Must be familiar with the Novel Moby-Dick. (Preferably the Norton Critical edition)
Read the attached epilogue. Answer the 2 questions below. Answers do NOT need to be more than a couple of paragraphs.
(1) Can you add a couple of observations about this passage to the list started below?
Observations of the Epilogue. (When writing about literature, it can be a good idea to start by simply jotting down the things you notice about a passage.)
— Melville starts off with an allusion to the Bible (the Book of Job), but then makes a couple of allusions to Greek mythology (the Fates, Ixion).* Then it’s back to the Bible (Rachel).
— Ishmael is extremely lucky. Not only does he reach the center of the whirlpool or vortex just as it is losing its force, saving him from drowning, he also is spared by the sharks. I guess this makes sense in narrative terms; given that Melville has made Ishmael the story’s narrator, Ishmael *has* to survive.
— I notice right offhand a few nice touches of poetic technique, such as the alliteration (on “b”) and internal rhyme (on “u”) in the phrases “button-like black bubble” and “black bubble upward burst.”
— The first time I read Moby-Dick, I found this ending to be very emotionally moving. I still do.
(2) What are your thoughts on the novel’s final allusion to the biblical figure of Rachel? Note that the novel opens with an allusion to Ishmael, then closes with an allusion to Rachel. Do you see any significance in this? Do these two figures help in any way to open and close the novel? In particular, do they help us understand the ways in which the narrator has been changed by his experiences?
For this second question you might want to read the Wikipedia entries on the relevant biblical characters:
* You might occasionally come across the phrase “Athens and Jerusalem,” which refers to the fact that, as we see in this Epilogue, western writers draw a lot of their material from the Bible (Jerusalem) and from Greek (Athens) mythology and philosophy. The same goes for western culture more generally, with its roots in the Bible’s religious ethics and values and those of the ancient Greeks.