"Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information." -Paulo Friere

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Moby Dick sourcebook entry and online discussion

Seniors, I found an article titled Moby Dick, A Wicked Book that I wanted to share with you. Please read the article and complete the following steps. This should be sourcebook entry #9, with the same title as the article.

Response Steps:

1. Comprehension. In your sourcebook, summarize the main points of the article in about 1/2 a page. Bullet-point format is fine for this.

2. Analysis. Choose three significant quotes and copy them into your sourcebook. After each quote, discuss why you think that sentence is key to Sloan's argument.

Now, put down your sourcebook. Instead of writing the following answers in your sourcebook, they should be posted as comments to this blog entry. Write your name in the comment title.

3. Application. Choose a significant quote and discuss how it changes the way you see the meaning of any formalist patterns. For example, could Sloan's argument change what you think the whale symbolizes? Discuss the implications of his ideas. (Please, don't all use the whale example.)

4. Evaluation. Choose a significant quote and discuss to what extent you agree with Sloan's analysis, and why. You may note any flaws you see in his argument.

5. Synthesis. Respond to another student's comment. (You may have to do this separately, after some people have posted answers to #'s 3 and 4)

If you don't complete this assignment in class, please complete it by Tuesday, Sept 14.

59 comments:

  1. 3.) "In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own.
    Knowing any barefaced condemnation of the Almighty would rankle his readers, predominantly Christian, Melville indemnified himself by filtering Ahab's thunderous invective through a nominally Christian narrator, Ishmael, who brands Ahab an irremediable lunatic."
    From this quote, it is evident that Sloan is arguing that Melville uses Captain Ahab as a symbol for himself. Sloan believes that Melville uses Ahab to figure out his own feelings about God, religion, and fate. However, since the majority of people in the U.S at the time were devout Christians, Melville was afraid of incensing his audience. Thus, he filters the blasphemous assertions and sinful utterances of Ahab through the relatively Christian Ishmael. And since Ishmael states that Ahab is a lunatic, readers should be content. This argument of Sloan's changes what I thought Ahab represented in the book - at first I thought he just played the role of tragic hero in the story. To me, Ahab seems to be the antagonist, the foil for those more sensible and clear minded. He seems to be the enemy in the story because he is the only one with enough vengeance to go against something as seemingly harmless and innocent as the white whale. Even after realizing the whale represents God, I still saw Ahab as the enemy because to Christians, to go against God is the ultimate act of sin and treason. However, after reading Sloan’s article, I realized that the story line – going after the whale – is Melville’s attempt and quest to understand what God stands for and his own relationship to Christianity. Little did I know that the troubles Ahab experiences in the book are also Melville’s own problems.

    4.) “In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend. With malice aforethought, he rigs us with the capacity to lie, cheat, deceive, connive, scheme, steal, harass, hate, torment, torture, maim, cripple, kill. With another turn of the screw, he fits us with a faculty for self-abuse: fear, anxiety, doubt, dread, suspicion, brooding, remorse, guilt, and other pale casts of thought. He further ratchets the misery with natural ills: hunger, thirst, poison, disease, plague, drought, lightning, tempest, volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tornado, and the bloody leapers and creepers of the animal kingdom. In this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes.”
    I agree, to an extent, with Sloan’s analysis in this quote. After Sloan gives specific examples and evidence of Melville’s background and why he is so doubtful of God’s intentions, he gives this summary as to explain the conclusion that Melville draws from his experiences. The evidence is mainly Melville being a witness of “disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality incompatible with the providence of a benevolent deity.” However, this quote, part of an article written in 2001, contains extremes and absolutes that Melville might not have agreed with more than a century ago. How is it possible for Sloan to understand Melville’s deepest sentiment and conviction just by reading the novel and understanding his background? To Christians, this quote is blasphemy in itself and it is quite a leap for Sloan to conclude that it is what Melville believes in.

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  2. 3) Captain Ahab mirrors the tragic hero Melville limned for Hawthorne: "He declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself) amid the powers of heaven, hell, and earth. He may perish, but so long as he exists, he insists upon treating with all Powers upon an equal basis."
    When I first heard about Moby Dick, I thought it was about a jolly group of sailors trying to hunt a “very white whale.” This summer, after I read the novel I pictured it as mad man’s sad attempt to dominate a force of nature. But after I read this article Moby Dick, a Wicked Book, I realized that there is more to it than just revenge. It is about Ahab’s desire to prove himself stronger than God.
    Captain Ahab’s ultimate downfall lies in his stubbornness against God. In Aristotle’s tragic hero terms, this is closely related to ‘hubris’, or being overly-confident in one’s abilities {arrogance}. However, the difference is that in the play Oedipus, the tragic hero did not really know what he was getting into. Captain Ahab on the contrary, knew that there was nothing more than a snowball’s chance to kill the whale, and yet insists that he is all powerful by declaring fate is on his side. [so that he may appear to have equal advantage against the whale] I don’t know if that was bravery, stupidity, or both, but in the end…Ahab most likely represents the fighting spirit of man in denial against God’s all mighty will.
    Sloan sort of relates this to Melville’s thoughts about God, so it does sort of make sense. However, I don’t understand why he made Ahab lose in the end. Doesn’t Melville (assuming Sloan is right) want to make fighting God possible? If Melville questions God’s “divine benevolent power”, why doesn’t he write about unraveling the mystery of God and make Ahab attempts look more…effective?

    4) Despite the snide commentary, Melville knew Christianity had no corner on iniquity. Everyone, in some measure, was a malefactor. He scoffed at "mooncalf idealisms" that envision humans as altruistic. "The glow of sociality," he wrote in his journal, "is so evanescent, selfishness so lasting." He concurred with the devil in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown": "Evil is the nature of mankind. The human bosom inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power can make manifest in deeds. The whole earth is one stain of guilt, one mighty blood-spot." As Hamlet tells Ophelia, "We are arrant knaves, all."
    In the quote above, Sloan basically says that Melville believes in flawed human nature. This is true because in one chapter, the reader got to witness the hypocrisy of Quaker whalers. These “holy” men are supposed to preach God’s will, but they bend the rules in order to gain profit in whaling. Other examples include the vengeful Ahab, and the entire crew itself – they are all there to hunt whales and gain profit [with the exception of Ishmael].
    However, I don’t think Melville is saying that all people are flawed. For instance, Queequeg may appear savage-like and terrifying, but he is noble in nature. Thus, I think it is mostly just about religious hypocrisy, which explains Queequeg’s purpose – to parallel against Christianity.

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  3. Answering Fiona:
    5)How is it possible for Sloan to understand Melville’s deepest sentiment and conviction just by reading the novel and understanding his background? To Christians, this quote is blasphemy in itself and it is quite a leap for Sloan to conclude that it is what Melville believes in.
    I believe that a good author is able to communicate his message effectively, although Melville purposely does the opposite. Sloan may be entirely wrong in his analysis, but the point of interpretation is not to prove what is right. What use is there to argue when Melville isn’t here to confirm the ultimate answer? We can only guess and infer from what is left of Melville, and nothing more.
    True, to Christians his message is blasphemy, but to the readers of the present, we see through a different set of lens and interpret his work differently. Maybe Melville is a genius, and specifically crafted his message stay under the radar for readers of his time. Maybe that is why Moby Dick is so great – it tries to express something without showing it explicitly.

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  4. 5.) Answering Andy:
    "However, I don’t understand why he made Ahab lose in the end. Doesn’t Melville (assuming Sloan is right) want to make fighting God possible? If Melville questions God’s “divine benevolent power”, why doesn’t he write about unraveling the mystery of God and make Ahab attempts look more…effective?"

    If what Sloan says about Melville is true, that Melville believes that “in this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes,” than perhaps Moby Dick’s victory is a confirmation of Melville’s belief that in the end, everything is evil and everyone’s fate is perdition. Throughout the entire novel, Captain Ahab believes in his own power to conquer the whale and relentlessly imposes this belief on the crew. The crew, awed by Ahab’s confidence, also believes his power. Ahab, tricked by his own confidence, and the crew, tricked by Ahab, all die in the end because even though Moby Dick, or God, “tossed a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes,” He still makes Ahab lose in the end. Melville crafted the story in a way that Moby Dick seemed to make fighting him possible. This false hope leads the crew to its demise. Melville doesn’t write about unraveling the mystery of God because His mystery cannot be unraveled. Melville is emphasizing that no matter how much effort humans put into trying to understand and reach God, He and his “divine benevolent” power always leaves human unanswered and suffering on Earth.

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  5. 3. "Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, hypocrisy, and predatory capitalism." I think this quote is significant because before I knew about Melville's history and his experiences, I couldn't understand why Melville would attack Christianity and mock Christianity like he did. The knowledge of his seafaring adventures changes my whole view of the book. Before when I was reading Moby Dick I wouldn't have been on the lookout for Melville's twits at Christianity. However, now that I have this background information, I will pay more attention to any reference to Christianity and will probably be able to see more clearly his patterns of mocking the hyprocrisy of Christianity. I will begin to see any pattern of or mention of Christianity as a deliberate comment on some aspect of Christianity.

    4. "In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend. With malice aforethought, he rigs us with the capacity to lie, cheat, deceive, connive, scheme, steal, harass, hate, torment, torture, maim, cripple, kill. With another turn of the screw, he fits us with a faculty for self-abuse: fear, anxiety, doubt, dread, suspicion, brooding, remorse, guilt, and other pale casts of thought. He further ratchets the misery with natural ills: hunger, thirst, poison, disease, plague, drought, lightning, tempest, volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tornado, and the bloody leapers and creepers of the animal kingdom. In this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes."
    I believe this quote is the strongest statement Sloan made throughout the entire article. However, I find this quote extremely opinionated, not a objective analysis of what Melville thinks but an emotional comment on how he, himself, feels about God. I fervently disagree with this quote from Sloan. Sloan simply listed out all the bad things God has given us but did he mention the good that God has blessed us with? I believe that the good far surpasses the bad. All Sloan does is complain about all the unfortunate things in life but does he even think for a minute about thanking God for the good parts of life? No. I probably disagree so strongly with Sloan here because I am a Christian but I also see Sloan's argument as an obviously one-sided argument.

    5. To Fiona: I agree wholeheartedly with the last two sentences of your evaluation of Sloan's quote. Funny that we chose the same quote without knowing it. Of course you are entitled to have your own opinion but I must point out that Sloan only evaluates one side of life. Could God really be "evil" if he provided us with death, illness, and sadness while at the same time providing the beauty of life, health, and happiness?

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  6. 3. "The novel is one vast, hooded allegory. Throughout, cetology is code for theology. In Melville's Quarrel with God, Lawrance Thompson notes that "Melville's entire artistic contrivance in Moby Dick is his own esoteric and cabalistic commentary on God." All talk of whales (Moby Dick, above all) is God-talk." From this quote about the chapters of cetology in Moby Dick it changed the way i view the chapters that do not ncessarily build on the plot of the story. Before reading Sloan's argument about the purpose of this book, i only thought that the purpose of those cetology chapters ae to deepen our understanding of the story and context.

    4. In Moby Dick, he routinely twits Christians. Blood bonding with the heathen harpooner Queequeg, Ishmael, the Presbyterian narrator, says: "I'll try a pagan friend since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy."
    I agree with Sloan in his arguments. I believe that Melville did write this novel to express his disbelief in the goodness of Moby Dick. Sloan's usage in quotes and Melville's personal life is convincing to me and after Sloan's revealation i believe that he has sound arguments.

