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Failure of Religion in Moby Dick

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  1. Introduction
  2. Ahab's similarity to Father Mapple
  3. The visible distress of Father Mapple
  4. The White Whale
  5. Melville's ability to sway the minds of his crew
  6. Conclusion

Herman Melville crafts Moby Dick as a microcosm of American society in the pre?Civil War era. Melville's microcosm of society is often an allegorical and ironical society in that, while his characters speak to the state of the microcosm, their words have an implication on the state of the real world as well. In this way, Melville critiques the inadequacies of Christianity, as well as religions in general, for procuring truth and solace for its followers.

[...] what the White Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life,?all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go . For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest of ills.[1] (158) To continue with Melville's conceit, this passage again suggests that Ahab is parallel to the minister, preacher, or the one at the head of the pulpit. [...]

[...] In the chapter Whiteness of the Whale,? Melville's Ishmael is?explicitly?attempting to describe why Moby Dick is so horrid. For Ishmael, it is a vain undertaking because the answer is simply a whiteness, a vastness, and a blankness that is indefinable. Through Ishmael's vain attempt to describe whiteness, there is an implication that this whiteness can be ascribed to the idea of God as well: Or is it, that, as an essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows?a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? [...]

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