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Research Papers on the Themes in Moby Dick

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Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a complex novel that explores complex themes related to the existence of God and the fate of human beings.

  1. The role of fate and prophecies
  2. Limitation of human knowledge and control
  3. Human beings and their relation to nature

First of all, the character Ishmael’s narrative frequently mentions fate while alluding to future events.  The foreboding commentary suggests that Captain Ahab, a man obsessed with whaling for Moby Dick, and his ship, the Pequod, are ultimately doomed. Those shipmates who believe in prophecies and claim that they can divine the future further emphasize this feeling of a predestined outcome for the story. Ahab recognizes this widespread belief in fate and manipulates his sailors into believing that they share a common destiny to destroy Moby Dick, a move that ultimately leads to tragedy.

Themes in Moby Dick

A second theme explored within the novel is the limitation of human knowledge. Captain Ahab’s relentless pursuit of a whale that he cannot conquer is just one example of this theme. Ahab thinks that he can understand the whale’s actions and use that knowledge to kill it.

More broadly, Ishmael’s narrative about different human knowledge systems, such as taxonomy and art, identifies the attempt by human beings to gather information about the world around them. However, despite his best efforts to seem knowledgeable, Ishmael ultimately has to admit that human beings have limits. For example, he acknowledges that men do not know the ocean’s depths.

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