    Josh

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  7. 3. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew--except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”

    When I first began reading Moby Dick, I took the book for its literal meaning and viewed Moby Dick as a whale that Ahab wanted to kill because it brought serious harm to Ahab. However, Sloan’s argument completely changed the way I viewed the internal meaning of the book. Melville can actually be seen as Ahab trying to seek revenge on Moby/God. At first I thought that Ahab was simply trying to defeat a monstrous force that no one had ever succeeded at, but now I fully understand why Melville characterized Moby Dick as an undefeatable being. One cannot go against God because God is omnipotent and the creator of all (in Christianity). Christians would develop a feeling of hate for Ahab because he is trying to rebel against the religion, which is utterly useless and foolish, as Sloan states. However, Melville characterized Ahab in a way that coincided with his own state – he was going to deal with his problems head-on. The understanding that Melville’s position coincided with that of Ahab really brought out the meaning of this novel. Ahab’s continuous struggle with Moby Dick showed the process in which he gained no new insight or findings. However, just before Ahab was defeated by Moby Dick, he used his last breath to curse Moby Dick (or God in Melville’s case) only to show that he chose to fight with this indestructible force until the very end.

    4. “Hence, rumor has it that Moby/God is "not only ubiquitous, but immortal." He is invulnerable to assault: "Though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he will still swim away unharmed." He transcends understanding: "The great Leviathan is that one creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last. One portrait may hit the mark nearer than another, but none can hit it with any considerable degree of accuracy." He is intelligent, powerful, grand, mighty. Some characterize him as bloodthirsty, vengeful, and malevolent, though one ship doctor, a prosaic diagnostician, opines: "What you take for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness."

    Sloan directly addresses in this quote that Moby/God is omnipotent – he is invulnerable to assault and overall mighty. During that time, many people in the United States were Christians; therefore this specific idea would have directly coincided with that of the religion as a whole. However, as we can see from Sloan’s analysis, he seems to bring the emotions that Ahab has towards Moby Dick to the extremes by using words such as bloodthirsty, malevolent, etc. It is true that Ahab (or Melville) is trying to discover the true meaning of God. However, I think Sloan himself believes that God possesses an evil character but uses his analysis of Melville and Moby Dick to prove his point. Towards the end of Sloan’s argument, it almost seemed as if Sloan believed that he fully understood Melville’s feelings about God and the meanings that he wanted to convey to the reader. I agree with Sloan’s analysis regarding using Moby Dick as a symbol or mask for God, but perhaps he strayed from remaining objective and ended up adding in some of his own emotions to his analysis.

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  8. 5. Response to Fiona: Your comments coincided with mine even though we chose different quotes! I agree with your distinction that Melville does not truly understand the feelings of Melville and that as his analysis progressed, he seemed to throw in bits and pieces of his own personal feelings and emotions towards God. Furthermore, the last sentence of your comment led me into thought for a while. That quote is, indeed, blasphemy for Christians because God sacrificed himself for his people’s sins so that they could be cleansed and live an everlasting life. However, mentioning all those negative terms seemed to directly go against the core beliefs of Christianity.

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  9. 3. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew--except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”
    When I first began reading Moby Dick, I took the book for its literal meaning and viewed Moby Dick as a whale that Ahab wanted to kill because it brought serious harm to Ahab. However, Sloan’s argument completely changed the way I viewed the internal meaning of the book. Melville can actually be seen as Ahab trying to seek revenge on Moby/God. At first I thought that Ahab was simply trying to defeat a monstrous force that no one had ever succeeded at, but now I fully understand why Melville characterized Moby Dick as an undefeatable being. One cannot go against God because God is omnipotent and the creator of all (in Christianity). Christians would develop a feeling of hate for Ahab because he is trying to rebel against the religion, which is utterly useless and foolish, as Sloan states. However, Melville characterized Ahab in a way that coincided with his own state – he was going to deal with his problems head-on. The understanding that Melville’s position coincided with that of Ahab really brought out the meaning of this novel. Ahab’s continuous struggle with Moby Dick showed the process in which he gained no new insight or findings. However, just before Ahab was defeated by Moby Dick, he used his last breath to curse Moby Dick (or God in Melville’s case) only to show that he chose to fight with this indestructible force until the very end.

    4. “Hence, rumor has it that Moby/God is "not only ubiquitous, but immortal." He is invulnerable to assault: "Though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he will still swim away unharmed." He transcends understanding: "The great Leviathan is that one creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last. One portrait may hit the mark nearer than another, but none can hit it with any considerable degree of accuracy." He is intelligent, powerful, grand, mighty. Some characterize him as bloodthirsty, vengeful, and malevolent, though one ship doctor, a prosaic diagnostician, opines: "What you take for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness."

    Sloan directly addresses in this quote that Moby/God is omnipotent – he is invulnerable to assault and overall mighty. During that time, many people in the United States were Christians; therefore this specific idea would have directly coincided with that of the religion as a whole. However, as we can see from Sloan’s analysis, he seems to bring the emotions that Ahab has towards Moby Dick to the extremes by using words such as bloodthirsty, malevolent, etc. It is true that Ahab (or Melville) is trying to discover the true meaning of God. However, I think Sloan himself believes that God possesses an evil character but uses his analysis of Melville and Moby Dick to prove his point. Towards the end of Sloan’s argument, it almost seemed as if Sloan believed that he fully understood Melville’s feelings about God and the meanings that he wanted to convey to the reader. I agree with Sloan’s analysis regarding using Moby Dick as a symbol or mask for God, but perhaps he strayed from remaining objective and ended up adding in some of his own emotions to his analysis.

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  10. “Not long before Melville began to broil his wicked book, he had, like the apostate Ahab, bolted to the devil's camp. Wakened by voyages on merchant, naval, and whaling ships, he began to reassess the Christian theodicy inculcated by his parents and the Dutch Reformed Church, an offshoot of Calvinism, in which he had been baptized, catechized, and reared. He had been taught to acquiesce in God's will no matter how unjust or cruel it might seem, for God, a deft magician, always plucked good from evil.”

    This quote was perhaps the most influential in changing the way in perceived the purpose of each character and, to some extent, Melville’s intended message. I had originally considered Ahab as the antagonist of the story, the lunatic that basically dug holes for his crewmen to jump in. I used to think that Melville was criticizing those who went against God’s will and didn’t believe in the power of faith – that he was blaming those people for inflicting pain upon innocent bystanders. Yet, after understanding the scenes of misery that he witnessed in his voyages, I understand now that Melville is using Ahab as a means to convey his true view of Christianity. The only reason why Melville had Ahab encompass his ideology was because of the heavily devout Christian population of his time, who would have no doubt berate him severely had it been clear that he believes that God is malevolent. From this quote, I can see why Melville’s religious beliefs much more clearly. Although he believes that God likes to “bully” humankind, Melville also acknowledges that God is omnipotent – that despite his cruelty, God still has ultimate power over humans. A question occurred to me when I saw this quote, and it is: Do you think that perhaps Melville was using Ahab’s experience and tragic ending to warn himself? Maybe he is warning himself against furthering pressing the issue – from further searching for ways to prove that God is a bully, or to show the world God’s “true colors.”

    “Like a fiendish twin of John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost to "justify the ways of God to man," Melville wrote Moby Dick to lambast God. Melville sided with Milton's Satan, Lord Byron's Lucifer, Shelley's Prometheus, and other indomitable scofflaws who said "No! in thunder" to the ruthless sway of the Almighty.”

    Sloan’s argument has part of me convinced that Melville was indeed using the sheer ruthless and destructive nature to mirror the characteristics of his God. However, I agree with what Fiona said. Even though it is a fact that Melville did take part in voyages that allowed him to see the cruel aspects of his world, I think that Sloan’s was too quick in his assessment that Melville believed in a purely malevolent, albeit all powerful, God. There is a big jump from viewing the world in all its ugliness, and having the conviction that God is evil. Instead, I think that Melville is actually using this novel to explore and solidify his religious beliefs. Maybe this analysis is a bit off the track, but the fact that Melville left Ishmael alive at the end of the novel (he could have used a third person point of view, and let the whole crew doe) shows that he has some reservations about his (potential) view that God is brutal.

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  11. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew—except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”

    Originally, I saw the whaling crew’s perish as a result of battling an immortal force, Moby Dick, as simply evidence of Melville’s belief in fate. However, after Sloan’s explanation that Moby Dick is actually Melville’s protest against Christian dogma and God himself, I think there are more connotations behind Captain Ahab’s death. The fact that Moby Dick, seemingly angered by Pequod’s persistence, chases after the crew for revenge makes it, the symbol of God, resemble a human being. If Moby Dick/God acts like a human being who, it/He is a human being. Moby Dick’s/God’s attack on Pequod also shows that it has no concern on humanly matters. Thus, Melville’s portrayal of the God is nothing like the Christian, forgiving, and loving God; He is only a cruel being that possesses great powers.

    “Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, hypocrisy, and predatory capitalism.
    “In Moby Dick, he routinely twits Christians…”

    Melville’s book, Moby Dick, portrays not his lost of faith in the Christian faith itself but in hypocritical Christians. It is people who chose to attack defenseless, innocent natives, not God. Though these people may use Christianity to justify their actions, but God has not spoken throughout the whole course of action. Like Moby Dick, God is not concerned with the mortals’ matter; it is the people who chose to do evil. Thus, it is only Christians whom Melville is attacking. (Remember, there are several different interpretations of “God.” For example, there is benevolent, loving God and the merciless God. Melville is not, in any way, twisting God’s nature because there are thousands of ways to see God.)

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  12. **For the comment above, the first quote was in answer to #3, and the second quote was in answer to #4. I forgot to label the numbers when I submitted the response. Sorry!

    5. In response to Fiona’s comment: “Ahab, tricked by his own confidence, and the crew, tricked by Ahab, all die in the end because even though Moby Dick, or God, “tossed a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes,” He still makes Ahab lose in the end. Melville crafted the story in a way that Moby Dick seemed to make fighting him possible.”

    Does Melville really create false hope? I’m not sure what other people thought, but from the beginning of the novel, it appeared that the mission was going to be a failure. Whether it is from the atmosphere that Melville created or the ominous diction (such as Peter Coffin and the picture that hung in the inn) that he employed, it seems that from the start, Melville was foreshadowing a gloomy ending. From all the comments that other sailors had made about Moby Dick, Melville essentially showed throughout the novel that hunting the whale was not possible. Isn’t this also how the author was able to paint Ahab as somewhat crazy and manipulative – by showing that even though the mission was impossible, Ahab’s doggedness still led his crewmen to embark on a dangerous journey?

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  13. 3. [[Captain Ahab mirrors the tragic hero Melville limned for Hawthorne: "He declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself) amid the powers of heaven, hell, and earth. He may perish, but so long as he exists, he insists upon treating with all Powers upon an equal basis." To the end, Ahab is defiant and disdainful: "To neither love nor reverence wilt thou [God] be kind. No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional mastery in me."]]

    When I first read Moby Dick, I had absolutely no idea what it was talking about and thus took it as it were on the surface—that it was just a story about a man chasing a whale, even though I’ve heard numerous references to its greatness many times in the past. Sloan’s argument here, though, redefines Ahab as a tragic hero of Aristotelian proportions in that he is doing something that would inevitably bring about his downfall, but he does it anyway without remorse. Now, through Sloan’s explanations, I view Ahab as someone who isn’t just a crazy protagonist in an adventure story; he is something more, someone who embodies Melville’s idea of a character who challenges divinity but ultimately fails—in the end, Moby Dick is still ‘evil’ and unattainable, which are Melville’s supposed views on God. But the point is that Ahab goes against his nemesis until the end, pursuing it in the same fashion—albeit mad—as Oedipus pursued the truth about his origins.

    ...

    4. [[Having never heard of him, some sailors doubt he exists. Others have heard, "but don't believe in him at all." The whale's whiteness is linked to "the heartless voids and immensities of the universe" and the "colorless, all-color of atheism."
    To Captain Ahab, Moby Dick bodies forth a malignant universe designed to vex, baffle, and infuriate.]]

    Here, Sloan addresses further similarities between Moby Dick and God. Some people ‘doubt it [Moby Dick] exists’, just like atheists doubt God; the quality of ‘whiteness’ in Christian terms is supposed to denote purity and good, but in Moby Dick (and God as well) Melville determines it as something horrifying and ‘heartless’. I believe that Sloan’s argument, although comprehensive, also seems to be too polarizing; in his quote from Hawthorne, the other author reveals that Melville himself swung between agnosticism and believing in a higher being, implying that he might not have had such extreme views as Sloan had depicted him to have. Rather, Melville might have only written Moby Dick to express his disgust at any hypocrisy he saw during his time, not just to bash Christians and go against God.

