also invoked by the plethora of ch apters on the whale, both suggesting ge, one that Ahab fears will be lost to him, Ahab places his desire to know definitively what these tattoos mean over any desire to know Queequeg as Ishmael does. causes hi m causes to resemble nineteenth century anatomists, and other scientists who studied cultural others in a detached an commodifying manner. In the case of anatomists, their desire to examine the body also cause d them to sever the bodies they were examining from any notion of subjectivity or human essence colonized, and drained of agency, made over into a active dehumanization required by di ssection and anatomical study is part of the excessive study of racially diverse Queequeg, the study of anatomy was also racialized with the white scientist obsessively studying the bodies of other races. Matthew Rebhorn explains that the nineteenth created a hierarchy of the dissecting mind identified with

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Butler Probst 61 t he white doctor over the inert body embodied literally in nineteenth century America in the corpses that were cut up, corpses that were overwhelmingly those of working class Irish, blacks, This racialized analysis of the other by a scien tific authority can also be seen in the work of Samuel Morton who analyzed several African American and Native American skulls, ultimately coming to the racist conclusion that differences in skull type were indicative of five different species of human bei ng that differed in their cranial capacity (Nelson 111). Just as tattoos rather than achieving multicultural understanding, the efforts of anatomists who studi ed the bodies of other races in order to gather knowledge of human physical diversity ultimately focused on how these racial identities differed from white cultural norms rather than an attempt to embrace a wider sense of empathy or understanding. In a ddition to the notion that study of other cultural bodies can le a d to exploitation and objectification instead of understanding, excessive study or contemplation i s also an isolating pursuit, distancing the individual from his community and the benefit he can gain from communal interaction. Glen Scott Allen notes that the mad scientist figure is often presented with a clear choice between the domestic/ community and his scientific obsession choos ing his [T]he mad scientist i s represented as someone whose soul is torn between his love for his wife and his intellect with the intellect the clear and undisputed By choosing the intellect over the communal, the scientist figure finds himself suffering from feelings of solitude. The isolating effects of excess contemplation are also explored in William Rounseville Alger The Solitudes of Nature and of Man a book that Melville owned and annotated but had not yet read when he was composing Moby Dick 14 Alger 14 The Solitudes of Nature and of Man have a direct influence on Moby Dick which was published in 1851, but it shares many insights that are useful in

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Butler Probst 62 observes in this book that almost every man who has expressed an interest in deep contemplation ha and of literary habit, has left on record some expression (71). observation that isolation is prominent among the contemplative is also seen in the isolation of Ahab which is highly emphasized in Moby Dick with Ahab even remarking during his final pursuit of Moby Dick lone among the millio Although this loneliness is likely painful to the individual, Alger only considers it problematic alone is a n evil when we use ou r solitude to cherish an odious idea of our race and a disgust for Ahab whose isolated obsession with Moby Dick causes him to turn against all a phenomenon displayed in to launch a search for his missing twelve year old son because it would cost valuable time that he could instead be using to search for Moby Dick ( 406; 398 ). misanthropy can also be seen in his own readin g and annotation. In his last volume of Secre t grief is a explores the inherent dangers of isolation and proposes that melancholia, a potential symptom of ass in solitude that may have been ongoin g (

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Butler Probst 63 excessive contemp lation, can be treated through encourages individuals who are suffering from the crippling mental anguish of melancholia to build up an effective community as a means of combatting their depression (24). Melville notation on self who encourages individuals to confide in one another and create an active support network The self cannibalization that Leigh Hunt describes in his essay is expressed by Ahab in Moby Dick, who self also (405). As Ahab tells Starbuck about his isolated life, he describes his own wife and son whom he has barely seen but who wait for him to return of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come ba 406). Rather than being a literal affirmat ion that he devours other human beings affirmation of cannibalism in such close proximity to his other quotations about isolation and detachment from human affections seems to i concerns about self makes it evident within Moby Dick that intense, obsessive thoughts can create a monster that devours the heart in the same manner described God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vultu (170). and interpersonal connections transforming his quest quite literally in to a self cannibalizing process

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Butler Probst 64 pursuits in and of themselves but rather of an obsessive pursuit of knowledge that overshadows and devours the natural affections. In a letter to Hawthorne, Melville even theorizes that a man of great intellect could possess an equally great heart to comp ensate for his obsessive inclinations: It is a frightful poetical creed that the cultivation of the brain eats out the heart. But it's my prose opinion that in most cases, in those men who have fine brains and work them well, the heart extends down to ham s Letters 129). The combination of affection and intelle ct was important to Melville which is reflected in his familiarity with 1 Corinthians chapter 13 which he marked in his copy of T he New Testament and Psalms ( New Testament and Psalms 293). 1 Corint hians 13, commonly individual has access to, this knowledge is all for naught if the individual does not also have love to accompany it: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, Cor. 13.1 2). Ahab fits into the category of a man whose possesses profound intellect but does possess the requisite love for his fellow man or even appreciation for the simple beauty of a Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset so othed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, inability to enjoy the simple beauties of the w orld is quickly followed by his boastful declaration Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, a nd they revolve focus on manipulating

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Butler Probst 65 other his belief that all he needs to e ndure and prevail is Ahab, that his self consuming narcissism that rejects humanity outright is enough and thus has e mphasis Lorentzen). Marina Van Zuylen reaches a similar conclusion in her exploration of monomania, noting that themselve profound d istaste for interdependence that offers Ahab the illusion of complete insight and self sufficien cy. When forced to depend on others Ahab must admit that he is not a fully self sufficient individual, something that he is reluctant to do and ultimately detests Susan McWilliams observes that as long been habituated to a norm or standard of solitude, being so obviously dependent on other people seems a humiliation When Ahab goes to the Carpenter to have his leg repaired, he solilo quizes his frustration with dependence on mankind: I am, proud as a Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this blockhead for bone to stand on! Cursed be that mortal inter indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be Moby Dick 376). Due to the loss of his leg, Ahab must freque ntly rely on the assistance of his crew and he curses these circumstances because he is forced to depend on people that he deems to be considerably less capable than himself. for community causes him to manipulatively dominate his men to his monomaniacal purpose rather than allowing himself to be benefitted by their differing perspectives (Watters 109). Ahab displays his yearning for a unified non diversified existence when he expresses his desire to o one

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Butler Probst 66 need to maintain a unitary, controlled existence t hat must suppress or reject attempts at mult iplicity or interdependence. As Jamie Lorentzen suggests, Ahab is ultimately doomed by his inability to depend on others or allow others to depend on him (246) Although Ahab is defined by his solitude and aversion to interdependence for the majority of Mob y Dick his brief relationship with Pip presents the opportunity for Ahab to be saved from his disastrous fate. P ip, an African American crewmember who los es his sanity after being left adrift at sea for several days becomes a surrogate son with Ahab even break ing his solitude by allowing Pip to share his cabin with him: centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my hear reciprocated by Pip who comments on the possibility that a loving personal connection with another human being would have preserved his sanity, an assessment is equally true of Ahab: Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man rope; something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the whi te, for I will not let this go oined to Queequeg by a monkey rope designed to save Queequeg from an untimely death as he was harvesting he monkey rope was fast at both ends; fast to Queequeg's broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. So that for better or for wo rse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poor Queeq it should drag me down in his wak

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Butler Probst 67 in the depths of his obsession and may also help to preserve Pip from perishing due to his own Pip expe riences a feeling of belongin g. Ahab, too, breaks his isolation and welcomes Pip into his privacy; thus, these two outcas ts form By joining together, Ahab and Pip enter into a mutually beneficial interpersonal and multicultural union, one that woul d likely have preserved both of them had it not been so short lived. by Ahab himself once he realizes that his relationship with Pip is actually curing him of hi s obsession As Lisa Ann Robertson observes, the experienc e of multicultural contact would enable Ahab to be free of his madness: Touch would be a redemptive exp erience, giving [Ahab] reprieve from the maddening quest and allowing him to regain his sanity In fact, it would be a mutually redemptive experience beca Yet Ahab denies them both this opportunity Although this multicultural, communal cure would be an incredible benefit to individuals who are crippled by their madn his obsession to dominate and solidify the world around him has turned his madness into a great source of security for him a security that he wishes to preserve so that he can definitively discover the meaning of Moby Dick, the ultimate source of epistemological insecurity in his life. To retain this security and his vengeful quest, Ahab rejects the cure presented by Pip and plunges ng for my malady. Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired 399 rejection of Pip in order to resume his former exclusive and secure oneness serves to finalize oby Dick

