A great deal of Herman Melville’s passion was in Moby Dick while he wrote the book. In December, 1850, he wrote to his friend Duycknick: “I have a sort of sea-feeling. My room seems a ship’s cabin; and at nights when I wake up and hear the wind shrieking, I almost fancy there is too much sail on the house, and I had better go up on the roof and rig in the chimney.”
That a great deal of Ahab’s passion was also in Melville while he created Moby Dick is indicated by the statement made by Melville to Hawthorne that he had written an evil book, a book that was baptized, like Ahab’s harpoon, in the name of the Devil, although Melville conversely came away from the task feeling, he said, as innocent as a lamb.
The imagery of constraint, frustration, and the obscure mystery of frustration is so pervasive in Moby Dick that one is almost compelled to believe that the secret of its vitality lies somewhere in Melville’s own heroic attempts, by using all the resources of language and invention he could command, to thrust through the wall of frustrations he could not fully understand.
Rationally, Melville concurred with Hawthorne that the White Whale was a natural beast and that the evil in him was the product of the “all-engendering” heart or mind of Ahab. However, if one explores Melville’s identification with the intellectual and emotional conflicts of his age, such as that of empiricism versus transcendentalism, one finds evidence of a deeply rooted desire in Melville to be as heroically mad as Ahab. Such evidence is found in his imagery of the fatherless outcast, a controlling one in the earlier books such as Typee and Omoo. This image is carried over into Moby Dick in the person of Ishmael, an image of Melville’s own life from the time he left school at his father’s death until his marriage.
In Moby Dick arises the subsequent image of Ahab with his vision of external things as hieroglyphics, nothing more than pasteboard masks of a world within, from which world “some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features.” This image gives evidence of reflecting the Melville subsequent to marriage, with family and financial responsibilities, feeling that he had something eating at him and frustrating him, and who looking at all the things which hemmed him in might well have suspected “there’s naught beyond” but still cry with Ahab, “How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?”
Moby Dick is really two stories: an ostensible story that treats of material things; and another story, hidden in parables, allegories, and symbolism, which treats of abstract things. These two stories are parallel and analogous to each other.
The superficial story describes a hunt for a white whale, but the story which it hides tells of a supernatural adventure to set the world right. Aside from the main parable, which shows the ulterior relation between Ahab and the whale, the other hidden meanings are without sequence, continuity, or coordination. The hidden matter includes analogous allusions to probably all the religions, philosophies, and mysticism of which Melville had knowledge. It possesses a degree of uniformity only in that it all relates to the mystery of life and destiny. Thus, the superficial whaling story of Moby Dick, for Melville, “meant something.” And the special imagery which Melville selects for the telling of this story is strongly determined and shaped by the demands of this “meaning.”
Since imagery denotes words or phrases used to convey a sense-perceptible object not for its own but a secondary meaning, the image is substituted, momentarily at least, for this secondary object or meaning. This may involve a comparison or it may not, but it will draw heavily upon the use of symbolism and perhaps even more so upon metaphor, or the substitution with an implicit figurative comparison of simile, as well as the minor forms of imagery typified by personification, metonymy, and synecdoche.
The study of its imagery is fundamental to an understanding of Moby Dick. The dialogues, incidents, scenes, descriptions, even the names of the novel are “not without their meaning,” and Melville himself invites the reader to look beneath the surface as he attempts to examine the attributes of a God masked behind the veneer of this world, a God about whom Melville believed with St. Paul that His everlasting power and divinity are to be discerned and contemplated in his works.
The story of the novel is told by one who says “Call me Ishmael.” Melville initiates at the outset his name-allusion type of imagery used for its connotative power. Ishmael, the namesake of Abraham’s outcast, wandering and restless son, sets from the onset the tone of search and alienation of the novel. Ishmael sails on a ship captained by Ahab. The search is marked with shades of an evil or blasphemous search since King Ahab in the Bible was the king who did the most to provoke God’s anger. Ishmael spends his first night in New Bedford at the “The Spouter-Inn: Peter Coffin.” Even the marquee over the roof where he sleeps takes on a denotation of the type of journey to be undertaken since a “spouter” is a whale, and it likewise, in the proprietor’s name of “Coffin,” suggests the journey’s outcome. This one technique of imagery usage is employed repeatedly throughout Moby Dick.