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  14. 3) “Melville waggishly added: ‘You perceive I employ a capital letter in the pronoun referring to the Deity. Don't you think there is a slight dash of flunkeyism in that usage?’
    “With Machiavellian deviltry, the cerebral Deity--an ‘unearthly, cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor’--orchestrates Ahab's very blasphemies…”
    Before reading this critical essay by Sloan, Ahab’s tragic heroism did not seem to go beyond a vain attempt at revenge. He seemed like a somewhat regular human being, merely possessed by a single idea that led his life—and others’—to ruin. However, now I see that Ahab had an extreme arrogance, one that placed him (in his own eyes) amongst the most powerful forces man believed in at the time. However, through Sloan’s analysis of Melville’s letters to Hawthorne, I found that the more Ahab tried to prove his godliness, the more God would demonstrate his ultimate supremacy over the universe. Not only Ahab tries to discredit God’s control, but Melville does as well; putting a capital letter in a deities’ name makes humans the lackeys of that deity. While Sloan says that Ahab is definitely not a representation of Melville himself, there are elements of Ahab’s character that seem to attribute Melville as well.

    4) “In Ahab's brainish apprehension, Moby God is a skulking ruffian who picks on pint-sized opponents: ‘I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies: Take some one of your own size; don't pommel me! No, ye've knocked me down, and I am up again, but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags!’”
    Here, Sloan says that Ahab sees “Moby God” as a bully, and Ahab, that one kid that has the nerve—or plain stupidity—to stand up to him. I can see how that is exemplified in the book: Ahab continually tries to convince his men that his quest for vengeance is for the betterment of the entire whaling society, and not just himself. Ahab also tries to match God’s will with his own, as if he could be more powerful than He. Sloan, however, practically bases Melville’s theme of Christianity purely on Ahab’s cynical view: all of God’s plans for humankind are malignant to the soul. I do not believe that Melville actually meant all of the cynicism: as much as humans may be fated for death, we are not fated to be constantly battered by some higher power. Had Melville thought so strongly about Christianity, he would have left out some of the more cheerful elements in the book: Ishmael and Queequeg’s intimacy, Stubb’s attitude towards life, and at the end, when Ishmael was left alive.

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  17. 3. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew--except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”
    I agreed with Sloan in that I thought Moby-Dick symbolizes God, or the greater being, in the way that the white whale “transcends understanding” and “remains unpainted.” I believe that the higher being definitely transcends understanding; there are so many different perspectives on God, and I think all have at least some degree of truth (or closeness to the truth). However, this quote made me realize that the symbolism actually goes deeper than I had originally thought. I did not know about Melville’s past, and Sloan’s argument made me realize that Melville had a valid reason to lose faith in Christianity and that the novel may be a projection of Melville’s perspective on God. He certainly had a reason to be displeased with the way God runs things, what with all the unpleasant occurrences in life and all. This quote made me realize that Melville was doing more than complaining – he was outright accusing God of bullying those that are “pint-sized” compared to Him. God, as portrayed by Melville, is indeed “a man of war,” unforgiving to those who attempts sacrilege, which is shown through the destruction of Ahab the God-hater and the survival of Ishmael, the nice Christian. By calling God a big bully, Sloan made me realize that in Melville’s point of view, God doesn’t play fair. He picks on people who are defenseless against him, and He possesses a sort of magical imperviousness to attacks. Ahab’s crew had easily subdued many white whales on their voyage prior to Moby-Dick – yet they were unable to cause any serious damage to the great white whale (the same goes for other whaling ships who encountered Moby-Dick). This quote helped me understand the God-metaphor at a deeper level and draw more connections between God and the whale, which makes the argument even more convincing for me.

    4. “After Moby Dick, Melville began to slough off the neo-Calvinism and slither toward agnosticism. Still, he occasionally pined for the custodial Papa Above of his boyhood. Hawthorne, who understood Melville as well as anyone, said of him: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. He has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us."
    A saintly devil, indeed.”
    Hawthorne’s speculation on Melville sounds very accurate; after all, he knew Melville in person. Thus, I agree with Sloan when he says that Melville occasionally wished to return to the days when he still believed in Christianity. His usage of Hawthorne’s quote strengthens his argument. However, after Sloan’s long interpretation on Melville’s extreme cynicism and loss of faith in Christianity – especially in asserting God as the “Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend,” I have trouble believing that Melville could still swing back and forth between “belief” and “unbelief” easily. Thus, I think Sloan’s interpretation of Melville’s intentions is inaccurate in the way that it is too extreme. Perhaps Melville did have a grudge against God; perhaps Melville did believe God was unfair and impervious, but he probably did not go as far as to be blasphemous about God. Would someone really still be indecisive about “belief” and “unbelief” if he sires such strong, negative thoughts on God? I think Sloan got carried away in discussing Melville’s dissatisfaction with God and ended up exaggerating it to the level of blasphemous hatred.

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  18. 3) “He concurred with the devil in Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’: ‘Evil is the nature of mankind. The human bosom inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power can make manifest in deeds. The whole earth is one stain of guilt, one mighty blood-spot.’ As Hamlet tells Ophelia, ‘We are arrant knaves, all.’”
    Sloan exhibits the inherently cruel nature of not only mankind, but also of the more indirect loss of faith aboard the Pequod. One big distinction is made between the “human bosom” and the “human power” to manifest and to destruct. Ahab hunts after Moby Dick as if the whale were the manifestation of evil and murder—when in fact it is he who murders (by his trade) and terrorizes his crew into lusting after a rather abstract “monster” that they have dehumanized. Evil resides in the “bosom,” rather than in what actions can do—Ahab may not be evil at heart, but the fact that he passionately refutes all possibilities that Moby Dick is innocent proves his belief in innate evilness and guilt. I’ve come to see that “evilness” isn’t just simply a means of characterization in the book (sure, we can say that Ahab is “evil” or that Moby Dick, having devastated so many people, is “evil”), but it can also be seen as the grounds on which characters thrive and develop. Ahab is propelled by what he believes is the “evilness” of the whale into mad frenzy; Starbuck’s religious faith and practical disbelief in the evil manifestation of the whale is what likely prevents him from losing sense and responsibility.

    4) “Melville sided with Milton’s Satan, Lord Byron’s Lucifer, Shelley’s Prometheus, and other indomitable scofflaws who said ‘No! in thunder’ to the ruthless sway of the Almighty. ‘For all men who say yes,’ Melville averred, ‘lie.’ In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own.”
    Sloan supports the idea that Melville reflects Ahab in himself, and does so to show Melville’s resentment of a “higher authority.” God’s word has diminished in Melville’s perspective, and His “law,” which has led to terrifying deeds in the history of colonialism and dehumanization, is defied by both Ahab and Melville. All men who say “yes” to God’s will “lie,” in Melville’s view, and he believes that objecting mightily to God is what is righteous. Sloan uses these lines to establish a coherent relationship between Ahab and Melville, one that penetrates at their central beliefs. Melville uses Ahab to represent defiance against God and fate, but, ironically, Ahab is at the same time an executioner of the “evil” in society. As a whaler, he represents that significant portion of the colonizing world, and seems ruthless to the core. I think that in his departure from faith/religious doctrine, Melville is like Ahab, who cuts ties with “known” morality. But I think that Ahab appears to be much more of a brutal character than Melville—Melville imprints his spirit onto paper, while Ahab, the created spirit, is designed to kill as we know him. Recognizing Ahab’s inner fury, I can say that Melville presented him as the most curious naysayer, going after a most curious evil, the whale.

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  19. 3. "Since Moby Dick Emblematizes God, Ahab's revengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew except Ishamel, who lives to tell the tale, Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough and tumble- retaliation was another instance of God-bullying." When i first read the novel, i didnt think much of the whale. I thought the book was more about how Captain Ahab had a huge determination on wanting to capture his dream whale- Moby Dick. It didnt occur to me that the whale meant anything. If it meant anything at all, i would have assumed it to be his dream, or his goals in life. However, after reading Sloan's article, I never thought the author would use the whale to symbolize God. After realizing it could symbolize God, it made more sense to me now. For a man to go after God as if he was some type of animal to be captured, will most likely to be punished. However, even after reading Sloan's article, i still feel like Moby Dick could still represent his dream/goals in life.

    4. Since Moby Dick Emblematizes God, Ahab's revengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew except Ishamel, who lives to tell the tale, Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough and tumble- retaliation was another instance of God-bullying." I used the same quote because i thought it changed a pattern in how i felt about the book as well as i dont necessarily agree with Sloan's argument. To a degree, yes, i believe that Moby Dick could be a representation of God himself. However, couldnt Moby Dick represent something more than just one thing. Isnt there a possibility that Melville could just happen to write about a whale who is incredibly strong? I think Moby Dick could represent something else and not just God. I think it could also represent dreams and goals in life. I guess it would be a more cynical view if you think about it, but Herman Melville sounded like a cynical writer in my opinion.

    5. I agree with Andy on Melville not thinking everyone is flawed. I do however think Melville has a very cynical point of view on life. The tone and his writing just seems gloomy and sad. I'm not sure if this could be a theme or a motif in the story, but it seemed like there was a hint of companionship and brotherhood among some of the crew members. Some or most would argue that Queequeg and Ishmael sleeping together was gay, but i think it was more like brotherhood and companionship. The trust and loyalty they built together on a single ship. I believe that this trust and loyalty isnt a flaw in human nature or in humans at all.

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  20. 5) In response to Angel:
    "I’ve come to see that “evilness” isn’t just simply a means of characterization in the book (sure, we can say that Ahab is “evil” or that Moby Dick, having devastated so many people, is “evil”), but it can also be seen as the grounds on which characters thrive and develop. Ahab is propelled by what he believes is the “evilness” of the whale into mad frenzy; Starbuck’s religious faith and practical disbelief in the evil manifestation of the whale is what likely prevents him from losing sense and responsibility."
    I agree with what Angel has stated here: evil seems to be a main root cause of the mindsets, thoughts, and actions of many of the characters in the book. But how did Starbuck's faith get him through all of the "evilness" when Melville also seemed to be denouncing Christianity? Is Starbuck the sole representative of the original, pure church? Toward the end of the novel, Starbuck had embraced the fate he had been faced with by not killing Ahab. This could possibly mean that, like the basic beliefs of Calvinism, Melville believed that all humans were born of sin, bottled up with evil that is only waiting to overflow and drench anything pure in its way. Under the influence of Ahab, Starbuck tired of fighting against innate human evil.

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  21. To Andy:
    "However, I don’t understand why he made Ahab lose in the end. Doesn’t Melville (assuming Sloan is right) want to make fighting God possible? If Melville questions God’s “divine benevolent power”, why doesn’t he write about unraveling the mystery of God and make Ahab attempts look more…effective?"

    I think Melville made Ahab lose in the end to show that God is a big "bully." I doubt Melville is trying to make "fighting God" possible; I think he's complaining about how God is unfair and how He bullies people. The fact that Ahab ultimately loses strengthens the argument that God is unfairly impervious to attacks and that He wins no matter what. I doubt "Moby-Dick" was meant to be an inspiring novel... besides, his audience comprises Christians mostly, and they would never agree with the concept of a human defeating God. Melville is complaining about the unfairness of God; he is not trying to remedy it.

    Besides. Don't "Great Literature" usually have "unsatisfying" and "ambiguous" endings? ;)

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  22. JT
    #3 “All talk of whales, is God talk”

    I chose this particular quote because it clicked something within me as I was reminded the symbology of the Whale within the book. The many chapters the build up before Moby Dick appear seem to vaguely refer to the sperm whale as a superstition. Starbuck and Stud often questioned the existence of Moby Dick accusing Ahab for blasphemy simply because they didn’t believe Moby Dick existed. This pattern correlates greatly with religion in our world. God seems to play a superstitious figure within many people; however, there are few, like Ahab, who have faith for the existence of many things intangible. Interestingly enough, Moby Dick in the novel to some appear to be a wall, or an obstacle, to be overcome; however, others see Moby Dick as fantasy. At the same time, some believe he exists and fears him. No one in the group is fond of Moby Dick. Melville is trying to communicate a thought that God, to many people, is a wicked prick who essentially bullies with people’s emotions. God is not a good figure.

