Essay about Hahahaha: First-person Narrative and Character Ishmael

Submitted By tomepatel23
Words: 765
Pages: 4

Some have called Melville's novel Moby Dick one of the "greatest sea romances in the whole literature of the world”, while others have disagreed, saying that much of the text is "sad stuff, dull and dreary, or ridiculous" Many of the disagreements as to the value of the book arise from the nature of Ishmael, the first person narrator of Moby Dick. Melville's romantic style of writing is exemplified if not amplified in his character Ishmael. The Biblical name means "wanderer" or "outcast," a perfectly symbolic appellation for one who comments more than participates. He is an unusual narrator in the sense that he plays roles which seem not to correspond. His major roles, other than the active part he plays on shore, include hinting at the end of his tale, commenting philosophically on nearly every occurrence, factually informing the reader on the subject of whaling, and at times even serving as an omniscient narrator with unlimited sight and hearing.destroying interest in the story, add to the excitement and suspense of the plot, though the ending is no mystery to Ishmael.

Even Melville's most disparaging critics dare not refute his powers of observation and description. His description is especially prevalent in those chapters dealing with cetology, a topic upon which scarcely anyone had attempted to write. One instance in which Ishmael describes whales with the minute, painstaking fidelity of a statistical record is his designation of an entire chapter to the measurements of the skeleton of a whale. The ribs were ten on a side. The first, to begin from the neck, was nearly six feet long; the second, third, and fourth were each successively longer, till you came to the climax of the fifth, or one of the middle ribs, which measured eight feet and some inches. These so-called digressions, contrary to the beliefs of some readers, do serve at least one purpose in the novel. Though the technical chapters seem to divert narrator and reader from the action, the actual result is quite the opposite. There is nothing on which Melville digresses that does not serve his meaning, claims one perceptive critic, while another claims that Ishmael alternations between action and cetology constantly pique the attention of the reader, keeping curiosity alive, and presenting the combined charm of surprise and alternation. The cetology lectures tend to draw the reader further into the plot by imparting uncommon knowledge which helps to diminish a sense of ignorance which could otherwise hamper a feeling of involvement. Melville’s description of bailing the case, says one expert, gives an excellent idea of the hazards to be endured once the whale was killed and secure alongside. Whaling was always a business of long handles, sharp edges, and sudden deaths for the clumsy or unwary. Melville uses these passages in order that the reader understands the events which provide the framework for Ishmael's deeper message. One of Ishmael's idiosyncrasies, however, is