Ahab, American

McWilliams, Susan
March 2012
Review of Politics;Mar2012, Vol. 74 Issue 2, p233
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
Despite common portrayals of Ahab as beyond the pale of common humanity, Melville offers much reason in Moby-Dick to regard Ahab as a reflection of ordinary American political life. Two of Ahab's most definitive characteristics—his isolation and his desire for domination—do not differentiate him from the other characters in the book but rather underscore how much he is like them. Among the Pequod's crew in particular, those traits are the rule rather than the exception, a fact that helps to explain why the crew members are so quick to adopt Ahab's way of thinking: in large measure, it is already their own. Along these lines, looking at Ahab as a representative American man makes it possible to better understand Melville's true anxieties about the prospects for democratic flourishing in the United States.


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