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Literature: Herman Melville

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Queequeg is getting very sick and is near death so he orders the ships carpenter
to make him a coffin with a lid, in the shape of a canoe. Once the coffin/ canoe
is finished Queequeg decides to live and turn the canoe/ coffin (because it is
both) into a sea chest. During the next few weeks Queequeg carves little figures
and symbols in the coffin/ canoe/ sea chest thus turning it in to a coffin/
canoe/ sea chest/ work of art. In the epilogue Ishmael floats in this coffin/
canoe/ sea chest/ work of art turning it in to a coffin/ canoe/ sea chest/ work
of art/ life buoy. This object has so many titles and objectives it also
symbolizes so many different things. As a coffin it can symbolize death, as a
canoe/ coffin it can symbolize the journey to a final resting-place. The
“…grotesque figures and drawings.” (290) could symbolize events in
Queequeg’s life. When this object that was originally intended to be
Queequeg’s final resting-place “shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and
floated…”(577) it transformed into a life buoy that could now represent life
for Ishmael. Many things in Moby Dick have many meanings or could possibly
symbolize many things that there is no way of knowing what any one thing or any
chain of events for that matter could symbolize. For all we know there could be
absolutely no symbolism in this book, Herman Melville could have just written
this book with out even thinking about or trying to make anything symbolize
hope, death, Satan or anything for that matter. Symbolism (like beauty) is in
the eye of the beholder.
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