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Ishmael

By Bernice Duncan,2014-11-19 20:40
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Ishmael

Ishmael’s research about nature

    The whaling ship is a machine for the exploitation of nature. Whaling ships carrying the profit-seekers intrude into the sea for commercial purposes. Human recklessly kills whales to provide them with the necessities for life and at the same time to accumulate wealth. Human being’s relentless killing of whales has been questioned by Melville who has given us some shocking numbers about the perishing whales in the novel. The whale-killing makes whales unable to escape speedy extinction. The cause of the wondrous extermination of animals on the land and in the sea is the spear of man. Whales are a vitally necessary

    source of energy to light, the lamps of civilization. Therefore, they must be hunted out, killed and dismembered so that their raw natural energies can be transformed and applied to the uses of civilization. Man can get foodlight and shelter from the environment which assure man’s

    material existence. But what has accompanied with the intrusion into nature is not only progress in civilization but also sense of guilty and damage to environment. Ishmael implies in chapter 16 that during the process of exploiting nature, man’s spiritual world is being eroded. For example, in chapter 16―The ship‖, Ishmael shows readers his viewpoint

    through talking about captain Blida: though refusing, from

    conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe

    to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled turns upon tans of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the Pious Blida reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion

    is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends.‖ In Moby-Dick the hunting pictures are also described vividly. In chapter61 the bloody picture is described: the red tide now poured

    from all sides of the monster like brooks down a hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine but in blood, which bubbled and seethed for furlongs behind in their wake. The slanting sun playing upon this crimson pond in the sea, dent back its reflection into every face, so that they all glowed to each other like red men. And all the while, jet after jive of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the spiracle of the whale, and vehement puff after puff from the mouth of the excited headsman.‖ We are brought

    into a world, in which men and animals injure and destroy each other in the normal course of existence, in the whole routine of hunting, chase, slaughter and dismemberment—the hunter’s and butchers’ bloody work.

    That is the whale man’s life and may be his death when the persecuted

    whale retaliates on his body or that is the fate of the pathetic whales when chased and slaughtered by the maniac whale men. Besides wealth, people also glean death in whaling. In chapter 7 Ishmael describes a very

    shocking scene of cenotaphs. The marble tablets record those who lost their lives in remoter waters or under whale’s jaws. Yet their loss of lives were not pitied but regarded as ignominious. Ishmael sentimentally laments‖ what despair in those immovable inscriptionsWhat deadly

    voids and unbidden infidelities in the limes that seems to gnaw upon all Faith and refuse resurrections to the beings that have placeless perished, without a grave.‖ The ―infidelities‖ of the perished whale men are

    ―unbidden‖ since they did not want to become infidels and did not ask for the death themselves. The ecologists advocate equality. They believe that all species are intrinsically equal and therefore they have an equal right to live. So humans should treat nature and beings in nature equally. Human should respect nature and take full responsibility of nature as well as establish a harmonious relationship with nature. Melville, through the mouth of Ishmael, exposes his fellowmen’s greedy exploitation on nature. Driven by the desire for more wealth, they take nature as a cornucopia and keep on plundering it. At last, they can’t escape the punishment of

    the raged nature. Nature allows human beings to live tranquilly, if only we do not disturb In the novel, Ishmael describes the loveliness and helplessness of the Moby-Dick is encountered first, he is in no flurry a

    gentle joyousness-a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested But all the tranquil and harmonious scenes are destroyed by men’s invasion. Actually, nature and humans can be in harmony with each other and they

both are co-existent and interdependent on each other. Moby Dick

    reflects this kind of associating and coexisting relationship between nature and humans. In the novel, the whales and the sea are the embodiment of nature. In our common sense, probably the hugeness of the whale and the immensity of the whale horrify us, however, observing carefully, we will perceive the amicability of the whales and feel the beauty of nature, if we do not disturb its serenity and harmony.

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