King vs. Captain Ahab
The choice of name of Captain Ahab evokes a range of biblical allusions which stigmatize the protagonist by the first mention of his name.
The Captain of the Pequod bears the revealing name “Ahab” which evokes insinuations about the biblical King Ahab. The first most superficial allusion is the parallel between king and captain. While the biblical Ahab was the king who reigned 871-852 b.C the Northern Territory of Isreal (cf. Schmitt, p. 59), captain Ahab is the “king” on the Pequod. His monarch-like status becomes obvious by the remark of Captain Peleg: “He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen. […] Ahab’s above the common.” (Melville, p. 68). Thus it can be said that the most obvious parallel between the king and the captain is their status. A king in Old Testament (OT) times gained his authorization directly from God (1 Sm 11:6). Thereby he is also entrusted with the responsibility for his people. This means that he has to reinforce justice and is not allowed to rule arbitrarily as the laws for kings are written down in 5 Mo 17:14-20 (cf. Neef, p. 752). Similarly Captain Ahab gets his power over the Pequod from the community who owns the ship. They entrust him with the vessel as well as with the crew and set him a specific task – to hunt whales. Thus it can be argued that Captain Ahab has a certain duty given from a power which is above him and that he has to oblige to certain rules – on the ship however he is the ruler. But just like many kings in OT times (cf Neef, p 753) Captain Ahab does not obey the rules. Instead of hunting as much sperm whales as possible he tries to find Moby Dick (“And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out.” (Melville, p. 135). King Ahab is judged very harshly in the 5th book of Mose which is due to the fact that he tolerated the religion of his wife Jezebel:
- Quote paper
- Dörte Schabsky (Author), 2008, Moby Dick: King vs. Captain Ahab, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/154159