When I first began thinking of a subject for my paper, I looked first to the aspects of Moby Dick that intrigued me most. I found Ishmael and Queequeg’s relationship at the beginning of the novel to be of particular interest to me because of a class discussion. I noticed how the relationship seemed to be more friendly than erotic, and I saw how the historical context of the relationship needed to be taken into account, making way for the interpretation that Melville wanted all men, regardless of origin, to be equal. What I did not consider, however, was how the equality argument could be used to talk about the novel as a whole. I realized that my thesis was too narrow and could not facilitate further argumentation in the world of academia.

With a resolve to formulate some of my own ideas before being influenced by any secondary sources, I considered the lack of women in Moby Dick. This led me to believe that Melville wanted to use manhood to represent something very specific. I came up with two different needs manhood could symbolize in the novel: the need for acceptance and the need for dominance. I then began to look at secondary sources to see what other scholars had to say on the subject. In fact most of the time I spent working on this paper was spent reading source after source—I wanted to make sure that I left no stone unturned and no room for anyone to say I had not done enough research.

While writing the actual paper, however, I realized that I had incorporated too many passages from secondary sources and not enough of the text of Moby Dick. This was a problem because the majority of the paper was written about everyone’s ideas except my own. At this point, I knew I needed something more for my essay—an original idea that would give readers something for their time. Ultimately, I used passages that illustrated Ahab’s capacity to feel to interpret his obsession with the Moby Dick not as a desire for revenge but as a personality trait.

If I had to edit this essay again, I might make the whole first section on the different representations of manhood in the novel a little more coherent. All in all, however, I am proud of the work I have accomplished.

VERONICA FALLER, or Vee, is a member of the ENG 2013 class from North Reading, Massachusetts. She is a pre-medical biomedical engineering major. Vee decided to take Professor Degener’s WR 150 seminar, “The Whale,” because she wanted to study a topic that would be completely different from those of her math and science courses. This essay was written for Michael Degener’s course, WR 150: The Whale.