    #4 “Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, and predatory capitalism.”

    First off on the list, Sloan discusses the qualities of Christianity Melville despises. Faith is a key component of Christianity, yet Melville says no, faith is not what christians are motivated by. Seemingly on the boat, the only person who had somewhat fate was Ahab, yet can you really call it fate when he already engaged in a battle with Moby Dick. The others merely considered Moby Dick as a superstition. Secondly, hope was depicted thinner than glass. The fragile nature of hope can be seen as Moby Dick struck the boat and killed the harpooners. The inevitability of tragic lives takes away the component of hope within the book. On the other hand, one can see the influences of ethnocentrism and predatory capitalism as people are said to enjoy “getting paid” in opposition to “paying people”. Money comes first even if it takes one to backstab their fellow friend. Secondly, everyone evaluates others based on one’s own prejudices. This effect can be seen on the Perouq as in few occasions the harpooners actually agreed on one task. I agree with sloan the Melville is trying to communicate the nefariousness of christianity. I agree that the institution of Christianity under the manipulation of human kind can be wicked, yet I disagree that Christianity as a religion per se is corrupt.

    #5 To Angela #3
    I agree completely with your analysis. Melville depicts Moby Dick seemingly as God, yet a bully. To Melville, being a God and a bully can coexist at the same time. Ahab on the other hand, encounters Moby Dick leaving no one to live except for Ishmael, the simple Christian. Melville ruthlessly depicts Moby Dick destroying the ship and Ahab cursing God with his last breathe symbolizing the inevitable nature of death and God as a supreme bully. Maybe Melville created the name “Moby Dick” to gambol the with root “mob”. Melville relentlessly portrays Ahab as a hero fighting breathlessly to the very end. Seeing Moby Dick (God) as the antagonist to Melville, one sympathizes with our tragic hero, Ahab, attempting to overcome and destroy something that was never meant to be destroyed, someone that in reality may have created Ahab per se.

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  23. #3 “All talk of whales, is God talk”

    I chose this particular quote because it clicked something within me as I was reminded the symbology of the Whale within the book. The many chapters the build up before Moby Dick appear seem to vaguely refer to the sperm whale as a superstition. Starbuck and Stud often questioned the existence of Moby Dick accusing Ahab for blasphemy simply because they didn’t believe Moby Dick existed. This pattern correlates greatly with religion in our world. God seems to play a superstitious figure within many people; however, there are few, like Ahab, who have faith for the existence of many things intangible. Interestingly enough, Moby Dick in the novel to some appear to be a wall, or an obstacle, to be overcome; however, others see Moby Dick as fantasy. At the same time, some believe he exists and fears him. No one in the group is fond of Moby Dick. Melville is trying to communicate a thought that God, to many people, is a wicked prick who essentially bullies with people’s emotions. God is not a good figure.

    #4 “Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, and predatory capitalism.”

    First off on the list, Sloan discusses the qualities of Christianity Melville despises. Faith is a key component of Christianity, yet Melville says no, faith is not what christians are motivated by. Seemingly on the boat, the only person who had somewhat fate was Ahab, yet can you really call it fate when he already engaged in a battle with Moby Dick. The others merely considered Moby Dick as a superstition. Secondly, hope was depicted thinner than glass. The fragile nature of hope can be seen as Moby Dick struck the boat and killed the harpooners. The inevitability of tragic lives takes away the component of hope within the book. On the other hand, one can see the influences of ethnocentrism and predatory capitalism as people are said to enjoy “getting paid” in opposition to “paying people”. Money comes first even if it takes one to backstab their fellow friend. Secondly, everyone evaluates others based on one’s own prejudices. This effect can be seen on the Perouq as in few occasions the harpooners actually agreed on one task. I agree with sloan the Melville is trying to communicate the nefariousness of christianity. I agree that the institution of Christianity under the manipulation of human kind can be wicked, yet I disagree that Christianity as a religion per se is corrupt.

    #5 To Angela #3
    I agree completely with your analysis. Melville depicts Moby Dick seemingly as God, yet a bully. To Melville, being a God and a bully can coexist at the same time. Ahab on the other hand, encounters Moby Dick leaving no one to live except for Ishmael, the simple Christian. Melville ruthlessly depicts Moby Dick destroying the ship and Ahab cursing God with his last breathe symbolizing the inevitable nature of death and God as a supreme bully. Maybe Melville created the name “Moby Dick” to gambol the with root “mob”. Melville relentlessly portrays Ahab as a hero fighting breathlessly to the very end. Seeing Moby Dick (God) as the antagonist to Melville, one sympathizes with our tragic hero, Ahab, attempting to overcome and destroy something that was never meant to be destroyed, someone that in reality may have created Ahab per se.

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  24. To Andy:
    I believe that Melville made Ahab lose because he himself still deeply believes in the powers of God, even though He is merciless and cruel. In addition, he does not want to have an effective argument because he does not want the Christian critics to fire attacks at him. The fact that he labeled Ahab “insane” at the first place proves this: He is just giving his piece of mind, but he is not expecting everyone to agree.
    I agree that Melville is saying that human nature is flawed, but I would limit that argument to only Christians because during that era, it is the Christians who dominant and exploit the world resources.

    To Angela:
    I agree that Sloan probably believes that God is evil because it is true that when people are writing papers/researches they tend to look for what they wish to see. Yet, I do not think that straying from being objective will change the credibility of his essay because Reader-response approach is also a way to analyze literature. Thus, we can take his words as references but they are not, like all other literary analyses, a set-in-stone truth.

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  25. 5) Response to Proey: “Ahab also tries to match God’s will with his own, as if he could be more powerful than He.” I think that as Ahab tries to increasingly defy the known law of religion (and God) as well as a certain “set path” of destiny, he is at the same time, as you said, trying to “match God’s will with his own.” It seems like there’s a love-hate relationship between Ahab and the abstract God-figure that could be, as Sloan argued, represented by Moby Dick. On the one hand, Ahab defies God by neglecting fate, but complements God in his power when he structures a fate for himself. I also agree with your point on Sloan’s rather fallacious incorporation of Melville’s cynicism—it is indeed Ahab who sees the world as a cruel place, and it’s not definite whether Melville intended to portray the world as a dark, hostile environment. I don’t think that Melville could have broached upon Christianity in the way that Sloan argues he did; I don’t think his nineteenth-century society would have allowed or tolerated such implications.

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  26. 3. "In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend...he rigs us with the capacity to lie, cheat, deceive, connive, scheme, steal, harass, hate, torment, torture, maim, cripple, kill. With another turn of the screw, he fits us with a faculty for self-abuse: fear, anxiety, doubt, dread, suspicion, brooding, remorse, guilt, and other pale casts of thought. He further ratchets the misery with natural ills: hunger, thirst, poison, disease, plague, drought, lightning, tempest, volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tornado, and the bloody leapers and creepers of the animal kingdom. In this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes."

    Originally, I thought Melville's main message regarding Christianity was that several of its followers were not as true to their beliefs as they claimed; in fact, Melville depicts them as shameless hypocrites. Despite this, I still had the impression that Melville had no problem with Christianity's fundamental ideals. I thought he was merely pointing out the incongruity of the Christians' beliefs and their actual actions. However, here, Sloan claims that Melville actually sees God as the Original Sinner, as well as the demonic Prankster that occasionally throws false hope down to people. According to Sloan, Melville thinks that even the very root of Christianity is iniquitous. Sloan also claimed that Melville carefully filtered his anti-Christian remarks as not to upset the majority of his readers; if this is true, perhaps that is why I didn't pick up on them immediately. Nonetheless, while Sloan's argument may be plausible, I don't think it's possible to fully prove it.

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  27. 4. "Melville further shielded himself with opaque symbolism. The uninitiated reader may be baffled by the hoopla surrounding a prolix narrative on whaling. In Melville's day, this Great American Novel was panned as an uneven sea yarn, marred by philosophical digressions, gratuitous ribaldry, and recondite allusions. Even Ahab's thunder can sound like a distant, muffled rumble. One isn't always sure just where or what the lightning struck."

    I agree with Sloan's suggestion that Melville crafted his text to be opaque and therefore "fob off querulous critics" and refrain from heavily insulting his readers. Though I am unsure to what extent Melville actually was anti-Christian, there are some very sensitive remarks or impications made in the book. By using Ishmael to filter potentially condemnable ideas, digressing into cetology or philosophy and whatnot, Melville definitely makes his claims considerably more subtle. For example, Ahab's thundering madness can be interpreted several ways, and readers can never be certains "what or where the thunder struck."

    5. In response to Annie "Thus, I think Sloan’s interpretation of Melville’s intentions is inaccurate in the way that it is too extreme. Perhaps Melville did have a grudge against God; perhaps Melville did believe God was unfair and impervious, but he probably did not go as far as to be blasphemous about God. Would someone really still be indecisive about “belief” and “unbelief” if he sires such strong, negative thoughts on God? I think Sloan got carried away in discussing Melville’s dissatisfaction with God and ended up exaggerating it to the level of blasphemous hatred."
    Annie makes a really good point that it's unlikely that Melville, who was known to fluctuate between belief and nonbelief, could make such a harsh, wicked statement on the very core of Christianity. I agree that it is possible that Sloan got a little carried away in his interpretation of Melville calling his book "wicked." However, Melville may just as well havereally just have gone through a very dark time or something--a period of particularly blasphemous tendency. Either way, readers can only speculate.

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  28. 3. Sloan's "Moby Dick: A Wicked Book" has changed my interpretation of the novel Moby Dick in general. While I did pick up on the religious, specifically Christian, references and allusions here and there, I mainly thought of Melville's message as one that had to do with fate and free will--whether or not one gets to decide how to live one's life, and if yes, then to what degree. However, after reading the article, I could see its criticism of Christianity and God--that rather than fate being this inescapable thing, our lives are governed by God whom Sloan believes Melville believed to be evil--rather than having little to do with religion when the fate factor versus free will element comes along in the book.
    "Melville further shielded himself with opaque symbolism. The uninitiated reader may be baffled by the hoopla surrounding a prolix narrative on whaling. In Melville's day, this Great American Novel was panned as an uneven sea yarn, marred by philosophical digressions, gratuitous ribaldry, and recondite allusions. Even Ahab's thunder can sound like a distant, muffled rumble. One isn't always sure just where or what the lightning struck."

    To be specific, this quote changed what I thought the intercalery chapters meant and were for. While in class we talked about how intercalery chapters slows down action and builds suspence, and I personally thought that these chapters were more philosophical chapters in which Ishmael--the omniscient narrator--could express and just divulge his opinions about life, religion, etc. in a more direct and monologue way. However, after reading the quote, which can be summed up as "Melville uses these heavy digressions to shield the truth and confuse the readers in terms of what he is actually saying about religion", I am starting to look at the different formalist patterns in the book in a more religion-oriented way. In regards to the chapters, I somewhat agree with Sloan because these intercalery chapters were really confusing and seemed very off-topic which can achieve the effect of making readers dose off and not really notice what Melville is actually saying in the way that we could if we were really into the book from start to finish.

