Biblical and Mythological Allusions in Moby Dick .
An allusion is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of art. Writers often use biblical and mythological allusions to which their readers are familiar. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville frequently uses biblical and mythological allusions. With these allusions the reader begins to understand the topic of discussion and is also exposed to the wisdom and knowledge Melville possess.
The first allusion appears in the first line of the novel. "Call me Ishmael." (Melville1). Ishmael was the biblical son of Abraham and his servant Hagar. He was disowned in favor of Isaac, Abraham's son with his wife Sarah. An angel prophesied to Hagar. "his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him." (Genesis 16:12). The name "Ishmael" has since become used commonly for an outcast, which is appropriate since he is inexperienced when it comes to whaling and is viewed as AN outcast to the other sailors upon the Pequod.
Another biblical allusion is of the prophet Elijah and Captain Ahab. Elijah WARNS Queequeg and Ishmael of Ahab. Ishmael says he and Queequeg ARE boarding the Pequod because they have just "signed the articles" (Melville 68) and Elijah responds "Anything down there about your souls" (Melville 68). This conflict between Elijah and Ahab goes all the way back to the bible. I Kings describes the conflict between King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Elijah tells Ahab that "in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick they blood, even thine," (I Kings 21:19), and that "the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezrell" (I Kings 21:23). This allusion is significant for foreshadowing the destruction of the Pequod. In Moby Dick the characters names are not so different than names in the Bible and neither is the outcome of those characters so different.
Melville not only used a number of biblical allusions in Moby Dick, but he also used many mythological allusions.