Paper on Moby Dick 4 - Lindsay Lastinger AP Language and...

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Lindsay Lastinger AP Language and Composition Coach Allen Essay III-Moby Dick November 4, 2009 Fate, Free Will, and the Limit’s of Man’s Knowledge Throughout Moby Dick , Herman Melville clearly emphasizes his belief in predetermination and his belief that free will exists, but free will is often influenced by greater powers—therefore, fate and free will are intertwined. Corresponding to this concept is the idea that human knowledge is limited and that people are limited to seeing and controlling what is familiar to them, for beyond that are greater forces unknown to the human mind. Melville illustrates his complex beliefs through the characters of Ahab and Ishmael, whose actions repeatedly support the belief that one’s set destiny is unavoidable, that free will is present but often influenced by greater forces, and that human knowledge is limited. Ishmael’s acknowledgement to fate and free will appears soon after the novel begins, as he ponders his reasoning behind engaging in the treacherous whaling expedition of the Pequod. He states, “… I cannot tell why it is exactly that those stage managers, The Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage…yet now that I recall the circumstances…it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment…” Ishmael’s words exemplify that prior to his voyage, he engaged in the whaling industry to simply subject himself to the grand majesty of the ocean as a form of escape from the “damp, drizzly November” within his soul. However, after everything on his expedition has occurred, he is convinced that his decision to join the whalers was part of his predetermined life—thus hinting at the idea of his limited free will and the limits of his knowledge. At the time of his decision, Ishmael was unaware that this small amount of free-will would ultimately illustrate to him his set destiny, nor did he know that this one decision was the beginning of a sequence of predetermined
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parts of his life. Ishmael also states that the infamous Fates seem to provide all men with the
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Paper on Moby Dick 4 - Lindsay Lastinger AP Language and...

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