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The Whiteness Of The Whale

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The Great White Whale and its Many Meanings

Herman Melville, in his epic novel Moby-Dick, utilizes the symbolism of the color of the Great White Whale to demonstrate his theme of duality. However, Captain Ahab tragically had a single mind set towards Moby Dick, as he believed that the whale was the symbol of the world's evil and had to be destroyed. On the other hand, Ishmael sees that the color white can mean many various and opposing things. It would be dangerous to settle upon any one single meaning. In the chapter, The Whiteness of the Whale, Melville explains the importance of duality of meaning in the world, as opposed to man's (and Ahab's) desire to see only one meaning in any one thing. Melville utilizes the symbol of the color white to show us that, no one thing means only one thing. Instead, the color white and the meaning of all things depends upon the experiences and perception of the person viewing that object.

Ahab viewed the White Whale only as the symbol of all evil in the universe, which eventually leads him to his downfall. On the day that Ahab threw his harpoon into the White Whale and Moby Dick ate his leg, Ahab decided that the Great White Whale meant only one thing, evil. From then on Ahab decided that there was something unusual about this whale, as if it had hidden inside him all the evil in the world. Since Moby Dick attacked Ahab, he then had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale and now

identifies with the whale all his bodily woes and all his intellectual and spiritual exasperation's . For Ahab the White Whale became the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies found in the universe. Ahab's crazy monomania quest was to destroy these evil forces. After Ahab's experience with the White Whale he only believed that the whale was a symbol of all evil in the world and he would not rest until it was destroyed. His outlook in seeing the color white having only one meaning, eventually caused his downfall and death by Moby Dick himself.

Ishmael, however, viewed the meaning of the whiteness of the whale is not nearly so singularly focused as Ahab's rage. He believed that the color of white had many meanings to many persons. Ishmael realized that the color white can represent beauty. Whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls. Another characteristic of the color white is strength, such as that of the polar bear or the great white shark. Ishmael also said the white can mean spirited leadership, such as the great white steeds. Contributes to the daily state of kings and queens drawn by milk-white steeds; though even in the higher mysteries of the most august religions is has been made the symbol of the divine spotlessness an power. Unlike Ahab, Ishmael saw the duality in white as he also understood that white could also be awesome, even fearsome, as man gazes across the



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