Early in his novel, Melville also introduces another method of imagery usage that will come to bulk in large proportion, perhaps largest of all. Of Ishmael’s first night at the Spouter-Inn, Melville says: “What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’s too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago.” Melville seems to be describing the Spouter-Inn. He is here describing the inn, but aside from that, he is also suggesting something of the condition of man and of man’s incertitude about the universe, and suggesting the common theme of the novel, that something is wrong, that all is not right with the world. In a word, Melville is writing in metaphor, and the metaphor chosen is one that specifically fits his theme.
On the wall of the Spouter-Inn hangs a large, grimy, oil painting. In the inn’s dim, limited light, the nature of the painting is difficult to make out, just as is the nature of the universe or world in which we live. It is only with the closest, searching scrutiny that Ishmael is able to detail the painting as that of a huge, leaping whale humping completely over a sinking ship. The painting imagery is used for its secondary meaning, and it becomes a symbol of the dark and mysterious ocean (or world), with the monstrous whale representing the monstrous meanings of the universe. Its meaning is also multiple in that it darkly foreshadows the ultimate fate of the Pequod. This is a minor instance of Melville’s usage of the symbolic imagery which comes to play such a major part in the later novel.
As Ishmael walks through New Bedford to the Whalemen’s Chapel, he remarks on the tombstones outside and on the various whaling objects on the walls of the chapel once he is inside, and they remind him of the dangers involved in the pursuit of whales. The author has the imagery of these objects take on a foreshadowing image of death and destruction. The author further defends Ishmael’s metaphorizing or spiritualizing of all earthly experience in the following passage of mixed, figurative, two-handed language by Ishmael:
Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact, take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.
At this point, Melville has already begun to measure all things in Moby Dick in terms of their relative importance to some spiritual meaning.
At the chapel, Father Mapple stands in a pulpit which has a beak like a ship’s prow, upon which Melville comments in an extended metaphor: “The pulpit is ever the earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in the rear; the pulpit leads the world . . . Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.” Here the dominant image of the world as a ship is established, henceforth confirming the Pequod as a microcosm reflective of humanity’s cross-section.
This image of life as a sea-journey is further strengthened in the metaphorical statement of Chapter XIII. Melville, in describing the coming and going of the various ships in the harbor, says: “one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.” The suggestion is that there can never be a cessation of voyaging nor relaxation from the dangers occasioned by voyage.
Ishmael and his new-found friend, the savage Queequeg, sail from New Bedford on Christmas Day. They sail on a ship whose captain they have never seen but whose dread ominousness has been hinted at in the phrase, “a grand, ungodly, god-like man,” used of Ahab by one of the ship’s owners. A sea-wharf prophet has warned them against the journey. The prophet’s name is Elijah, even as it was Elijah of the Bible who warned King Ahab against his evil ways.
The captain of the Pequod does not emerge from his cabin until they reach the meridians of Easter-tide. Then he comes forth as if a symbolic messiah who began his journey back there from New Bedford on Christmas Day to destroy the evil of the world embodied in the form of Moby Dick. But he is a dark messiah.
The first view of Captain Ahab shows him a fearful, almost inhuman monster, dedicated to devious desires. He is pictured in simile as looking “like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them . . .” A white scar runs from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, and it is suggested that this scar, caused by lightning, may go deep down into Ahab’s very soul. He stands on a barbaric white leg carved from whale bone to replace his own leg which was dismasted by Moby Dick, and he stands with “an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfullness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance . . . moody stricken Ahab . . . with a crucifiction in his face.” He is godly in his self-will and determination, ungodly in his evil purpose. The first encounter has set the tone for Ahab and his devious journey.
To keep his story firmly within reality, Melville intersplices chapters on cetology among the dramatic and narrative chapters of his tale. These are factual chapters on whaling, but even they are used to make analogies or metaphorical statements about life. In one such chapter, Melville writes:
I now leave my Cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught — nay, but the draught of a draught.