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Butler Probst 68 strongly suggests that isolation particularly when accompanied by an obsessive quest for absolutes is harmful, Melville also recognized isolation as necessary and beneficial to the creative process. This mixture of both positivity and peril within Ahab as a character who is evil, but also romanticized and heroic a figure that is both angelic and demonic. The potential for isolation to foster creativity can be seen in the autobiography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a book that Melville was reading in 1850 during the composition of Moby Dick Autobiography Goe could be produced only when its author isolated himself. My productions which had met with so e need for isolation in order to produce praiseworthy works was marked in Melville indicating that 38). The possibility that isolation can hold some creative benefit is displayed prominently in [I] n the solitude of his cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost every night the y were brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were effaced, and others were substituted. For with the charts of all four oceans before him, Ahab was threading a maze of currents and eddies, with a view to the more certain accomplishment of that monomaniac thought of his soul. (167) Dick, h is work on these charts does have an artistic function as he is necessarily creating a new

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Butler Probst 69 chart that can effectively curv e around potential obstacles. leads to creative potential, it is also highly embedded in h is preexisting obsession and serves to strengthen it. e with his tendency to spend many hours in isolation crafting his works causing many of his friends and family became concerned about the extent to which he pushed himself. father in law, wrote a letter to his son, Samuel in 1853,w riting that Melville often overworked probably thus overworks himself & madness at the time which thought that prolonged study would lead to madness, which explains why Sh s intellectual pondering and excessive writing were placing on him, remarking in 1853 t family members even attempting to orchestrate a separation between Melville and his wife in illustrate that Melville considered isolation to be a necessary source of creativity while other family members saw it as damaging to M members may have led Melville to be equally concerned about his own mental state, but his continued pursuit of writing throughout his life suggests that he empathizes with Ahab, seeing

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Butler Probst 70 some instances of isolation as a necessary tool for creative potential, an acceptable short term sacrifice in order to explore the intellectual themes that he considere d significant and meaningful. n absolutist mind obsessed with defi nitive answers reflects a critique of nineteenth century industrialism and the detached dissecting scientific fixation on discovering truth through examination. Ahab displays many of these obsessive traits including his treatment of Queequeg as a body that he can probe for answers rather than a human being that he should embrace. In his interactions with his crew as a whole, he sees them as tools to accomplishing his goals and is relatively unconcerned with their individual well being or interests privileg ing his own needs and generally avoiding contact with or dependence on his begins the process of restoring him because it is both an instance of interpersonal bonding a nd an experience of multicultural contact that extends beyond scalpels and other tools of dissection. engaged in a pursuit of definitive truth, an obsession tha tion of the Ahab character at the end of Moby Dick reveals that and presents more effective means to search for knowledge, a method that embraces other perspectives and searches happily for multiple answers.

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Butler Probst 71 Chapter 4. Raciocultu r al Redemption : Ishmael's Balance of Community and Solitu de through Multicultural Union The significance t hat Melville placed on community as a mediating force for absolutist searching can be seen in s friendships, particularly in his friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne which Melville considered to be both emotionally rich and intellectually stimulating In a letter written to Hawthorne after reading a review that Hawthorne wrote on Moby Dick Melville expressed the connection that he felt with Hawthorne as a fellow author and friend who genuinely under stood both him and what he had attempted to accomplish in writing Moby Dick : of unspeakable security is in me at this moment, on account of your having underst ood the book Letters 142). connection to Hawthorne is significant because it is b oth an emotional connection a nd an intellectual connection due to his belief that Hawthorne has recognized his major themes in the text of Moby Dick His intellectual bond with Hawthorne is also reflected in the deep philosophical conversations they shared some lasting for several hours. As Hawthorne writes: books, and publishers, and all possible and impossible matters, that lasted pretty deep into the qt d. in Leyda 419). as Hawthorne and also Adler, expresses the significance of community, particularly when exploring abstract truths, a combination which Melville expresses in the charac ter of Ishmael who combines his friendship with Queequeg with a contemplation of deep truth s

