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Tuesday, April 24 • 2:45pm - 3:05pm
Ishmael As Guide To The Reader In The Hunt For The Great White Whale

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Moby Dick, published in 1851, is an allegorical novel about a whale hunt in which Herman Melville makes unique use of a first person narrator, a young sailor named Ishmael. Though Ishmael is the only narrator of the story, his presence fluctuates so that at times he ceases to bring awareness to himself as part of the narrative for entire chapters. He does this by omitting personal language or pronouns, and sometimes describes scenes he is not a part of at all. Ishmael introduces the reader to the facts of the narrative, and provides background information as well as philosophical guidance for the reader. In these scenes when he disappears as a character in the physical text, he does not cease to exist because he has created a bond with the reader as the sole narrator of the story. When Melville removes Ishmael from parts of the novel, Ishmael steps outside of the narrative, but by continuing to narrate, he implies that he, too, is observing the story as a reader or an audience member. In this way, Ishmael aligns himself with the reader, creating a closer bond between himself and his reader. This serves to draw the reader into the novel more intimately, and the way in which it is executed also serves to guide the reader in understanding the allegorical aspects of the novel. Melville’s creative use of narrator helps his reader to navigate the philosophy of man and nature discussed in the novel through the story of the hunt for a legendary whale.

Tuesday April 24, 2018 2:45pm - 3:05pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

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