That is, Melville is attempting to understand and write about some of the fundamental issues of life, and this can never be understood by man. The task that Melville has set for himself in writing Moby Dick can never be finished; man can complete only small tasks. Melville hints that the cetological system is a suggestion about life and God’s ultimate purpose in leaving the universe incomplete. It is up to others to finish the work begun by God.
As the Pequod moves on and into the Indian Ocean, Captain Ahab nails a gold doubloon to the mast as prize money and pledges the crew to the hunt of Moby Dick. In a diabolic mock-ceremony of confirmation, he passes out the wine, stations the three primitive harpooners with crossed harpoons beside him as cardinals, and he presides papally over the toasts of allegiance to carry out his cross-purpose to the whaling mission of the Pequod. This perverse ceremony images the perverse nature of Ahab’s quest. Ahab himself voices the perverseness in dramatic, Shakespearian terms: “What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad — Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself!” From this point on, we are aware that a strange madman is controlling the fate of all the men on board the Pequod.
”Vengeance on a dumb brute,” Starbuck, the first mate, says. Starbuck, who typifies the virtuous, right-minded man, goes on: “. . . that simply smote thee from blindest instince! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.”
Captain Ahab and Starbuck diametrically oppose each other. Starbuck, in his Christianity, will admit demon control of only half the world, and that only as usurpation, as interim rule, not as finality. For Ahab, an evil malignancy lies behind the pasteboard workings of this world, and Moby Dick is that masked wall shoved near to him. “I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it,” Ahab says.
Starbuck, the Christian, is a practical man and helpless against the “spiritual terrors” called up by Ahab. Stubb, Ahab’s second mate, is the epicurean segment of mankind who likes to eat gluttonous slabs of whale steak, hunts whales for the pure fun and enjoyment of it, has an invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness, and in general lives for the pleasure of the moment. He is helpless against Ahab because they cannot communicate. Flask, the third mate, is a dull, mediocre fellow who kills the whale neither for material gain nor out of sheer enjoyment nor high idealism. He hunts simply from primitive motivation and is unaware even of that, so he is helpless against Ahab. Thus Ahab controls the crew.
As Ahab’s mad vision of the world narrows, he gradually comes to see only Moby Dick, the White Whale, and piles “upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his race from Adam down.” As he does, the predominating image of whiteness begins to emerge in the novel in such chapters as the loose cluster-chapters of LI, LII, and LIX. These deal with the whiteness of the whale Moby Dick, the white apparitions of the spirit-spout, the bone-bleached whiteness of the ship Albatross, the great, giant white squid. Whereas other chapters are balanced variously by narrative sequence, theme, analogy, and juxtaposition, these foregoing chapters find their mutual relationship in the root image of whiteness with its varied and shifting meaning.
Ishmael points out that the color white has many meanings to many people. It can mean strength, such as that of the polar bear or the shark, or it can mean leadership, such as the great white steeds which led the herds of wild horses across the western plains of America. Then again, whiteness can be awesome, even fearsome, as man gazes across the white wastes of the prairies covered with snow and ice, or the white foaming sea hurled upon the rocky coasts by a frightful storm.
Ishmael sees no merit in an attempt to destroy the world of whiteness because for him it is a world of both good and bad, and Moby Dick is its symbol. Moby Dick is not an incarnation of evil. The evil is incarnate in the mind of the beholder.
To Ahab, whiteness is evil and reflects the true nature of the universe back behind the mask. Whiteness is an awful, omnipotent force which nature attempts to hide with the bright colors of plants and animals to conceal its innate destructiveness. To the “willful travellers” who attempt to read the mysteries which the world presents them, all objects become, in essence, white.
Ahab is a willful traveller, and he tries to make that world of white his own. He reaches out and tries to change the hidden essence of that world as he sees it. Ahab’s tragic flaw lies in the pride that will not allow him to admit limitations. He looks upon, confronts, and defies this mythical whiteness full-face. In Chapter CXIII, Ahab destroys his quadrant “which was furnished with colored glass” and decides to steer by dead-reckoning. In Chapter CXXXV, he faces the white spouting whale for the last time and cries: “I grow blind; hands! stretch out before me that I may grope my way.” Ahab was blinded by what he thought to be the white light of reality. Or was it illusion?