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Butler Probst 72 grasp absolute er and explore complex ideas and his similar depiction of Ishmael reveal that intellectual searching is still a valuable pursuit as long as it is conducted in a safe manner one that is tethered to other human beings in the same way the monkey rope joins I shmael and Queequeg ( Moby Dick 255) Lisa Ann Robertson notes that the att empt to decipher truth can be beneficial so long as it is balanced by human companionship and the awareness that many absolute incapable of knowing i f metaphysical reality exists objectively because it is empirically unverifiable. Still, trying to discover these truths makes for a grand adventure, as Melville so ac m ind mired in abstract searching can be obser Queequeg rescues Tashtago from drowning in a sinkin g whale head in which he has become trapped. As Tashtago is helping to harvest sperm from one of the whales, he falls into the water which is associated with Tashta go like the twin recip rocating bucket in a veritable well, dropped head foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight! the contemplative depths of the sea and his p contemplation/absolutism while the fact that he is drowning in these depths confirms the inherent risk of this pursuit. Samuel Otter remarks that when

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Butler Probst 73 As Tashtago plung es into this intellectual abyss, he has the poten tial to face the same isolated destruction as Ahab; however, Melville prevents Tashtago from facing a solitary demise [D] iving after the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there; then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and upwards, and so hauled out poor Tash by the he And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully accomplished (272) which hi ghlights both community and the need to be reborn from destructive habits. Within this dire circums tance, Samue l Otter explains a figurative completed by interpersonal co ntact which frees the Ta mind from isolated intellectual destruction It is also his role in saving Tashtago from death in contemplative depths represents a form of redemption that harkens back to Christian Salvation mindset and outlook on life. Jesus explains the concept of Salvation in the book of John by saying it, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7). experienc e of a second birth by being save d from drowning in contemplative depths allows Melville to set up a metaphorical salvation narrative through the redemptive efforts of Queequeg

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Butler Probst 74 salvation is displayed in more overt sense through in the early chapters of Moby Dick Just as Queequeg saves Tashtago from an untimely death in intellectual waters, he also saves Ishmael disastrous pursuit of definitive truths, allowing Ishmael to embrace multiple sources of knowledge. s a s mind from an Ahabic dependence on detached observation and excessive elevation of contemplation to a bala nced embrace of both intellect and community. When Ishmael arrives at the Spouter Inn, to rest for the night before setting out on his whaling voyage, he is informed that all the rooms are currently occupied and that he will need to share a bed with a harp initial reluctance to sharing a bed with Queequeg stems largely from the g as a harpooner from an unfamiliar cultural and racial background is a source of anxiety for Ishmael, an anxiety which he attempts to assuage by silently watching Queequeg undress and conduct his worship for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time, It was now quite plain that he must be some abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas, and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think of it. A peddler of heads too perhaps the heads of his own brothers. He might take a fancy to mine heavens! look at that tomahawk! ( 34 a llow ing him to appreciate a new culture that he c ould embrace O cultural practices from the safety of the bed Ishmael sees Queequeg as an enigmatic figure with

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Butler Probst 7 5 tattoos and other features that are mysterious to Ishmael and cause h I am no coward, but what to make of this head peddling purple rascal alt ogether passed my I was so afraid of him that I was not game enough just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer concerning wha When Ahab is expos dis And this thought it must have been which suggested to Ahab that wild exclamation of his, when one morning turning awa y from surveying poor Queequeg Oh, devilish tantaliz 366 367) However, unlike Ahab, who di es as a detached obsessive observer in pursuit of absolute truth, Ishmael is forced out of his observer status and into the role of a participant and companion. when Queequeg extinguishes the lights, jumps into the bed, and initiates physical contact with began feeling 35). hmael shatters the illusion that Ishmael can arrive at knowledge through observation and forces him into the role of distance at which to experience the spell of looking disappears; he quickly transforms from an aud sleep ritual sudden transition from observer to participant shatters his dependence on detached observation and causes him to embrace loving physical contact as a source of

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Butler Probst 76 knowledge because sole dependence on sight is an inadequate empirical method Lisa Ann Robertson explains that the detached visual senses are simply unable to arrive at interpersonal Just as his early visual impressions of Quee are revealed to be incorrect, so his sense of sight fails to provide him with accurate information about his new relationship with Queequeg ( 13). have been making about, thought I to myself 36). Contact with Queequeg transforms Ishmael, disrupting his confidence in the detached intellectual gaze and allowing him to recognize the need for interpersonal contact in order to discover multicultural truths. Madness in Herman Melville's Fiction influence of Queequeg (348). While Ishmael discovers the shortcomings of detached ob servation through his contact Ishmael does not achieve a complete and genuine acceptance of Que A Bosom Friend influence, his perspective changes from seei ng Queequeg as a n intriguing enigma to viewing him acceptance of Queequeg is sorts, accompanied I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting i n me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed (56). contractual q uasi marriage to Queequeg gives him a form of redemption, e ndowing Ishmael

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Butler Probst 77 v icariously with a degree of cultural plurality. Ishmael then equate s his newfound plurality to a religious revival that has saved him from damnation, in this case the interpersonal and multicultural relief from an obsessive need for certainty The possibi lity that Queequeg is personally saving Ishmael from obsession and insanity and possibly the reason why Queequeg is a diverse Pacific Islander rather than a more homogeneous American identity is also present in literature on insanity from the nineteenth ce ntury which considered individuals from non lose their sanity. As Norman Dain notes, researchers in the nineteenth century observed fewer cases of insanity among Native Americans and African Americans and t hus assumed that and Nancy Tomes add that the belief that other cultural identities were not susceptible to madness wa s fairly prevalent in the nineteenth centu ry and influenced whether individual s from other denigrated linked mental derangement with advanced civilization, they tended to assume that the more cluding Indians and African Americans, suffered less frequently for Ahabic madness, Melville invokes so me contemporary notions of the O ther as less influenced by insanity, but he rewrites or perhaps redeems the imperialist nineteenth century implications of this worldview by As Ishmael begins to unite with Queequeg in he a lso integrates attributes of Shortly after Ishmael and Queequeg begin to pursue a relationship, Ishmael asks Queequeg if he can share a smoke with him on his t omahawk pipe, an action that illustrates the cultural merger

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Butler Probst 78 smoke; and, producing his pipe and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat exchanging pu ffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regular 56). and engages with Queequeg as an equal and sociable compatriot. Is h n through the influence of Queequeg is so profound and dramatic similar tattooing on his own body sh all now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them ( remaining skin can serve as the canvas for a poem he is composing, poss ibly in remembrance of Queequeg (346). Queequeg or Ahab, the description of his tattoos serves as his primary physical description in the novel. Samuel Otter observes in his exploration of embodiment Moby Dick descr description, his description of his tattoos serve to define him because he offers up no other e skeleton tattooed on his arm, the fact that he has a tattoo, and even the fact that he has a right arm, come Ishmael by his tattoos, Melville suggests that Ishm an extent that it has defined his identity, in much the same way that a new religious belief might

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Butler Probst 79 However, it is important to note that acceptance of t attooing is not just an acceptance of racial conversion by Queequeg, but it is also an example of cultural syncretism because his tattoos are English words and figures rather than ure through is way is particularly s triking Typee who refuses to accept tattooing, and, by extension refuses the raciocultural conversion that accompanies it: Not knowing to what extremit ies [ t he tattoo artist] might proceed, and shuddering at the ruin he might inflict upon my figure head, I now endeavoured to draw off apprehension. The whole system of tattooing was, I found, connected with their religion; and it was evident, therefore, that they were resolved to make a convert of me. ( Typee 133 134 ) connection between tattooing and conversion both indicate that Tommo is not fearfully rejecting tattooing in particular but is instead rejecting an opportunity for raciocultural salvation through the Typee, the same salvation provided by Queequeg in Moby Dick Samuel Otter notes that Tom as though the

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Butler Probst 80 which Tommo rejects, allowing him to embrace m ulticulturalism and community instead of solitude and obsession with definitive truths. significant because it a more pluralistic way of seeing the world but also because it serves to int roduce him to a wider web of human interconnectivity, a connectivity that is displayed Squeeze of Hands While Ishmael is breaking down the tiny globules of sperm with his crewmates, he experiences a moment of radical int erconnectivity where the boundaries between I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving fe Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindnes 323). This extreme dissolution of interpersona l boundaries presents a strong depiction of love a love which, as William Ellery Sedgwick puts barriers between them, and obstructs the flow of vital sympathies, all t does not keep herself concerned with the hierarchies that generally carve up human existence as a dissecting scalpel would, but love should instead find companionship in a variety of people, including those from diverse or oppressed perspectives.

