Abstract: Herman Melville (1819-1891) is one of the famous dark Romantic writers during the 19th century, and his great novel Moby Dick has been acknowledged as a canon in American literature. It has aroused intense critical interests in its themes, symbols, genres and narrative forms. However, not enough attention is paid to the sea dimension of Moby Dick.The paper explores the philosophical implications about the sea in his novel Moby Dick by recognizing the narrator Ishmael as the implied author’s mouthpiece and the center of consciousness of the whole text. Special attention is paid to the explication of the three aspects concerning the sea: the sea as a realm of the positive and negative sublimity, which are separately represented by Burke and Kant; the binary opposition of the sea and the land, which indicates the vision of utopia versus the dehumanizing nature of the civilization of land; the sea as a symbol, which embodies different epistemological ways of interaction with the world including the Puritan submissiveness represented by the sea voyage of Father Mapple, the empirical epistemological way represented by the sea voyage of Ahab, the Emersonian transcendental epistemological way represented by the sea voyage of young experiencing Ishmael. However, the initiation of Ishmael from the young experiencing Ishmael to the adult narrating Ishmael is incorporated into the sea voyage of different protagonists. Therefore, Ishmael, the spokesman of Melville, can witness the fate of the protagonists and judge every epistemological ways represented by them.In conclusion, Melville’s fluid consciousness, like the ebbing tide of the sea, tells that truth is relative and progressing rather than absolute, and there are many heterogeneous“truths.”
Interpretations of “the Sea” in Moby Dick
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