In a juxtaposed contrast, Ishmael rejects Ahab’s intellectual quest in such chapters as “A Squeeze of the Hand” and “The Try-Works” and in its stead accepts the “wife, heart, bed, table, saddle, the fireside, the country.” For Ishmael, the benevolent essense of the Weaver-god is not to be questioned. Neither does he find in the universe any of the driven fatalism of Ahab’s. In the chapter entitled “The Mat-Maker,” he sees his life as a “ball of free will.” The foot of the Grand Weaver may be upon the treadle of the loom, but Ishmael is free to weave the yarn of his will back and forth into the warp and woof of the Grand Design.
At one point in the novel, Ishmael considers Ahab’s delusion with the great White Whale as the embodiment of all evil, and Ishmael asks the question: “Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”
While the object of Ahab’s obsessed hunt may be an apotheosis of white, the hunt itself which Ahab carries on is described in terms of being “fiery.” Ishmael’s description of that hunt is in keeping with the root image used by Melville to describe it. Fire imagery becomes one of the dominant motifs of the novel, breaking out in young Ishmael’s fire-dream and running intermittently until the holocaust of Ahab’s defiance in the chapter entitled “The Candles.”
Each whale ship carries it own brick kiln, above which are two big pots. The fire is kept roaring — shooting its flames into the night sky and creating strange and wondrous shadows — while the blubber melts into oil. This is called the “try-works.” Melville uses the fire imagery in the chapter entitled “The Try-Works” to emphasize his view of a predominance of sorrow in the world. He also uses this occasion to discuss the use of fire as a primitive means of worship which reminds us that the Parsees and Fedallah are also fire worshippers, and so was Ahab at one time.
Almost as if to throw this chapter into relief, however, Melville follows it with the chapter entitled “The Lamp.” “The Lamp” discusses the fact that whalemen are always blessed with light because of abundant sperm oil for their lamps. This is a re-emphasis of the antithetical duality of things and their multiplicity of meaning.
Fire imagery continues in its association with suffering in the chapter, “The Forge.” Ahab asks Perth, the blacksmith, why the flying sparks do not burn his flesh and Perth replies: “I am past scorching; not easily can’st thou scorch a scar.” Then Ahab asks, “How can’st thou endure without being mad?” Ahab also asks Perth if he can smooth the seams of misery in Ahab’s brows because Ahab would gladly lay his head to the anvil to have it done. But Perth replies, “OH! that is the one, sir! Said I not all seams and dents but one?” Then Perth welds Ahab a harpoon of such strength that it will be the one to kill Moby Dick. Ahab calls his three harpooners in to temper the fiery point in their blood, this pagan suggesting that he baptizes the harpoon in the name of the devil.
In the chapter, “The Dying Whale,” Ahab says that the whale looks to the sun as it dies, its last act a symbolic fire-worship, “but no sooner dead than death swirls round the corpse, and heads it some other way.” Here Ahab suggests that he would like to belive in the supremacy of light and goodness, but he has made the other choice. As he says, “Yet dost thou, darker half, rock me with a prouder, if a darker faith.”
The fire imagery reaches its apex in “The Candles,” where the Pequod’s three main masts, in a fierce typhoon, glow with an unearthly St. Elmo’s fire at their tips, throwing the crew into mortal terror. This occurs just subsequently to Ahab’s breaking of the quadrant and his vow to look to heaven no more. Almost as though Ahab’s defiance to the sun has been heard, an answer is given within a few hours when a fierce typhoon engulfs the Pequod. Lightning strikes and the lightning rod tips of the main masts burst into fire like three giant candles as though the Trinity were appearing directly. But not even the fire of heaven can deter Ahab’s hunt or bend his fiery will.