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Butler Probst 81 The experience of blurred boundaries through squeezing the sperm also presents an alternate approach to pursuing knowledge as Ishmael engages in tactile contact along with his crewmates rather than isolated dissection fingers are extended and boundaries stretched. The monumental difference represented by the whale is caressed and This tactile and communal method of engaging with the whale is the exact op reveals a communal presence which can sustain the individual as they pursue deeper truths. The benefit of interpersonal connection as a means of ameliorating obsession can also be observed in this instance as A h I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands ion has the absolute truth because it provides him with a different source of focus and fulfillment in much the same way that pragmatism seeks out community and eschews the pursuit of absolute truths Leigh Hunt feelings which also constituted a form of mental il healthy enjoyments. Cultivate your afternoon fire side, the society of your friends, the company The mediating potential of community can also help to remedy the ail ments of the mad sc ientist, as Taylor Stoehr points out in his exploration of the scientist figure : [B]y thinking only of others and never of himself, the lonely and refle ct ive man may arrive at philosophic wisdom instead of forbidden k

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Butler Probst 82 (82). Because the scientist figure shifts his gaze to a more generous view of communal enrichment rather than simply accomplishing personal goals, he is able to discover knowledge in a safe and beneficial manner. Lisa Ann Robertson adds that cont act with other human beings is a source of peace, something that the individual can rest in securely from the impossibility of Periodic physical cont act with another human being is to the maddening secre of the universe are By engaging in human affection which ideally breaks down hierarchal and interpersonal boundaries, individuals are exposed to a variety of comingling perspectives and may even become less certa in that there is a definitive truth to pursue in the first place. pragmatic approach to does not necessar implications. the limitations of categor ization and domination by obsessive extremes, it is al so an insecure, perilous and frightening existence because the individual is no longer able to rely on formulaic ingrained cultural knowledge As an antifoundationalist worldview that shuns objective truths, pragmatists are adrift in a world that they can never fully understand, a world where their experiences are rewriting their view of truth on a constant basis. Edwin S hneidman explores a similar idea to the instability of pluralism when he writes that a complex worldview that embraces ambiguity and dual ity is terrifying because it is completely oppositional to the dualities, and oxymorons is a more complicated challenge than to live in the more simple world of th e sixteen valid moods of Aristotelian syllogism. And even more frightening, for unlike the

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Butler Probst 83 (S hneidman example of the uncertainty that S hneidman is ref erring to in this case. While Ishmael is exposed to a state of transcendental union with the crew in the communal act of sperm squeezing, a n experience of all individuals being beco ming one is a radical new state of being merging of hierarchies and cultural boundaries enables him to move beyond the limitations of objective analysis an d enter into an exciting state of being that is free from the pitfalls of absolutism. However, his ex periences also signif y the entry into a frightening world of uncertainty, liminality and the unsettlin g potential for aimlessness. negotiate the world, one which does not depend on detachment, dissection, or absolutism le that in spite of his efforts and repeated Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whal e, how understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when face he has none even though he also enjoys searching for this knowledge of the whale. ual pursuit and his embrace of unknowability reflects the pragmatic desire to pursue truth, even as it rejects the pursuit of absolutes e in order to arri ve at definitive r eak

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Butler Probst 84 through appearances a nd arrive at absolute truth (140 ). The same Ahabic behavior which studies Queequeg obsessively and exp resses his frustration when he cannot arrive at an explanation for ). While Ahab is himself a mixed character at many points, both romanticized and destructive, the juxtaposition between Ahab and Ishmael allows Ishmael to p resent himself as the solution for the pitfalls and devastation encountered by Ahab. As Emory is a form of balance because he combines deep, in some cases ment, he is the empirical another he is squeezing the sperm and the hands of other seamen, appreciating the universal communication and spirit that flows thr communal enrichment and a search for knowledge, the knowledge that he discovers is more multicultural, interpersonal and less vulnerable to the obsessive destruction encountered by Ahab. provides hope to readers because it offers an alternative to the destructive fate met by Ahab Ishmael, for he possesses the counternarrative that offers hope for evading or escaping the Ahabs of his voyage has begun, Ahab will not abandon it, but others learn ways to make The quest requires a shuttle like approach that alternates between seeking and balance which changes his outlook on the pursuit of knowledge allowing him to appreciate the chase after knowledge more than any definitive knowledge that he may gain from the pursuit.