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  29. (Continuing My Answer to Question 3)
    And delving deeper into how Sloan's specific quotes has changed my idea on some of the formalist patterns, I do believe that he has made me realize that the whale Moby Dick could really possiibly be a symbol for God rather than a symbol for a nonreligious fate or great power that I originally thought it was. Before reading this, I thought that Ahab was simply trying to conquer something that he believes to be unconquerable--to accomplish a feat and to break out from this fate-oriented world that he is trapper in--but now with the new religion element added to it, everything becomes more connected.
    The quote, "Having never heard of him, some sailors doubt he exists. Others have heard, "but don't believe in him at all." The whale's whiteness is linked to "the heartless voids and immensities of the universe" and the "colorless, all-color of atheism."" makes me more convinced that the whole text is Christianity-oriented, and even before reading the entire quote, I knew how it would end because it made sense to me! Sloan definitely convinced me that Moby Dick was a symbol for God. And in doing so, he has changed my view on Ahab's obsession and vengeance toward Moby Dick.
    Before reading this article, I thought that Melville was trying to show people's huge yet in vain struggles against Fate--hence Ahab's anger and obsession to kill the whale, which is another way of saying to show that he controls his own fate. However, the the whole article, especially the quote "In Ahab's brainish apprehension, Moby God is a skulking ruffian who picks on pint-sized opponents: "I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies: Take some one of your own size; don't pommel me! No, ye've knocked me down, and I am up again, but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags!"", makes me think of Ahab's struggles differently--that it is a natural, human response to anything unfair. Furthermore, his obsession with Moby Dick becomes more relatable and understandable, and so does his pain because when I thought that his struggle was with fate, it seemed a lot less personal and less worthy of a struggle because fate can also be defined as the way life goes rather than as something that controls our lives. But, now that I think that his struggles are with God, it makes them a lot more important and even relatable, and his anger and obsession a lot more justified, because God does seem like a person to most of us, and thus, it feels like someONE is controlling our lives.

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  30. 4. "In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend." This quote is the essence of what Sloan continues to say about how God is the one who gave us the capability to be angry and greedy (and all the ability to commite all the other bad things that take place in our world)--he ends up saying that Ahab's anger and obsession was also controlled by fate/God and so there really is no free will. "So Ahab rages at God because God compels him to. Or does God rage at himself? "I am madness maddened," says Ahab. One begins to see why. "
    This is the main part about Sloan's article that I do not agree with. I DO agree with the fact that God was the one who opened Pandora's box and allowed all these abominations to exist on Earth, but I do not beleive that Melville meant to say that Ahab was obsessed with Moby Dick because he was fated to be or compelled by God to be. After reading Moby Dick, I believe that while Melville was indeed cynical, he still believed in some form of free will. Ahab was told by Starbuck himself during teh second chase that he could still trun back and stop his whale hunt, but he chose to continue. Furthermore, before Ahab dies, rather than admitting defeat, Melville has him say that he gives up, showing that it was his choice to stop fighting rather than die which, as unlikely as it may be, may reflect a tinge of a belief in free will from Melville.
    In analyzing the most direct quote that states Sloan's opinion that Melville believed that our emotions are controlled by God--the quote about Ahab's rage--it is illogical that God would compel someone to be mad at Him; it does not make any sense! If Melville does believe that God thinks with his head rather than his heart as Sloan says, then why would He do that? Also, because Melville was talking about an individual's struggle with fate--may fate be God or some non-religious plan--I believe that while he may believe that in the end fate will get what it has planned, people can choose which route of a prophesized fate they want to take which thus affects which fate they get--the ultimate fate, however, is the same for all those that choose the same path, so people do not have that much free will--and can still choose to try to escape its end results before the end--free will. Thus, I do not agree with Sloan's idea that Melville thought that every little thing we human beings think or do is controlled by God. Because Ahab did have the choice to stop and if he had stopped, according Gabriel's prophesy, he would not have died, I believe that Melville is actually more optimistic than many people interpret him to be; while he believes that fate governs the end results, he also believes that people can choose which end result they want which means that people DO get to choose even if it is only on small things--like all teh whalers in the story got to choose whether or not they wanted they wanted to hunt Moby Dick, and their small decision there leads to a fate that they can neither control nor escape (life or death).

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  31. To Allen:
    I disagree with Allen's view about the Moby Dick's symbolism and Melville's view on the God. I believe that Moby Dick is a symbol of God and cannt be that of a dream or a goal. That is because the novel is too cynical over human goals and dreams. Melville himself although questions the religion he grew up with but he still holds high hopes and dreams he wishes to complete. If the Moby Dick was to represent dreams and goals it would not be logical for the author to write about a novel to tell people that they shouldnt follow their dreams and goals. It is more likely that Melville is trying to convey a message about God and religion that affects the people in the society most at the time that also affected Melville the most. Therefore, I disagree with Allen

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  32. #3. ""For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie." In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own."

    In this quote, Melville suggests that "all Christians don't actually believe in their religion". Of course it is impossible to determine the truthfulness of this statement, but it has changed my thoughts towards this book, specifically towards Ahab. I originally interpreted his hunting of Moby Dick as an act of vengeance (if Moby Dick represented god, then Ahab was someone who had been betrayed by god). However, if Ahad had indeed never even acknowledged god's existence, then is he searching for a god he believes to not even exist, even though said god had indeed taken his leg away?

    4. ""The glow of sociality," he wrote in his journal, "is so evanescent, selfishness so lasting." He concurred with the devil in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown": "Evil is the nature of mankind. The human bosom inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power can make manifest in deeds. The whole earth is one stain of guilt, one mighty blood-spot." As Hamlet tells Ophelia, "We are arrant knaves, all.""

    I agree with this quote to a certain extent. Yes, there is plenty of evil in this world. Yes, selfishness pervades in society. However, I think I may have to disagree with his cynical point about human evil being unequivocal. Evil isn't the nature of mankind. Humans are born unbiased and naive.

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  33. 3. "Shortly after his American classic was published in 1851, Herman Melville (1819-1891) confessed to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne: "I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb."

    Holy hell. How about I just admit right now that I totally did not see the pretty much outright rebellion against Christianity and its god. Moby Dick was a tediously long and bowel wrenchingly painful read. Sorry. But throughout the book I took on a "sympathizer" point of view, that is, I listened to Melville "lament" and "mourn" and "be resigned" to fate and all its mechanisms. After reading Sloan's analysis, I now realize it was really more of a "lampoon, rant, and TEAR" sort of thing. To me the book actually seemed pretty mild. It was only when Sloan explained to me that Melville intentionally watered some more blasphemous parts down and subtle-fied other insults before I could actually catch that stuff myself. That completely changed my understanding of the entire story: Moby Dick wasn't just an all powerful manifestation of fate and godly prowess, he was "the man" in Ahab's eyes; the quest to destroy the man wasn't just a blind act of revenge; it was Ahab flipping the bird to God, the universe, everything and telling them that he was in control of his own fate.

    4. "In Ahab's brainish apprehension, Moby God is a skulking ruffian who picks on pint-sized opponents: "I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies: Take some one of your own size; don't pommel me! No, ye've knocked me down, and I am up again, but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags!"

    This sounds reasonably fitting. However, I think that though this is a big part of what Ahab feels about Moby God, he also at least retains a general, "I am frustrated because though I rebel against Moby Dick and make big thoughts, in the end I must resign myself to the fact that the only victory I will ever achieve is one that will never be true in the light of anything but my own delusions of superiority.

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  34. 5. My response to Proey's #3
    While for me, after reading the article, I felt like I could relate more with Ahab since it seemed like his obsession was more justified because he was facing an evil God, I like that your comment explicitly shows me another way that Sloan could have influenced our thinking--you see Ahab as more arrogant and less human after the reading (exactly the oppostite of what I thought). Your comment emphasizes on how Ahab is so blasphemous and disrespectufl of God, whereas when I analyzed the passage, I focused more on the last part of the quote you selected: "With Machiavellian deviltry, the cerebral Deity--an ‘unearthly, cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor’--orchestrates Ahab's very blasphemies…”" which defines deities as cruel masters--further emphasis on Melville's part of how unjust God really was.
    "I found that the more Ahab tried to prove his godliness, the more God would demonstrate his ultimate supremacy over the universe."--what you wrote here clearly shows both sides of the issue. While Ahab is still being bullied by an evil God--thus justifying his vengeance--the more blasphemous he becomes, the more God strikes back, which does make sense because even as justified as Ahab was to curse God, God is after all supreme and holy, so any blasphemy would be a sign of arrogance and of "I am better than God". So, I believe that your comment synthesized with my comment really shows the whole issue: Ahab was struggling with an evil unfair God, showing Melville's criticism of Christianity and God, but at the same time, Ahab's struggles and belief that he can beat fate/God are in vain and will not allow him to escape which is an extension to the point Melville makes about our unfair God--since He is omnipotent, there is nothing we can do to defy His will (blasphemy or any attempts to escape His will not only do not help, but may make it worse--further showing how unfair and evil God is).
    On another note, I definitely agree with you that Sloan's article made me associate the story more with religion and Christianity rather than a normal, average human being or an obsessed man struggling with fate. The article has shown me the deeper rhetoric and meaning behind Moby Dick rather than just a message about fate being inescapable and free will being limited.

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  35. (Continung My Answer to Question 5)
    My Response to Victoria's #4
    While I do agree with you that Melville was indeed unsure and not entirely firm in his belief that God was all evil, Sloan did not actually say or assert that Melville believed "in a purely malevolent, albeit all powerful, God" as you say. As Sloan says, "After Moby Dick, Melville began to slough off the neo-Calvinism and slither toward agnosticism. Still, he occasionally pined for the custodial Papa Above of his boyhood. Hawthorne, who understood Melville as well as anyone, said of him: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other," he acknowledges that Melville was neither Calvinist nor Agnostict, showing that Sloan did understand that Melville still had his uncertainties about religion and how God actually was.
    Like Proey said in her answer to Question #3, "However, through Sloan's analysis of Melville's letters to Hawthorne, I found that the more Ahab tried to prove his godliness, the more God would demonstrate his ultimate supremacy over the universe," I too saw in Sloan's article his belief that Melville thought that the more people criticized God, the more God punished them--which may lead to support the argument that God is evil and immature like a kid who hits another person back each time he or she gets hit, but Sloan, through this, also shows Melville's acknowledgment that God is indeed God, so He can do whatever he wants. So, yes, Sloan is correct that Melville experiences has made him cynical in terms of his views on God and Christianity, but Sloan never said that Melville believed that God was entirely and absolutely evil.
    Nevertheless, I do agree with you that Sloan saw Melville in a way too cynical light. While Sloan said that Melville thought that God controlled all of us, even our emotions, I believe that Melville actually thought otherwise, believing that we actually have a bit of free will. And like you said, maybe the fact that Ishmael survived shows that God is actually benevolent sometimes--in my interpretation of Melville's judgment on fate versus free will, I would say that Ishmael not dying was a result of him not choosing to realyl go after the whale which is thus in accordance with the prophesy that those who go after it will die, implying that those who do not will not be killed by Moby Dick, showing a tinge of free will within fate's grand design. :)

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  36. (continuing #4)

    This is mostly because though Melville is pretty anti-christian, he does not regard Moby Dick entirely as a symbol of God, things like fate, ineffable cycles of life, the darkness in our souls, etc. Therefor to say that he regarded Moby Dick as a "skulking ruffian who picks on pint-sized opponents" is not entirely right.

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  37. @Wilbur:

    [[However, if Ahad had indeed never even acknowledged god's existence, then is he searching for a god he believes to not even exist, even though said god had indeed taken his leg away?]]

    I thought he /did/ acknowledge God's existence though, didn't he? Except that he sees God and Moby Dick as one, and that Moby Dick is the embodiment of evil (and by substitution, God is evil as well). Melville doesn't really seem to believe that God doesn't exist outright (in the book at least because he would've angered a lot of people), but he twists Christianity in the book in such a way that makes it seem as if God's goodness is pretty much nonexistent because Moby Dick/God is so pretty much opposite of what it is supposed to be. Rather, Ahab is searching for a God that, instead of not existing, is the very antithesis of the ideal God in the Bible?

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  38. 3. “Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, hypocrisy, and predatory capitalism.”
    After I read about Melville’s history and his seafaring adventures, I began to understand why he referenced the Bible so much. Through Sloan’s argument, I began to see Melville’s deliberate references to Christianity so that he could criticize it indirectly. If I had not known Melville’s history regarding Christianity, I would not have known to look out for allusions to the Bible or Christianity and register these allusions as his criticisms of Christianity. Sloan’s argument made me more aware of the patterns of allusions to Christianity and Melville constantly emphasizing Christianity’s hypocrisy.