Ahab stands amid the storm and identifies himself with the thunder and the lightning. We hear also that he had previously received his scar from lightning during such a storm. And when Ahab’s harpoon catches fire, he brandishes it about in order to subdue any revolt by the seamen. This emphasizes also his primitive appeal to fire as the most destructive force.
Another striking use of imagery by Melville in the course of the creation of Moby Dick is that connected with the gams, or social meetings, which take place between the Pequod and other vessels. There are more than a half-dozen of these gams and each one is a particular metaphor or parable of note.
The Albatross is a Nantucket whaler whose sides are bleached by long absence from home and whose captain drops his speaking horn before he can call to the Pequod. This symbolic incident of misfortune and lack of communication, as well as the fish that swim away from the Pequod immediately, set an ominous, foreboding note for the Pequod early in its chase of Moby Dick.
The Town-Ho whaler tells a story of Moby Dick’s devouring the harpooner on one of their boats, and they tell of it in terms of a type of divine retribution upon the harpooner for his evil ways. This implied parable is used by Melville to present another view of Moby Dick, one which is quite to the contrary of that held by Ahab, who sees Moby Dick as evil.
They meet the whaler Jereboam, which is the first ship of encounter to have seen the White Whale recently. On board is a madman who believes himself to be Gabriel the archangel and who warns that Moby Dick is an incarnation of the Shaker God. One of the Jereboam’s mates has been killed by Moby Dick, and the mad prophet Gabriel predicts that Ahab will go the same way if he hunts the White Whale. Here again the multiplicity of meaning of things is emphasized and the implication made that Moby Dick as an embodiment of evil originates in the eye of the beholder.
In due time the Pequod meets the vessel Jungfrau (Virgin) from Bremen, Germany. The Virgin is innocent or ignorant of the white whale, and furthermore, is ignorant about the basic facts of whaling. She is also empty, which conforms with the general symbolic significance of the “virgin” of the Bible. The innocence of the Virgin prevents any communication with the Pequod, which is an experienced, or perhaps evil, ship. At the end of the chapter, the Virgin is seen chasing a type of whale which is impossible to catch. Thus, the ignorance and innocence of the Virgin is the subject of a series of contrasts and functions to emphasize the isolation of the Pequod from the rest of mankind.
One still day later the Pequod drifts upon a French ship nicknamed Rose Bud, which has two dead, stinking whales in tow at her sides. This meeting is filled with irony, in that the romantic name Rose Bud is connected with an unpleasant odor. There is no need for a gam since the Rose Bud has never heard of the White Whale. The lack of communication is emphasized by the language barrier. The irony comes from the failure of communication since the Rose Bud is involved with a whale which is so rotten that it gives off tremendously bad odors. What the captain does not know, however, is that a sick whale will often emit a substance in his abdomen which is as fragrant and sweet as his rotting body is foul, a substance called “ambergris.” Here Melville uses this concept again to suggest something of the duality of nature. In this instance, the evil-smelling element helps bring forth a fragrant and highly-prized good that produces the best of perfumes.
The Pequod passes a Nantucket ship, the Bachelor, which is a sight of joyful revelry. “Thou art a full ship and homeward bound, thou sayest; well, then, call me an empty ship and outward bound,” Ahab mutters to the captain. It is a happy ship that does not even believe in the existence of the White Whale, an attitude which seems extremely ignorant to Ahab. This ship is symbolic of one other vision of life and its mysteries.
The Pequod meets the whaler Rachel, a connotative name allusion which calls up the image of the Biblical Rachel who could not be comforted because she had lost her children. In chasing Moby Dick, the Rachel has recently lost a boat containing the captain’s son. This is, perhaps, symbolic of the son, wife, and home which Ahab has lost in his choice of the sea. It is in this chapter that Ahab’s monomania and inhumanity reach their height in his refusal to help search for the captain’s lost son. Ahab is now on the verge of catching up with the White Whale, and he refuses to take time out to look for the Rachel’s lost boat.
Finally, the Pequod encounters the Delight, a ship bearing the splintered remains of a whale boat. Five of the ship’s men are dead from an encounter with Moby Dick. This is Ahab’s last forewarning of the danger to come.
