Essay Sample: Biblical References in Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick is Herman Melville’s masterpiece, a formidably purposeful novel which acts both as documentary of a sea-life and immense philosophical life allegory on the whole. Moby-Dick is far ahead of its time on the subject of its aspect of religion. The novel displays equal appreciation to a vast diversity of religious beliefs and concurrently, fakes designedly the absurdness of religious extremism. In this book, New England Christians and tribal pagans convey the impression of very much alike. The pagans regularly appear more humane than some of the Christians around them. In spite of complicated egalitarian attitude towards religiosity and biting satire, which is given to some religious remarks, the author widely uses a lot of Biblical symbolism, mostly in the names and metaphorical roles of characters. (Franklin Bruce Howard, 1991)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville is closely related to the Bible and Christianity. Christian testament gave Herman Melville an abundance of characters to single out in pointing his pursuit of entire truthfulness. The author stuffs Moby Dick with biblical allusions, consequently, main characters of the book are symbolically attached to figures in the Bible.

In his book the writer implies to the Bible to ridicule Christianity. Understanding the allegory, the readers start to understand the issue of discourse and they are also exposed to acumen and insight Melville holds.

We come across with first allusion in the very first lines of this novel. “Call me Ishmael.” (Herman Melville, 1984).Those, who read the Bible, know that Ishmael was a son of Abraham and Hagar, who used to be his servant.  He is denied in Isaac’s favour, who is a son of Abraham and his wife Sarah.  An angel predicts to Hagar “his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12). From then onward, “Ishmael” became generally used for a castaway, who is relevant as he is immature when whaling starts and is viewed as a pariah to the rest of the sailors on the Pequod.

One more biblical allusion is Captain Ahab and the diviner Elijah.  Elijah advises Ishmael and Queequeg of Ahab. Ishmael told that Queequeg and he boarded the Pequod because they had just “signed the articles” (Herman Melville, 1984) and Elijah responded “Anything down there about your souls” (Herman Melville, 1984). This Elijah and Ahab’s disagreement is rooted back to the bible.  I Kings depict hostility between King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Elijah declares Ahab that “in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick they blood, even thine,” (I Kings 21:19), and “the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezrell” (I Kings 21:23). Such allusion forecasts the Pequod’s annihilation. As the names of the characters in Moby Dick are practically similar to the names in the Bible, their outcome is the same.

The more you read the book the more you realize that the Pequod is much more than a typical ship which goes whaling. It is the ship of escape, holding all the religious and legend men, on the trip to a violent conflict with God, which is symbolized by the white whale in the mind of Ahab. Thus it has the seeds of humankind’s release itself — the lesson of Queequeg/Ishmael — primitive urge of a primitive man. The Pequod is the place where all other forms of systematized religions and formed beliefs are wiped out.
Consequently, Moby Dick is Herman Melville’s perception of a practical man who lives in an impractical nature – when the core of civilization is disrupted through a collision of the strength of public order and the general chaos, and then it got a terrifying capture of nihilism. The author contrasts the seeming reality of the social world of obviously chaotic area of the sea and the white whale. The reality of a man, nevertheless, gets chimerical as a result of cosmic power, the strength of the natural cosmos, moving carefully in its invisible disorder. (Jacques Hadida, 1970)

Herman Melville is doing something very interesting in his book. According to the Old Testament, God foresees all the speeches, as he is the one who sees and knows everything. Therefore, all processes of thinking, the thoughts and the words one hears, the words of the language are all parts of religion. Melville alters the Old Testament, the Divine stays speechless, unknowable, but this is a part of imperceptible human thought process, which he accepts. (Roger Thompson Lawrence, 1952)This is confirmed by the “new terrors unborrowed from anything that visibly appears,” and the “invisible spheres formed in fright” as well the “beyond utterance” and “Pip spoke it” reference to the foot of God upon the treadle” (Nathalia Wright, 1980)

Taking everything into account, Herman Melville definitely operates the allusions to tied to Ahab, Ishmael, and Moby Dick to deride God and Christianity. The way I see, having linked personages in the Bible with personalities in Moby Dick, he manifests his displeasure and divergence from Christianity. As all of us are given free will by God, therefore Melville is free to demonstrate his beliefs and points of view.


Franklin Bruce Howard. (1991) “The Wake of the Gods – Melville’s Mythology” Stanford University Press.
Jacques Hadida (1970). “Hebrew meaning of Pequod”. Montreal, Canada.
Herman Melville (1984) “Moby Dick” The Riverside Press, Boston, Massachusetts * Norton Edition.
Roger Thompson Lawrence. (1952). “Melville’s Quarrel with God”, Princeton, Princeton University Press
Nathalia Wright, (1980) “Melville’s Use of the Bible”. Octagon Books, New York.

This sample was written by a professional writer who knows how to deal with literature essay writing effectively. This is not just an essay based on personal thoughts; it contains sources and references to them, arguments, and proper structure that any essay for this type should have. The result is a high-quality paper that is interesting to readers.

If you write your essay for the first time and don’t know how to do it properly, or if you simply want to save your time, you need to place an order on our site. Leave us the request, “write my paper for me,” and forget about your writing problems. No matter what writing issues you are faced with, our writers will help you!

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *