The Whiteness of the Whale

864 words 4 pages
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
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The color white can mean a variety of things as explained by Ishmael in the chapter. Melville suggests that all of these things represented in the chapter, Moby Dick could be a symbol of all of them, And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Therefore, the White Whale does not just have just one single meaning as Ahab believed, but instead he is a symbol of almost everything in the universe.

Melville utilizes the symbolism of the Great White Whale to show the danger of viewing life in terms of a simple single view. The color white is used to develop Melville's theme of duality of meaning. Captain Ahab viewed the Great White Whale as the symbol of all evil in the universe. This faulty view of white and life led to his death. Contrastingly, Ishmael views white in terms of duality of meaning. White means purity, power, and danger. Melville reinforces this more realistic view of life as the more proper in that Ishmael is the sole survivor of the tragically focused voyage. Melville shows us that everyone views life through a different set of lenses, depending on one's experiences. The color white and in fact the meaning of all things depends on the experiences and perception of the person viewing that