    4. “In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend. With malice aforethought, he rigs us with the capacity to lie, cheat, deceive, connive, scheme, steal, harass, hate, torment, torture, maim, cripple, kill. With another turn of the screw, he fits us with a faculty for self-abuse: fear, anxiety, doubt, dread, suspicion, brooding, remorse, guilt, and other pale casts of thought. He further ratchets the misery with natural ills: hunger, thirst, poison, disease, plague, drought, lightning, tempest, volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tornado, and the bloody leapers and creepers of the animal kingdom. In this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes.”
    I have to disagree with Sloan’s argument here. This quote from Sloan is highly opinionated and is hardly a objective analysis of Melville’s feelings and motives but rather an extremely subjective comment on Sloan’s own thoughts and feelings. In this quote, Sloan’s bias is revealed and this causes the credibility of his entire essay to be under question. Sloan’s argument is also dreadfully one-sided as he presents himself blind to the good in life. As Sloan complains profusely about the negative aspects of life he fails to show gratitude, even acknowledgment, that there is beauty and good in life as well. All Sloan succeeds is doing is presenting himself as a whiner. I also disagree with Sloan’s argument because of my religious stance.

    5. In response to Fiona: I wholeheartedly agree with the last two sentences of your evaluation of Sloan’s quote. Funny we chose the same quote without knowing it. Of course you are entitled to your own opinions and beliefs however how could you agree, to any extent, with Sloan’s argument? Sloan completely omits the other half of life and is frightfully narrow-minded and near-sighted. Is life really all hate, deception, disease, and fear? Could God really be “evil” in giving us death, illness, and unhappiness when at the same time blessing us with the beauty of life, health, and happiness?

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  39. 3. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew--except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”

    This quote has most distinctly challenges my perception of Moby Dick in the sense that it portrays the whale as a sentiment character, rather than an sentient, God-like force that does not interfere with the workings of human life unless disrupted – of all the moments in the text in which the white whale retaliates against Ahab’s attacks, Sloan seems to perceive as acts of ill will, or instances of “God-bullying” that fit into Melville’s perception of a merciless and “skulking” God. As in a comment against Christianity and the hypocritical state of the belief in and of itself, Sloan perceives the “immovable”, all-defeating Moby Dick as the symbol of wicked will invoked upon those that dare challenge God – God is not kind or benevolent, or even fair to all man-kind, but a prankster of cruelty and seemingly meant-to-be fate; What is perceived as Christians as the results of challenging God, as mentioned by Sloan, are only instances in which God picks upon “pint-sized opponents”, all of which are seen only as folly in the eyes of God.

    4. “Knowing any barefaced condemnation of the Almighty would rankle his readers, predominantly Christian, Melville indemnified himself by filtering Ahab's thunderous invective through a nominally Christian narrator, Ishmael, who brands Ahab an irremediable lunatic: "Human madness is often a cunning and feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into a subtler form. Ahab's lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted." By ascribing Ahab's blasphemies to madness, Melville could fob off querulous critics. (Actually, Ishmael cloaks his true allegiance. He is a surreptitious ally, a laundered counterpart, of Ahab.)”

    While I think Sloan’s analysis of Ahab’s true nature – a man who challenges the power of God – may be quite true, his thought of Ishmael as a “laundered counterpart” of Ahab seems distinctly strange to me. Ishmael, though a Christian in name and in action, is not entirely void of tolerance for other religions, as seen in his friendship with Queequeg and his unique understanding and tolerance of Queequeg’s religion (“But what is worship? – to do the will of God – that is worship. And what is the will of God? – to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me – that is the will of God.”) Rather as a chiefly Christian narrator, Ishmael seems to be the means in which Melville most clearly creates his vision of Christianity as a hypocritical religion – Bildad is seen as a paradox, both a cruel man and a devout Quaker. Ishmael watches Ahab’s actions with something close to omnipotence; he comments on his zeal and seems to see through the extent of his passion, but however presumes a passive role throughout the entire story, a true narrator left alive in the end only to tell the story.

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  40. 5. (in response to Shawanne, Except that he sees God and Moby Dick as one, and that Moby Dick is the embodiment of evil (and by substitution, God is evil as well). Melville doesn't really seem to believe that God doesn't exist outright (in the book at least because he would've angered a lot of people), but he twists Christianity in the book in such a way that makes it seem as if God's goodness is pretty much nonexistent because Moby Dick/God is so pretty much opposite of what it is supposed to be. Rather, Ahab is searching for a God that, instead of not existing, is the very antithesis of the ideal God in the Bible?")

    I think Shawanne's comment poses an interesting aspect of Sloan's analysis -- Melville "twists" Christianity to fit his perception of an evil God; it is hard to fathom from the given knowledge whether Melville had intended to attack Christianity as a religion or Christianity as a an embodiment of God's will. This leads to another strand of thought: does Ahab's perception of Moby Dick as an evil being, sentient in his malice, have to do his own belief in the cruelty of Moby Dick? In the same sense, does Melville seem to imply that Christianity, though aimed towards interpreting purely God's word in and of itself, has become a twisted being of hypocritical creation? Is Moby Dick truly God, or is he the perceived God -- the lying trickster -- formed by Christianity's attempts to justify their own blood-spilling causes?

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  41. 3. "Knowing any barefaced condemnation of the Almighty would rankle his readers, predominantly Christian, Melville indemnified himself by filtering Ahab's thunderous invective through a nominally Christian narrator, Ishmael, who brands Ahab an irremediable lunatic:: "Human madness is often a cunning and feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into a subtler form. Ahab's lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted.""
    I never really saw that Ishmael/Melville purposely made Ahab appear mad to cover his blasphemy. I thought it was Ahab's insanity that drove him to believe in his chase against an indomitable being, but in fact, Sloan says it's the opposite - Ahab defies religion and in those days, you'd have to be crazy to be so, so Ahab was then made a crazy captain.
    To me, this shows the shifting point of when people are becoming more and more open to harshly criticizing orthodox religion. I'm sure it's found throughout history, but Melville kind of re-invents the mockery from a different perspective.

    4. "In his serpentine travels, he witnessed on every hand disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality incompatible with the providence of a benevolent deity."
    I must agree that Melville's past experiences heavily shaped his belief and views. When one begins to see and then only focus on the bad, the bad is accentuated and it becomes so much harder to flip towards optimism. Then Melville/Ahab inflict all those bitter thoughts onto the singular inscrutable being in the book, the white whale Moby Dick. Sloan somewhat implies how Moby Dick doesn't quite play such a big role in the evil side to be the receiving end of such criticism and hate, and I agree. Sloan is saying how to some people, God does not play a huge role in life, but He is still an influence to keep in mind. It is because we cannot fathom God, we can attribute anything and twist him into what we want Him to be like, so that it fits our personal selfish desires. I personally disagree that God is going against himself (when Ahab questions whether he is inflicting the horrors or God is making him), and do think Ahab played in his own downfall.

    5. in response to Molly's answer to #3
    I like that interpretation. I now agree that Melville does try to humanize God, and that does come from what he witnessed in past traumatizing experiences. But because Melville tries to understand (and thinks he understands) God from a humanistic perspective, it does destroy the true image religion tries to preserve, in that God cannot fully be comprehended by human thinking, as we are limited and God is supposed infinite. So this adds to how I personally don't agree with Melville.

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  42. 3. "Knowing any barefaced condemnation of the Almighty would rankle his readers, predominantly Christian, Melville indemnified himself by filtering Ahab's thunderous invective through a nominally Christian narrator, Ishmael, who brands Ahab an irremediable lunatic:: "Human madness is often a cunning and feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into a subtler form. Ahab's lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted.""
    I never really saw that Ishmael/Melville purposely made Ahab appear mad to cover his blasphemy. I thought it was Ahab's insanity that drove him to believe in his chase against an indomitable being, but in fact, Sloan says it's the opposite - Ahab defies religion and in those days, you'd have to be crazy to be so, so Ahab was then made a crazy captain.
    To me, this shows the shifting point of when people are becoming more and more open to harshly criticizing orthodox religion. I'm sure it's found throughout history, but Melville kind of re-invents the mockery from a different perspective.

    4. "In his serpentine travels, he witnessed on every hand disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality incompatible with the providence of a benevolent deity."
    I must agree that Melville's past experiences heavily shaped his belief and views. When one begins to see and then only focus on the bad, the bad is accentuated and it becomes so much harder to flip towards optimism. Then Melville/Ahab inflict all those bitter thoughts onto the singular inscrutable being in the book, the white whale Moby Dick. Sloan somewhat implies how Moby Dick doesn't quite play such a big role in the evil side to be the receiving end of such criticism and hate, and I agree. Sloan is saying how to some people, God does not play a huge role in life, but He is still an influence to keep in mind. It is because we cannot fathom God, we can attribute anything and twist him into what we want Him to be like, so that it fits our personal selfish desires. I personally disagree that God is going against himself (when Ahab questions whether he is inflicting the horrors or God is making him), and do think Ahab played in his own downfall.

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  43. 5. Response to Shawanne's comment about my comment:

    I agree with what you said; the part of my comment that you commented on was me pointing out a statement in Sloan's essay that I felt that, if it was true, would be a fallacy.

    Another thing I would like to add is that although the God depicted in Moby Dick is definitely not the one portrayed in the bible, I think Moby Dick isn't the "very" antithesis of that god. I can't say I'm too familiar with the bible because I'm not, but, according to a website, the bible describes god as one who "gives meaning and purpose to life". I think Moby Dick gives Ahab meaning and purpose to his life.

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  44. 3. "Knowing any barefaced condemnation of the Almighty would rankle his readers, predominantly Christian, Melville indemnified himself by filtering Ahab's thunderous invective through a nominally Christian narrator, Ishmael, who brands Ahab an irremediable lunatic:: "Human madness is often a cunning and feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into a subtler form. Ahab's lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted.""
    I never really saw that Ishmael/Melville purposely made Ahab appear mad to cover his blasphemy. I thought it was Ahab's insanity that drove him to believe in his chase against an indomitable being, but in fact, Sloan says it's the opposite - Ahab defies religion and in those days, you'd have to be crazy to be so, so Ahab was then made a crazy captain.
    To me, this shows the shifting point of when people are becomoing more and more open to harshly criticizing orthodox religion. I'm sure it's found throughout history, but Melville kind of re-invents the mockery from a different perspective.

    4. "In his serpentine travels, he witnessed on every hand disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality incompatible with the providence of a benevolent deity."

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  45. I must agree that Melville's past experiences heavily shaped his belief and views. When one begins to see and then only focus on the bad, the bad is accentuated and it becomes so much harder to flip towards optimism. Then Melville/Ahab inflict all those bitter thoughts onto the singular inscrutable being in the book, the white whale Moby Dick. Sloan somewhat implies how Moby Dick doesn't quite play such a big role in the evil side to be the receiving end of such criticism and hate, and I agree. Sloan is saying how to some people, God does not play a huge role in life, but He is still an influence to keep in mind. It is because we cannot fathom God, we can attribute anything and twist him into what we want Him to be like, so that it fits our personal selfish desires. I personally disagree that God is going against himself (when Ahab questions whether he is inflicting the horrors or God is making him), and do think Ahab played in his own downfall.

    5. in response to Molly's answer to #3
    I like that interpretation. I now agree that Melville does try to humanize God, and that does come from what he witnessed in past traumatizing experiences. But because Melville tries to understand (and thinks he understands) God from a humanistic perspective, it does destroy the true image religion tries to preserve, in that God cannot fully be comprehended by human thinking, as we are limited and God is supposed infinite. So this adds to how I personally don't agree with Melville.