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Butler Probst 85 Embodied Balance: Conclusion ally obsessive isolation of Ahab is to become like Ishmael and embrace a combination of community and contemplative searching Because Ishmael has learned to appreciate multicultural perspectives through his interactions with Queequeg and the rest of the crew, he is given access to an unending source of knowledge without the destructive implications of absolutist obsession which allows Ishmael to thrive when Ahab is ultimately destroyed. Lisa Ann Robertson explains that human connection is the key, pulling the individual away from the destructive imp lications of contemplative searching: with other human beings is the way to achieve equilibrium between the maddening lub of philosophical contemplation and restorative dub of the t human contact is the key to balance, I would argue that human contact alters the psyche of the individual so that their sea rch for truth is fundamentally transformed from a search for absolute truths, as pursued by an enlightenment scientist, to a search for intriguing truths and knowledge that enrich the individual without claiming to be the ultimat e answer to the questions posed a pragmatic search for truth Ramn Espejo Romero ality, commenting on way that it does for tfulness is not an obstacle for him initiating fruitful bonds w ith people lik e Queequeg Because Ishmael allows Queequeg to become a companion and redeemer to him, Ishmael is able to discover a new form of epistemological searching that employs his inquisitive mind without the destructive, obsessive consequences. Ishmael emption comes from his embrace of multiple perspectives which

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Butler Probst 86 opens his mind to endless truths that he can pursue. The positive attributes that come from embracing multiple views of the world can be seen in the physiologi cal nature of the whale who possess es one eye on each side of his body, enabling him to unify t w o unique views of the world : How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposit his ability to contemplate and combi ne two seemingly unconnected views of the world is similar y and contemplative exploration. freely in his mi like these come together and by their association took on new dimensions of meaning and gained tendency to unite opposites, Sedgwick opens up the possibility that a merger of both abstract searching for certainty and multicultural union which presents ambiguity and diverging viewpoints, can create a healthy lifestyle that steers clear of both Ahab sense in his poem or opposite things into one form: But form to lend, pulsed life create,

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Butler Probst 87 What unlike things must meet and mate: A flame to melt a wind to freeze; Sad patience joyous energies; Humility yet pride and scorn; Instinct and study; love and hate; Audacity reverence. These must mate (3 9). work that is the child of both while not fully personifying either initial trait. The concept of Biographia Literaria 15 In Chapter 14 of Biographia Literaria Coleridge describes the process of creating poetry as an active, imaginative fusion of traits that are directly oppositional to one another and a balancing these opposites. As Coleridge explains, t his power with difference; of the general with the concrete; the idea with the image; the individual with the becomes the embodiment of the poetic, opposite mating spirit bec ause his embrace of Queequeg steers him away from a melancholic, Ahabic lifestyle and toward an identity that actively potential meal items. Rather than choosing one or the other, Ishmael chooses both and even 15 Melville Log Biographia Literaria in February of 1848 (271).

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Butler Probst 88 active choice of both clam and cod is representational of his ability to unite the search for truth e depths of absolutism, even if he occasionally wades in contemplative waters. Dick foregrounds the idea that individuals seeking intellectual expansion especially in an obsessive manner, are ultimately incompl ete because community provides both balance to their searching and an appropriate outlook for the search itself. Ahab exemplifies this incomplete state through his amputated leg, and ultimately e have not a whole body, sir; do ye but use poor me for your one lost leg; only tread upon me, sir; I ask no Ahab is rejecting the one thin g that can make him whole and cure him of his debilitating prompts him to dismiss Pip and the wholeness that Pip would bring to him in the same manner that Queequeg has brought wholeness and redemption to Ishmael. attributes of isolation and fixation on definitive answers rather than pluralism which would allow him to embrace al ternate answers and indeterminacy. the destructive points, illustrates the need for a balance between extremes of the communal and the in tellectual. and intellectual extremes, to accommodate disparate possibi lities for selfhood, to maintain

