Moby Dick By Herman Melville: Chapter Analysis

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Chapter 87 of the famed, highly esteemed, and canonical work Moby Dick by Herman Melville has fascinated students, scholars, and habitual readers alike for generations. The amazing contrasts so heavily emphasized in this chapter, between the chaos of harpooning whales and the incredible calm of the nursing newborn whales, this chapter takes any reader on a journey of unprecedented magnitude and incredible symbolism. I, personally, believe that Melville intended this chapter to be a metaphor for the complexities and contrasts of life, and to categorize the entire chapter into having one definite and clear meaning would be an oversimplification. My views and reactions to this chapter were similar to Gilbert’s in I also believe that this chapter…show more content…
“Yes, we were now in the enchanted calm which they say lurks at the heart of every commotion. And still in the distracted distance we beheld the tumults of the outer concentric circles, and saw successive pods of whales, eight or ten in each, swiftly going round and round...”(Melville, 422). This image of being trapped inside the eye of the storm, in such an intense calm, while surrounded by the chaos and violence of the outer rim of the vast herd of whales, is in direct parallel to the human condition and the turmoil and contrast we experience in our daily lives. Sometimes we are in the eye of the storm, only hearing of the chaos that is far away, at the edge of our minds yet not fully in our attention. Other times we are in the thick of things, witnessing the chaos and violence that embodies human nature just as much as peace and care does. As the wounded whale writhes around in its own blood and in spasms swims for dear life, we experience turmoil in our own lives and flail about in confusion. This, I believe, was Melville’s intent; to create the perfect symbol for life in the form of a herd of whales, The Grand…show more content…
Gilbert argues that the contrast between the chaotic outer ring of whales and the inner eye of mothers and calves is the contrast universal in all of our lives. “From extreme peace to extreme violence in three paragraphs and we can see, more clearly than ever, Ishmael’s lofty pronouncements as arbitrary, a choosing of what to believe, what to pursue, that, like him, we are the makers of meaning in a world of endless meaning…”(Gilbert, 4). Here, Gilbert not only discusses that the series of rings of whales is a metaphor for life, but that we, as we traverse through life, can choose which path to take; the chaotic outer ring or peaceful inner
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