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  46. oh NO. How'd I end up posting so many?!?! PROEY how do you delete? (SO SORRY Mrs. Poulsen, and everyone else). It said there was an error (something like it was too big or something) when I first tried. and this happened =/

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  47. 5. In response to JOyce's 4.
    I agree with what you said about being able to twist God into something viable for our own selfish desires and that Ahab indeed did cause his own downfall. Despite the possibility of the futility we all wallow in in the face of our fates offered by Melville, I still would agree that most of what comes to us is set in motion by actions we decided ourselves rather than by what God or fate has supposedly dictated to us as the truth to our lives.

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  48. 3. “Melville sided with Milton's Satan, Lord Byron's Lucifer, Shelley's Prometheus, and other indomitable scofflaws who said "No! in thunder" to the ruthless sway of the Almighty. "For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie." In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own.” In this quote, Sloan clearly indicates his belief that Ahab was created for the demonstration of a “naysayer”. While his vengeance can be said as one that is spawned by the simple fact that Moby Dick took his leg and gave him mental and physical suffering, we can also infer that there is a certain insanity within him that has gone beyond vengeance which drives him to hunt the whale. Specifically, as Sloan states, the whale symbolizes God as a bully who abuses all subjects, Ahab, that go against him and the destruction of Pequod is the consequence of blasphemy. This then gives depth to all the actions made my Ahab by adding deeper cause and motivation to each of these actions. Hence, the reason behind Ahab’s feigned insanity, feigned for the purpose of deceiving possible Christian readers at the time, could be an embodiment of Melville’s own inner struggle against God.
    4. “For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.” Melville certainly has the personal history that would spawn his struggle against God and here Sloan states that the entire novel is simply a tale of God bully those who are defiant against his will. Yet he also states that other Christians might read the story as one that displays the power of God and the foolishness of attempts to go against it. Reading the novel, we find that much of the plot supports the idea with Ishmael’s survival and the destruction of the rest of Pequod and the antagonization of Ahab to the readers. The author further suggests that we, the readers, are tricked to believe that is the case for the purpose of self-protection or perhaps the reconciliation of his own guilt. It all fits perfectly under the given premises of Sloan. Yet with all the discomfort Melville has with his own disbelief, he destroys Pequod which is a devil-like ship and leaves Ishmael alive who, despite all the prophecies still decides to board the ship. To me, this is analogical to Adam and Eve eating the fruit of wisdom despite hearing God’s own words of caution against eating that apple. However, unlike Adam and Eve who was banished by the Garden of Eden, Ishmael is given a second chance by floating in a coffin. Melville appears to be implying that Ishmael has come back from dead, or rather from being a part of a sinful, insane, and evil group of people, as characterized from Ahab and the other sinful crew members. In this respect, I find not the bully of God upon pinsized opponents but the salvation of Ishmael who possibly veers towards sin such as homosexuality, greed, and blasphemy. Melville may be Ishmael instead of Ahab in the story.
    5. I agree with Angela in that the author has made too much of an input from himself. The subjectivity that the author has appears to stem from his knowledge of the background of Melville, his selection of quotes from Melville, and his own personal selection from the book which he finds correlated to his argument. However as many may know, correlation does not mean causation. The author’s argument is based on several premises such as the whale as god, Ahab as the representation of Melville’s thoughts, and the fact that Melville is deliberately hiding the his “blasphemous writing” with his input of religious devotion in certain parts of the book. To me, the author reached his final destination by twisting a lot of quotation to his favor. For example, “For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie" is said by Sloan to characterize the true innate hatred of men towards God. This, however, taken another way can be read as a criticism to the hypocrisy within all men. The author bases a great deal of this assertions based on his own interpretation.

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  49. 3. “Melville sided with Milton's Satan, Lord Byron's Lucifer, Shelley's Prometheus, and other indomitable scofflaws who said "No! in thunder" to the ruthless sway of the Almighty. "For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie." In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own.” In this quote, Sloan clearly indicates his belief that Ahab was created for the demonstration of a “naysayer”. While his vengeance can be said as one that is spawned by the simple fact that Moby Dick took his leg and gave him mental and physical suffering, we can also infer that there is a certain insanity within him that has gone beyond vengeance which drives him to hunt the whale. Specifically, as Sloan states, the whale symbolizes God as a bully who abuses all subjects, Ahab, that go against him and the destruction of Pequod is the consequence of blasphemy. This then gives depth to all the actions made my Ahab by adding deeper cause and motivation to each of these actions. Hence, the reason behind Ahab’s feigned insanity, feigned for the purpose of deceiving possible Christian readers at the time, could be an embodiment of Melville’s own inner struggle against God.
    4. “For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.” Melville certainly has the personal history that would spawn his struggle against God and here Sloan states that the entire novel is simply a tale of God bully those who are defiant against his will. Yet he also states that other Christians might read the story as one that displays the power of God and the foolishness of attempts to go against it. Reading the novel, we find that much of the plot supports the idea with Ishmael’s survival and the destruction of the rest of Pequod and the antagonization of Ahab to the readers. The author further suggests that we, the readers, are tricked to believe that is the case for the purpose of self-protection or perhaps the reconciliation of his own guilt. It all fits perfectly under the given premises of Sloan. Yet with all the discomfort Melville has with his own disbelief, he destroys Pequod which is a devil-like ship and leaves Ishmael alive who, despite all the prophecies still decides to board the ship. To me, this is analogical to Adam and Eve eating the fruit of wisdom despite hearing God’s own words of caution against eating that apple. However, unlike Adam and Eve who was banished by the Garden of Eden, Ishmael is given a second chance by floating in a coffin. Melville appears to be implying that Ishmael has come back from dead, or rather from being a part of a sinful, insane, and evil group of people, as characterized from Ahab and the other sinful crew members. In this respect, I find not the bully of God upon pinsized opponents but the salvation of Ishmael who possibly veers towards sin such as homosexuality, greed, and blasphemy. Melville may be Ishmael instead of Ahab in the story.
    5. I agree with Angela in that the author has made too much of an input. The subjectivity that the author has stems from his knowledge of the background of Melville, his selection of quotes from Melville, and his own selections from the book which he finds correlated to his argument. However as many may know, correlation does not mean causation. The author’s argument is based on several premises such as the whale as god, Ahab as the representation of Melville’s thoughts, and the fact that Melville is deliberately hiding the his “blasphemous writing” with his input of religious devotion in certain parts of the book. To me, the author reached his final destination by twisting a lot of quotation to his favor. For example, “For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie" is said by Sloan to characterize the true innate hatred of men towards God. This, however, taken another way can be read as a criticism to the hypocrisy within all men. The author bases a great deal of this assertions based on his own interpretation.

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  50. 3) Moby Dick is a mask of God. By harpooning the whale, Ahab hopes to strike the "unknown but still reasoning thing that puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.”
    Initially, I had thought that the book Moby Dick was about the adventures of Captain Ahab and his crewmen in their search for the whale. I had thought that the philosophical digressions, the cetology, and Ahab’s maniacal desire to kill the whale were just part of the plot, like any other novel or story. However, after reading Sloan’s argument, I have come to a realization that there is deeper internal meaning behind Melville’s intentional use of these elements in the development of the storyline. I had viewed Ahab’s desire for revenge a result of the injuries Moby Dick has inflicted upon Ahab; but Sloan has made me see that in pursuing the whale, Ahab is indirectly challenging and confronting the plans of Fate. Since Moby Dick is another name for God, Melville is using Ahab’s revenge as a means of communicating his views of Christianity and on God. Ahab defies Moby Dick/God’s persecution and bullying of man, and goes against the plans of Fate knowingly in order to establish what Melville believes to be a tragic hero. Melville’s past experiences with the brutality of the world has been asserted upon Ahab’s character so that his maniacal pursuit of the whale becomes a demonstration of Melville’s own attempt to unmask, to defy, and to declare his refusal to submit to Fate and to God.

    4) The novel is one vast, hooded allegory. Throughout, cetology is code for theology. In Melville's Quarrel with God, Lawrance Thompson notes that "Melville's entire artistic contrivance in Moby Dick is his own esoteric and cabalistic commentary on God." All talk of whales (Moby Dick, above all) is God-talk.
    To some extent, I agree with Sloan that Melville uses Moby Dick as another name for God and that Captain Ahab’s attitude and defiance of the whale is the author’s own opinion and struggle with faith and religion. I agree that the novel is an allegory for Melville’s own attempt to discover, to challenge, and to confront the plans of Fate using Ahab’s maniacal desire to seek revenge from Moby Dick. However, Sloan could have lost some objective analysis when he goes to the extremes by saying that Melville views God as essentially evil, the “Original Sinner”, and the “archfiend”. Although Melville did become skeptical of his religious upbringing and the credibility of God’s benevolence after he has witnessed and experienced the cruelties of the world, it does not necessarily mean that Melville views God as a bloodthirsty, vengeful, and malevolent higher Being. There would be no struggle between Fate and freewill if Melville believed that God was all evil and no kindness. Although Sloan says that Ishmael is left alive at the end of the novel to please his religious readers, Melville could have done so intentionally to reveal that there is some chance that God is not entirely wicked and that the good may survive to tell the tale.

    5) I agree with Angela “that [although] Moby/God is omnipotent… [and seems] invulnerable to assault and overall almighty,” Sloan could have indeed added some of his own opinions on God and religion to justify and prove his understanding of Melville’s attitude. The way Sloan characterizes and offers explanations to Melville’s inside story and encounters seems as if he understood the author. But he brings these attitude, emotions, and experiences to the absolute extreme and could have possibly dramatized Melville’s original intentions.

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  51. 3. “Melville sided with Milton's Satan, Lord Byron's Lucifer, Shelley's Prometheus, and other indomitable scofflaws who said "No! in thunder" to the ruthless sway of the Almighty. "For all men who say yes," Melville averred, "lie." In Captain Ahab, Melville created a thunderous naysayer of his own.” In this quote, Sloan clearly indicates his belief that Ahab was created for the demonstration of a “naysayer”. While his vengeance can be said as one that is spawned by the simple fact that Moby Dick took his leg and gave him mental and physical suffering, we can also infer that there is a certain insanity within him that has gone beyond vengeance which drives him to hunt the whale. Specifically, as Sloan states, the whale symbolizes God as a bully who abuses all subjects, Ahab, that go against him and the destruction of Pequod is the consequence of blasphemy. This then gives depth to all the actions made my Ahab by adding deeper cause and motivation to each of these actions. Hence, the reason behind Ahab’s feigned insanity, feigned for the purpose of deceiving possible Christian readers at the time, could be an embodiment of Melville’s own inner struggle against God.
    4. “For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.” Melville certainly has the personal history that would spawn his struggle against God and here Sloan states that the entire novel is simply a tale of God bully those who are defiant against his will. Yet he also states that other Christians might read the story as one that displays the power of God and the foolishness of attempts to go against it. Reading the novel, we find that much of the plot supports the idea with Ishmael’s survival and the destruction of the rest of Pequod and the antagonization of Ahab to the readers. The author further suggests that we, the readers, are tricked to believe that is the case for the purpose of self-protection or perhaps the reconciliation of his own guilt. It all fits perfectly under the given premises of Sloan. Yet with all the discomfort Melville has with his own disbelief, he destroys Pequod which is a devil-like ship and leaves Ishmael alive who, despite all the prophecies still decides to board the ship. To me, this is analogical to Adam and Eve eating the fruit of wisdom despite hearing God’s own words of caution against eating that apple. However, unlike Adam and Eve who was banished by the Garden of Eden, Ishmael is given a second chance by floating in a coffin. Melville appears to be implying that Ishmael has come back from dead, or rather from being a part of a sinful, insane, and evil group of people, as characterized from Ahab and the other sinful crew members. In this respect, I find not the bully of God upon pinsized opponents but the salvation of Ishmael who possibly veers towards sin such as homosexuality, greed, and blasphemy. Melville may be Ishmael instead of Ahab in the story.

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  52. Holy. sorry ms. poulsen my computer told me that my comment was too large to process so i tried posting it several times and i didnt know that it was actually posted. So joyce, if proey actually did tell you how to delete your post you should tell me too.

