Abstract: As one of the greatest writers in American literary history in particular for hismasterpiece Moby Dick, Herman Melville has gathered increasing fame. Moby Dick iswidely regarded as the summit of American nineteenth-century fictions withheart-shaking whaling experience, philosophical meditation of realism and fantasy,invested with the mysterious colour of romance. On the basis of a brief introduction ofmyth criticism and some characteristics of mysticism, Melville’s life, esp. his literarycareer, the thesis intends to analyze the embodiment, cause and significance ofmysterious color in the novel. What’s more important is that the writer has borrowedNorthrop Frye’s critic theory called Myth criticism or Archetypal criticism andJungian psychology to lay the theoretical basis for the first chapter and also set up forthe whole thesis a holistic structure and organization.In terms of mythological criticism, it deals with the relationship of literary art to”some very deep chord” in human nature. It is a type of criticism that “examinesarchetypes and archetypal patterns to explain the structure and significance of texts”（Wright 128）. That is to say, the concept of the archetype is the core and essence ofarchetypal criticism. The literary scholar uses “archetype” more specifically as asymbol, character type, or plot motif that has recurred throughout literature. Statedsimply, archetypes are universal symbols. Examples of these archetypes tend to beimages and archetypal motifs or patterns. In Moby Dick, they refer to some archetypalimages, such as the sea, white color, Moby Dick and some other archetypal characters,including Ishmael, Ahab and some prophets.The first chapter is to handle the issue of mysticism reflected in Mob), Dick byarchetypal analysis. It falls into two parts. In the first part, the writer talks about themystery of some archetypal characters. These character types refer to Ahab, Ishmaeland the Prophets. Analyzing a hero from archetypal approaches, we can see that Ahabis both a quest archetype and a tragic hero. To Ahab, the White Whale is a “pasteboardmask” which conceals some greater and more mysterious power. Ahab, the hero,would “strike through the mask” in his insane compulsion to understand the eternal and unfathomable mystery of creation. His quest is the quest in an archetypal pattern.At the same time, Ahab is also a tragic hero. His tragic weakness- the blindnessdrives him and all who follow him to their ultimate damnation. Ishmael, the narrator,bored and depressed by life, decides to buoy his spirits by visiting an ocean. Thingsremote are the unknown, the mystery. Longing for remote things instead of familiarthings is a hallmark for a quester. In this sense, Ishmael is also a quest archetype. Inconclusion, it is the mystery of life itself that Ishmael is curious about. Additionally,Biblically archetypal approach to characterization functions as another distinctivefeature of Moby Dick. For instance, both Captain Ahab and Ishmael are moldedaccording to their namesakes in The Bible. Namely, the property and destiny of thesecharacters in Moby Dick often allude to or partially allude to those of their biblicalcounterparts. The employment of hero archetype, quest archetype and biblicalarchetype reminds readers of ancient myths, which is what makes Moby Dick full ofmythic atmosphere.In the second part of the first chapter, the writer mainly deals with the mystery ofsome archetypal images. For one thing, as far as the sea itself is concerned, it is anarchetypal symbol of the mystery of life and creation. For another, on the meaning ofthe sea, Melville’s conclusion is a paradox. According to Walter Stace, “Paradoxicalityis a universal feature of mysticism.” Finally, the manifestation of mysterious sea alsolies in its relationship with Moby Dick. Both of them are inseparable, super-powerfuland mysterious force in nature, which thickens their mythic colour. In other words, thecombination of the sea and beast images gives us the Leviathan and similarwater-monsters. “The White Whale is an archetype of mythological monsters-theconventional archetype of Leviathan.” Furthermore, “Whiteness is the archetype ofthe all-encompassing, inscrutable deity.” Melville combines these two archetypes, thewhale and whiteness, in fashioning his own unique symbol, Moby Dick. The mysteryof the White Whale would focus on the whale itself as an archetype, its variousinterpretations of different people and the whiteness of the Whale. By recourse ofsome archetypal characters and images, Melville adds heavy mystery to the novel.The second chapter analyzes the reason for mysticism in Moby Dick from the perspective of society, religion, culture and personal experiences. In the 19th century,confronted with dilemma of Western civilization, doubts on religious, Melvillewitnessed such drastic changes of values and beliefs. He is very concerned about thefuture of Western civilization, expresses his deepest, sincerest apprehension for it andhis gloomiest prediction about humanity. Additionally, Melville has a hard life full offailures and frustrations. The mother’s indifference and the family’s decline, togetherwith his inherent disposition to melancholy combine to form his strong pessimistictendency, which is definitely reflected in an ambiguous way in his works. Seized bythis ineffable pain, he is able to experience the sense of mystery more deeply thanbefore. Under the influence of Hawthorne, he chooses to express his views on goodand evil with symbolism and imagination, which is the mark of mysterious color inMoby Dick. Transcendentalism serves as an ethical guide to life for a young nation ofAmerica. Under its influence, Melville believes the supernatural spirit and is in thehabit of finding allegorical or symbolic meanings in the simplest and most concretefacts.The third chapter talks about the significance of mysticism in Moby Dick inliterary, social and ideological realms. In Melville’s point of view, the world iscomposed of physical world and spiritual world. By revealing his meditation onWestern civilization, Melville intends not only to express his ideas on these perplexingquestions but also to present his anxiety about the future of booming capitalism. In thenovel, Melville is described as a pious Christian and a rebel in turn. It reflects hisethnic duality or religious doubts, which lead to a visionary and mystic attitudetowards life and modem society.From the viewpoint of myth criticism, Ahab is an archetype of Tragic Hero. Thestory centers around the tragedy of Ahab, which reveals Melville’s ambiguous andineffable thoughts in inner world. Firstly, the tragedy of Ahab presents the conflictsbetween man and nature. It suggests that man should assess the force and infinity ofnature objectively and consider limitations of human capacity so that we couldestablish a harmonious relationship between man and nature. Secondly, the tragedy ofAhab leads to people’s concerns about good and evil. They are not only opposing but interdependent and interchangeable. One could not exist without another. Finally, inAhab’s tragedy, by comparing the different fates of Ahab and Ishmael, Melville showshis doubts about democracy and self-reliance advocated by Emerson. That is to say,the death of Ahab is the price of the “self-reliance” or the Emersonian democraticfreedom.It is safe to conclude that Moby Dick achieves an ideal combination of adventureand metaphysics and is a more obviously serious work. It is a strange mixture ofadventure and philosophy, of realism and illusion, invested with the mystic coloring ofromance. It is evident that Melville’s distinctiveness of writing is derived from hisvision towards life and the world.
Views on Mysterious Colour in Moby Dick
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