Ishmael In Moby Dick

Words: 548
Pages: 3

The story Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, tells the story of a “simple sailor” who goes to the ocean for money, exercise, and to catch the big white whale. Although Herman Melville describes Ishmael as a “simple sailor”, Ishmael is quite the opposite. In the first chapter Ishmael shows the reader that he is anything but simple. It can be inferred from his knowledge of history, religion, and his diction, that Ishmael is more than simple.
If Ishmael were truly simple, then he would not imagine the sea as magical, but as a workplace. In the story Ishmael notes that “There is magic in [the sea]” (Melville 255). He tells reader that the magic draws the people to the ocean yet only some have the courage to sail it. Ishmael is just not a simple minded man. Reading into his spirit and thoughts show us how remarkable Ishmael is. Although the main reasons he wants to go to sea are for
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The intelligence that he portrays shows us he is not a simple man. Ishmael makes many references to different historical figures. He remarks that, “With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.” Ishmael compares Cato’s willingness for death and his desire for the sea. This shows the readers that he has knowledge of historical figures. In addition to his history references, Ishmael shows that he knows a bit of geography. Ishmael portrays that he knows a bit of the world’s geography when he makes references to China and Niagara. He remarks: “Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it?” (Melville 256). Ishmael obviously has education that goes beyond just knowing his surroundings. In addition, Ishmael also talks of “ships from China” (Melville 257) and speaks of Patagonia. Intelligent references of his geographical and historical knowledge like this show us, as the readers, that he is not such a simple