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  53. “He began to suspect that the world is helmed by a truculent Skipper. In his Bible, he underscored Exodus 15:3: "The Lord is a man of war." The "universal thump," he observes in Moby Dick, "is passed around." In his serpentine travels, he witnessed on every hand disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality incompatible with the providence of a benevolent deity. Reconciliation required obdurate sophistry.”
    This quote changes my perspective on Moby Dick in general. Before, I used to assume this is the story about Ahab’s vengeance and Melville’s dissatisfaction about life. However, after understanding that Melville’s perspective on the world began to change after his voyage, the novel and the characterization have more depth to me. The book reflects Melville’s point of view after he saw the “disease, pestilence, catastrophe, destitution, racism, hatred, cruelty, and brutality” in the world, which challenges his belief in God. As Sloan has pointed out, Melville’s belief in deity is projected onto Ahab’s blasphemies, meaning Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick reflects Melville’s ideas on the concept of God. From Sloan’s analysis of the background of Melville, it changes my perspective on Ahab. Ahab becomes Melville’s representation of himself in the novel.

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  54. “Since Moby Dick emblematizes God, Ahab's vengeful quest has a predictable terminus: The whale destroys Ahab and all his crew--except Ishmael, who lives to tell the tale. Pious readers sometimes construe the whale's triumph as an exemplum on the folly of sacrilege. For Melville, the whale's rough-and-tumble retaliation was another instance of God-bullying.”
    I agree with what Sloan, because based on the background information that Sloan has given us previously, we learned that Melville is basing his novel on his life on the voyage. The book reflects what Melville believes of God and Christianity. From the grounds that Sloan has laid, it makes sense to think that the death of Ahab and his crew is another act of God eliminating sources that challenges its authority. However, is it not Ahab’s own obsession with Moby Dick that also contributed to his own downfall?

    In response to Victoria’s question, I think Melville uses Ahab as a symbol not to warn himself but to signify an idea. Melville does not imply that God will bring downfall to him; rather, he’s saying that God has the ability to destroy the people. Besides, I think Ahab is an extreme case, since his obsessed pursuit of Moby Dick also contributed to his own downfall.

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  55. 3. To the end, Ahab is defiant and disdainful: "To neither love nor reverence wilt thou [God] be kind. No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional mastery in me."

    Now, reading through the entire article, it may seem pretty well established that Sloan thinks that Captain Ahab is the 'latent content' in the book, where Melville houses his opinions about God ('manifest content'). However, if we were to go by the Moby Dick = God analogy, Ahab may not be only referring to the author himself. Though Ahab as a character is very specific (Melville's opinions), Ahab as a character in relationship with the environment is not. God (Moby Dick) did something to cause Ahab to lose something precious (his leg), and Ahab wants revenge. Melville could very well be talking about anyone who was ever angry at God or his decisions.

    4. The novel is one vast, hooded allegory. Throughout, cetology is code for theology. In Melville's Quarrel with God, Lawrance Thompson notes that "Melville's entire artistic contrivance in Moby Dick is his own esoteric and cabalistic commentary on God." All talk of whales (Moby Dick, above all) is God-talk.

    To be completely honest, I do not view Sloan's argument as 'the' perspective with which to view Moby Dick through. However, I also do not believe a single review or evaluation would be enough to fully understand the novel. But that is beside the point. Though Sloan makes many great arguments based on Melville's history, some key passages in the book, there are some other perspectives to consider, such as the possibility for Moby Dick an allegory for an ultimate goal in a person (or everyone's) life, or maybe the fight against fate as Ahab attempts. However, this is not to say Sloan's perspective is worthless: far from it. This perspective is a great way to analyze some parts of the novel, for example, this: "Having never heard of him, some sailors doubt he exists. Others have heard, "but don't believe in him at all." The whale's whiteness is linked to "the heartless voids and immensities of the universe" and the "colorless, all-color of atheism.""

    Ultimately, Sloan's argument is well supported, and because reviews are so opinion-oriented, there isn't anything for me to say that can detract his argument.

    5. Answering Andy (wayy up there):
    "True, to Christians his message is blasphemy, but to the readers of the present, we see through a different set of lens and interpret his work differently."

    This is what makes literature and other time-tested classics so interesting to read. We have a set of completely new perspectives to shine on a novel from, from cultural, technological, political, (new) historical, societal, etc. It is quite a different experience if you read Moby Dick one and half a century ago when compared to reading it now.

    I agree completely with you on interpretation. Even after when we finish debating the importance of, say, the numbers of masts on the Pequod, at the end of the day, it's about what individual readers actually take home with. I may take Moby Dick as an outcry against God. I may take the novel as an allegory to our own lives. But in the end, interpreting literary novels is a personal thing. Debates about the interpretation may shine new light on certain topics you've never thought about, but, from my opinion, arguing whether the diction used to describe white whales' sperm is a specific reference to the bible is as trivial as arguing whether Gandalf or Solomon has a longer beard.

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  56. 3. "With malice aforethought, he rigs us with the capacity to lie, cheat, deceive, connive, scheme, steal, harass, hate, torment, torture, maim, cripple, kill. With another turn of the screw, he fits us with a faculty for self-abuse: fear, anxiety, doubt, dread, suspicion, brooding, remorse, guilt, and other pale casts of thought. He further ratchets the misery with natural ills: hunger, thirst, poison, disease, plague, drought, lightning, tempest, volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tornado, and the bloody leapers and creepers of the animal kingdom. In this worst of all possible worlds, the demonic Prankster tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes."

    Before reading this article, I had thought that all the negative occurrences that happened in the novel was just emphasizing Melville's pessimistic view on life and in our ability to control our lives. However, after reading the article, Sloan's argument changed what I think all these negative occurrences mean. Sloan's ideas imply the hypocrisy and contradiction that lies underneath Christianity. People usually would not associate "God" with "demons"; in fact, they would often consider them two as opposites. However, here Sloan calls God "the demonic Prankster," which creates a juxtaposing effect as people also usually associate God with seriousness instead of folly. Sloan implies that even though God states to "love one's neighbor as oneself," God has provided us with the capacity to do harm to others in many ways. Perhaps this could be justified with the fact that God has also provided us with many unhealthy forms of self-abuse. In addition, he shows that despite one's belief or disbelief in God, all humans experience the same unfortunate natural ills. So why should we believe in God, Sloan implies, if believing or not believing is pretty much the same thing? The fact that Sloan mentioned how God, the Prankster, "tosses in a little good to emboss the evil and to raise false hopes" substantiates Sloan's belief that the good things in life are only there because God wants to appease and make us feel better about all the negative thoughts and occurences in our lives, and to provide us with an illusion of light at the end of the tunnel in order to keep us continuing in believing in him. By calling God a "Prankster," Sloan is arguing that God is playing with our lives and emotions.

    4. "Captain Ahab mirrors the tragic hero Melville limned for Hawthorne: "He declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself) amid the powers of heaven, hell, and earth. He may perish, but so long as he exists, he insists upon treating with all Powers upon an equal basis."

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  57. I agree with Sloan's analysis that Captain Ahab is a tragic hero. As Aristotle's definition of a "tragic hero" states, a tragic hero is a character who is not perfect, just like us. In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab is a character who is blinded by his obsession with getting revenge with the whale that he makes a lot of unwise decisions. Like us, he is controlled by his emotions. A tragic hero is someone whose downfall is not only due to chance; it is also partly his own fault. Even though Captain Ahab may be fated to have died this way, the decisions that he has made definitely leads to his eventual death. His insistence on taking the steps to chase the whale even though there were bad omens accounts for his death. In addition, Aristotle states that a tragic hero is doomed from the start, but also fulfills his doom. Many prophets have stated that Captain Ahab is doomed, including Elijah, Fedallah, and Gabriel. Even though these prophets have warned about the misfortune ahead, Captain Ahab still adhered to his own revengeful attitude, fulfilling his own doom. Like all tragic heroes, Captain Ahab also possessed a tragic flaw. In fact, I think not only did he possess hubris and arrogance, but he also had a single error of judgement. He had arrogant pride and over-confidence as Sloan mentioned in this quote, Captain Ahab considered himself to be in parallel with the powers of "heaven, hell, and earth." He thought he had as much power as them. In addition, his single error of judgement was to chase Moby Dick, as that resulted in a misfortune that tormented him mentally and physically. As the definition of a tragic hero states, the fall of the hero results in gain of self-knowledge and humility. In the end, Captain Ahab acknowledges that he is not as powerful when compared with Moby Dick and fate.

    5. Iagree with Wilbur, Moby Dick does indeed provide Ahab with the meaning and purpose to his life. Moby Dick serves as the motivation for Ahab to make his choices. To Ahab, purpose of life = get revenge from Moby Dick. In fact, Ahab has placed so much emphasis on finding Moby Dick that he eventually makes Mody Dick the purpose of life for the crew members of the Pequod aswell. It may not be like that in the beginning, as the whaling trip seemed like just an ordinary ship looking for whales. However, later on as Starbuck points out, Ahab is using the trip as an excuse to go out into the unknown and find Moby Dick. Moby Dick has been the driving force for Ahab, and it has provided Ahab with positive qualities such as courage and bravery, but it has also destroyed not only Ahab but the rest of the crew members, with the exception of Ishmael.

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  58. 3. "In Melville's diabolic wrinkle on Calvinism, fallen Adam didn't sire our knavish proclivities. God did. He is the Original Sinner, the only begetter of evil, the primal Archfiend."

    This changed the way I viewed Melville's points regarding Christianity. In Moby Dick, Melville constantly mentions how some characters such as Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad are devout Christians yet they are hypocritical by going against Christian ideology while preaching it to others at the same time. However, in this quote, Sloan mentions that Melville saw God as an evil being, someone that produced human beings as we are as hypocritical people that have two faces whenever we approach certain things and/or situations. Then, the viewpoint Melville tries to direct to his readers about Christian hypocrisy changes. It isn't the humans that should be blamed for hypocrisy but rather the very fundamental basis - God Himself.

    4. "On another, French gunners tested their cannons on natives assembled to greet them. Years later, on the lecture circuit, he was still dumfounded: "Who ever heard of a vessel sustaining the honor of a Christian flag and the spirit of the Christian Gospel by opening its batteries in indiscriminate massacre upon some poor little village on the seaside--splattering the torn bamboo huts with blood and brains of women and children, defenseless and innocent?"

    Melville came to associate Christianity not with faith, hope, and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, hypocrisy, and predatory capitalism."
    I thought that this quote really helped support Sloan's argument that Melville used Moby Dick as a symbol for a Machiavellian God that does not allow any to challenge Him. It helps define why Melville viewed God in this cynical way that made him throw out a good deal of Christian ideology from his mind. Sloan's peek into Melville's past shows the readers a mere glimpse of how Melville's opinion on God became this way and it helps support his argument that in fact, Melville did have a life-changing experience that truly helped him newly define someone that played a huge role throughout his life.

    5. To Angela's comment: I found it interesting how you said that in fact Sloan is being subjective in his analysis and that this can be seen through his diction. I agree with you to some extent. It may be highly possible that Sloan implied his on subjectivity on a sensitive topic as thus, especially his choice of words throughout. However, I thought that his diction of adjectives describing God as "bloodthirsty, malevolent..." etc. are actually trying to personify God in a set of adjectives that humans don't often use to describe each other. You know the way how you think that certain adjectives fit a certain specific group of people? It may be so for Sloan when describing God as well. However, I believe that your analysis on Sloan's subjectivity is an interesting way to approach Sloan's analysis as a whole.

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  59. Great online discussion, folks! I'm glad to see that you didn't just take the article's opinion, but formed your own. Though this is a challenging text (yes, Kenny, even "bowl-wrenchingly painful"), it is so rich in symbolism, and so different from anything else that we read, that I still think it contains promise for fruitful analysis.

    Thank you all for putting sincere thought and effort into your analysis. A few housekeeping things:

    You delete comments by clicking on the "trash" icon, I think.

    When you comment on each other's words, make sure and write the author's name whom you are responding to.

    Mrs. Poulsen

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