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Butler Probst 89 community and physical existence, Melville acknowledges through the character of Ishmael that mankind ultimately needs a secure footing in the extremes of both intellect and community in order to properly understand either of them. figure of engaged in resisting prejudice, in balancing opposites, and in sympathizing with the errors and risks of not only living lives of extremes but also of striving to live a life in the no ability to resist his initially prejudiced feelings toward Queeq ueg ultimately allows him to internally balance the opposite also in his ability to merge an embrace of Queequeg with an embrace of abstract contemplation. Melvil complete, thriving human being in this world a man who can explore deeper concepts of existence without becoming dangerously obsessive and cut off from human contact. Lew is [T] he fact is that [ Moby Dick ] is a challenge and affront to all the habits of the mind that typically prevailed in the nineteenth century, and still remain, almos t unabated, among us; it comes out of a different world, and presupposes, for its acceptance, a more integrated life and of Moby Dick is embodied in the ideal ized but occasionally frightening form of existence e xemplified by Ishmael which contras t s with the

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Butler Probst 90 destructive but strangely compelling existence of Ahab As William Ellery Sedg wick notes, olding of inward vison, a vision not so much of life as of what it is to be alive, and alive as a complete human being and not a mere two thirds or three quarters of s an existence that embraces the community, particularly in the form of significant one on one relationships such as the bond between Melville and Adler, Melville and Hawthorne, Queequeg and Ishmael, or the tragically short bond between Ahab and Pip. At th e same time, a complete, thriving existence must also embrace a search for deeper truths, one that does not necessarily intend to grasp for absolute truth as Ahab does, but instead chases after several competing perspectives and ideas because of the exhila rating nature of the chase itself. of Ishmael suggests that he believes that the salvation of Ishmae l i s one that is available to any person who is willing to embrace views that differ from his own until he sees the world, the people i n it, and knowledge in a pluralistic and comprehensive way. This new outlook prevents the individual from grasping for the ungraspable and instead allows him to chase after several different iterations of knowledge, wherever they may be found.

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Butler Probst 92 Criticism, Second Edition. Ed. Vincent B Leitch, William E Cain, Laurie Finke, Barbara Johnson, and John McGowan. New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. 584 591. Print. Cooley, Thomas. The Ivory Leg in the Ebony Cabinet: Madness, Race, and Gender in Victorian America. Amherst: U Of Massachusetts P, 2001. Print Dain, Norman. Concepts of Insanity in the United States, 1789 1865 New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1964. Print. Derrida, Jacque. Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. Ed. John D Caputo. New York: Fordham U P, 1997. Print. --. Postions. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: The University Of Chicago Press, 19 81. Print E and A Historical Guide to Herman Melville. Ed. Giles Gunn. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. 167 204. Print. y Contact in Moby Dick Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies 10.1 (2008): 3 24. Project Muse Web. 09 Oct. 2015. Gamwell, Lynn, and Nancy Tomes. Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914. New York: Cornell UP 1995. Print. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von The Auto Biography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life. the Concluding Books. Also Letters from Switzerland, and Travels in Italy, Volume II. Trans. A. J. W. Morrison. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1849. Http: //melvillesmarginalia.org/ Web. 18 Jan. 2016. The Penny Cyclopdia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge Vol. 12. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1838. 484 88. Archive.Org Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

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Butler Probst 94 --. Moby Dick: A Norton Critical Edition. 2 nd Ed. Ed. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford. New York: Norton & Company, 2002 Print. --Herman Melville: Seven Novels, Complete and Unabridged. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008. 1 162. Print. Melville's Margina lia Online. Documentary Note on Melville's Marginalia in the Complete Poetic Melvillesmarginalia.org Melville's Marginalia Online, 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. --in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 's Autobiography, Vol. 2. Melvillesmarginalia.org Me lville's Marginalia Online, 2014 Web. 26 Apr. 2016. --Melvillesmarginalia.org Me lvill e's Marginalia Online, 2014 Web. 26 Apr. 2016. Nelson, Dana D. National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men Durham: Duke UP, 1998. Print. Olsen, Charles. Call Me Ishmael. New York: Grove P, 1958. Archive.org Web. 9 Sept. 2015. Otter, Samuel. Melville's Anatomies Be r keley: U niversity of California Press 1999. Print. Palgrave, Sir Francis. Superstition and Knowledge. The Collected Historical Works of Sir Francis Palgrave K.H. in Ten Volumes, Volume Ten: Reviews, Essays, and Other Writings in Two Volumes, Volume Two. Ed. Sir R.H. Inglis Palgrave. London: Cambridge UP, 1922. 245 283. Archive.org Web. 11 Nov. 2015 Minding the Body: Benito Cereno and Melville's Embodied Reading

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