Fate and Destiny in Moby Dick

Fate and Destiny
    Herman Melville had an interesting assortment of odd jobs growing up as a young adult, but what he seemed to love as much as writing was the sea. Melville worked on whaling ships and experienced many adventures at sea. He turned many of his stories into best selling books. Melville’s most acclaimed novel, Moby Dick, wasn’t even that popular when he was alive. It wasn’t until twenty-five years after his death that Melville and his work were fully appreciated. Moby Dick was a novel that was too advanced for the time period. It was a radical antebellum novel in which Melville introduced the unpopular, uncommon racial and religious tolerance. Society was not ready or able to comprehend Melville’s work. Philosophy was intricately woven into the text as well as the interrelationship between fate and destiny similar to the Greek tragic hero. Through the chapters “Loomings”, “Chowder”, “Going Aboard”, “Merry Christmas”, and “Ahab”, Melville highlights this notion and creates his own “American tragic hero” through one memorable character emerging late in the novel.
    “Loomings”, the first chapter of the book begins with a small but strong statement, “Call me Ishmael” (18). Ishmael in the Old Testament was the eldest son of Abraham, but he was not the legitimate child. Because of his illegitimacy, Ishmael was an outcast. Melville can be easily seen through the character of Ishmael, especially since he too had experience with isolation and abandonment after his many voyages at sea. Ishmael in Moby Dick is verging on being suicidal but instead turns to the sea hoping for some sort of employment that he could attain. “Loomings” to some may not be an incredibly insightful chapter, but Ishmael refers to the Fates a number of times. The Fates in Greek mythology controlled human destiny, Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured it, and Atropos cut it. He even admits that he realized exactly why he has decided to work on a whaling vessel,...