Immediately after the last gam, the one in which Ahab receives his last warning of the danger to come, Melville poses a pastoral scene in the chapter, “The Symphony,” as a type of respite in the fretful fever of Ahab’s life. It is a calm, clear day of equatorial beauty, and Ahab rests against the rail peering deeply over the side into the inscrutable waters about him. Melville chooses the imagery of this setting to place Ahab in a contemplative mood that lets us see him once again with a momentary return of his old humaneness now that his hour of destiny with Moby Dick draws near.
Starbuck sees Ahab at the rail and joins him, and he and Ahab almost communicate with each other as Ahab tells Starbuck of his life at sea, of his marriage and of having seen his wife only twice since, and of his remorse at having to endure the hardship of whaling. No mad “life’s howling gale” is blowing now as the two talk, and the calm truth is recognized. The prideful old man makes the amazing admission that his forty years at sea have been mostly folly, and, for all his madness, he feels “deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam staggering beneath the piled centuries since paradise.”
Starbuck pleads passionately for Ahab to turn the ship about, to return to Nantucket, to the home, the hearth, the family. “What is it, what nameless inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare,” Ahab says.
Finally, in this moment of sanity, Ahab recognizes his monomania. But when Ahab turns around, Starbuck is gone, and Ahab’s thoughts, which have been on the side of the angels, go with him. Fedallah (Devil Allah) comes to Ahab’s side at the rail, and Ahab’s thoughts turn back to the chase. In this scene, Ahab sees and recognizes good, but he makes his final and irrevocable choice of evil. It is here that the humanities culminate in Ahab’s divided nature. And it is now, after Ahab’s faith is gone, that Moby Dick appears, as he has appeared before when Ahab’s faith was weak.
The final three-day chase begins. Ahab chases not an evil entity, but an imaginary evil created by the perversity of his will. Not I, but Fate, wills it, Ahab defends himself in his return of delusion; it was all decreed and rehearsed a billion years ago before these cards were ever thrust into my hand. Nevertheless, Ahab goes with the misgiving, knowing better all the time. Melville uses a final, beautiful image to show Ahab’s misgivings and man’s tie to nature. In the distance, there is a rain shower falling. Ahab looks to it and says to himself that all this beauty must lead somewhere — to something else. But the good moment ends, and Ahab’s ship starts upon the chase.
Melville, as a metaphorical effect, very astutely brings Moby Dick into view at the precise time that Ahab’s old violence and anger return. Ahab says he can “smell the whale.”
One the first day of chase, Moby Dick bites Ahab’s boat in two parts, but the Pequod comes between Moby Dick and the boat and no men are lost. The second day two more boats are smashed to bits. Ahab’s boat with the Parsee, his harpooner, is capsized, and the Parsee is lost. The Parsee had predicted that he must precede Ahab into death. On the third day Moby Dick reappears, and Ahab sees the Parsee lashed to the great whale’s sides by the tangled harpoon ropes. Even here Melville uses imagery to show man’s link to nature. The Parsee’s flopping arm waves in a symbolic gesture of beckoning Ahab to follow him into the deep.
This Ahab does. Ahab harpoons Moby Dick; the shooting harpoon line tangles itself about Ahab’s neck and jerks him to his death beneath the waters, but not before he can utter a final defiance: “I turn my body from the sun . . . Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquerable whale!” Ahab turns his back symbolically on the light and goodness (the sun) and turns toward that force which made him an evil man.
The Pequod, rammed by Moby Dick, also sinks, and a sky-hawk impaled to its mast is pulled down into the ocean with it, as if to say that a little of heaven had been pulled down with it. From out of the ocean’s vortex, a buoy floats up. It is the buoy-like coffin of Queequeg, who was a savage and who had been Ishmael’s friend and brother, and on this floating coffin Ishmael survives the sea until he is picked up by the Rachel, who was searching for her lost children. Perhaps Ishmael survived, it is suggested, because he had faith; because he believed that this material world of ours was formed in love, and did not believe either that the spiritual world behind its mask was formed in fear. And also, Ishmael loved someone. Queequeg had been his friend.