Event Title

Rescue and Redemption in Moby-Dick: An Answer to the Alienating Forces of Capitalism and Slavery in America

Location

Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall

Start Date

15-4-2015 3:30 PM

Description

Pre-Civil War America suffered a psychic wound caused by racism, corruption, and class stratification. A Marxist humanist reading of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick offers his answer to society’s ills with a message of rescue for the lost and enslaved, and a means of redemption for guilty. America’s whaling industry brings together the competing capitalist interests of Northern industrialism, Southern plantation farming, and Westward Expansion. Comparing whaling to both cannibalism and slavery, Melville highlights the barbarity of American practices on land with his depictions of American practices at sea. Narrated by Ishmael, the novel opens as he seeks refuge from depression. Disconnected from his fellow man and at risk of being devoured by this same society that caused his estrangement, Ishmael is in need of a metaphorical rescue, while other characters--Queequeg and Pip to name two--are in need of literal physical rescue. As Marx teaches, man cannot save himself, but in “mutual joint-stock ventures” we ought to be able to save each other. The whaling vessel serves as a campus where Ishmael learns to value the brotherhood of all mankind. This idea rescues and restores him, proving the necessity of a world in which everyone contributes and in community everyone reaps the rewards of his work. Ahab, captain of the Pequod, refuses both rescue and redemption, and his actions doom his men and his ship. Ishmael, who uses this floating representation of America’s exploitative industrial society to challenge the framework of that society, is the only survivor.

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Apr 15th, 3:30 PM

Rescue and Redemption in Moby-Dick: An Answer to the Alienating Forces of Capitalism and Slavery in America

Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall

Pre-Civil War America suffered a psychic wound caused by racism, corruption, and class stratification. A Marxist humanist reading of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick offers his answer to society’s ills with a message of rescue for the lost and enslaved, and a means of redemption for guilty. America’s whaling industry brings together the competing capitalist interests of Northern industrialism, Southern plantation farming, and Westward Expansion. Comparing whaling to both cannibalism and slavery, Melville highlights the barbarity of American practices on land with his depictions of American practices at sea. Narrated by Ishmael, the novel opens as he seeks refuge from depression. Disconnected from his fellow man and at risk of being devoured by this same society that caused his estrangement, Ishmael is in need of a metaphorical rescue, while other characters--Queequeg and Pip to name two--are in need of literal physical rescue. As Marx teaches, man cannot save himself, but in “mutual joint-stock ventures” we ought to be able to save each other. The whaling vessel serves as a campus where Ishmael learns to value the brotherhood of all mankind. This idea rescues and restores him, proving the necessity of a world in which everyone contributes and in community everyone reaps the rewards of his work. Ahab, captain of the Pequod, refuses both rescue and redemption, and his actions doom his men and his ship. Ishmael, who uses this floating representation of America’s exploitative industrial society to challenge the framework of that society, is the only survivor.