Melville in July (or the force of self-destruction)

A marine adventure, the myth of the man facing his mirror, a prophecy of human evil, the messianism of the new American man or even one of the first modern novels with erotoman content. All this and much more represents "Moby Dick" and has left no one indifferent. Reading this cursed work at the time of its publication has generated all sorts of interpretations and countless perceptions. The stormy immensity of the ocean, now a calm blade now a destructive serpent, the magnitude of the undertaking of the Pequod and its captain Ahab, transform the work into a true prophecy, into an enduring psalm about the very condition of men, beyond the imminence and more urgent desires. Because man's worst enemy is man himself, and that enemy sometimes nests within oneself, in his unleashed passions like a Prometheus who seeks to release his internal tension by rushing to his self-destruction: "God help you, old man! Your thoughts have engendered a creature in you; and your intense thought turns you into Prometheus; a crow will feed forever on your entrails; that raven is the same creature you created.” 

With this allegory, Melville's prose is unleashed to describe his protagonist, Ahab, an independent man, "self-reliant", assertive, but above all a man intoxicated by a powerful arrogance, by an incautious and excessive pride that will destroy him. . A bachelor in the exercise of simplification would invoke the dualism between good and evil represented by the captain and the whale, but whoever opted for such rudimentary Manichaeism would probably have missed one of the few immanent conclusions of this work, which is none other than evil and madness are men's inner domains, and external enemies are nothing more than obscene projections of their own malignancy: “They think I'm crazy… but I'm demonic; I am crazy madness! That wild madness that calms down only to understand itself! … I run! I am not afraid of an obstacle! … but I lack the humble capacity to enjoy… I am cursed in the middle of paradise”. This is how Ahab speaks, a crazy madman, a cursed man in the middle of paradise. 

What is the center and reason of Ahab's pathological obsession? What drives the captain to self-destruct himself and, at the same time, that of all the men embarked on the Pequod? The cause of the lancinating delirium that mortifies him while vivifying him is none other than pride, probably the most primitive way of understanding narcissism. There is in Ahab a tribal evolution of the myth of Narcissus, of the world locked in man's own drawer, because the objective world has made it disappear to turn it into his own life. Ahab addresses the sailor Starbuck in these terms: “I am the lieutenant of destiny; I'm just following orders." He is, therefore, an individual who only responds to orders, his own orders, and condemns the entire crew to certain death, because he is captive of his own individuality and his gnostic activism that leads him to the irreversible destruction of it. Nothing matters more than giving an active response to his curse, to the prophecy of facing his devastating self transfigured into a double white whale. When, in a zenithal scene of the play, Ahab nails an Ecuadorian doubloon to the mainmast, Ahab's idolized ego exclaims: “The firm tower, that is Ahab; the victorious, brave and courageous rooster: that is Ahab. Everything is Ahab”. The paradox of solipsism, when the thinking subject does not recognize or perceive any other existence than his own. And since this blog has to do with literature but also with power, let me navigate the Pequod through the Mephistophelian waters of the last elections and you yourselves look for analogies. 

Pride is capital sin and capital of sins. The arrogant are twins of the foolish, but there is a category that elevates foolishness to the rank of stupidity and that is when the arrogant man is limited in understanding even though he neither knows nor wants to know. There is nothing worse than an arrogant person who knows nothing, because the arrogant's strength and anxiety could still be justified with lights. Spain is a country where there are arrogant without shine, of forgivers who aspire to perpetuate themselves in their destiny of salvation knowing that they will never cross the barrier of mediocrity. There are men with lights, enlightened and capable, who live tormented by the baseness and felony of the scruples of the ignorant. I insist that there is nothing worse than a superb man who believes he is a "victorious rooster and rooster" when he is no more than a laborer with the looks of a hen cornered on a television set. And some political party these elections had the appearance of a Pequod in search of definitive success, the abyss or the peak, life or death, since they plowed through the campaign days like an infallible ship, a bateau-ivre as Rimbaud would say, with a roar of an overwhelming captain thrown against his destiny, headed for final victory. And as in the book, there was a meeting between two ships, the Pequod and the Bachelor, and their two captains maintain an open dialogue from their decks, shouting and walking, seeking to unite destinies in the stubbornness of guaranteed success that awaits like Jonás in the whale. It is the captains who sight the horizon, without dimension and space, without accompanying consciousness, because the crew is nothing, a concert of secondary voices destined to disappear, not for the sake of a superior destiny, but because of its irrelevance. 

But being irrelevant, that troop of enlisted sailors must serve Ahab disciplined in his prodigious delirium, since they are the ones who move the load and sail the currents. To do this, Ahab hypnotizes the troops, he is a mesmerist who knows what his hosts want to hear and fascinates with his words. He is a tyrant of feelings, a faithful modern mutation of the tyrant in Plato's "The Republic". The dominance of men through the virtuous use of the word, the most sophisticated technique of self-absorption. He does not ignore that he can say the same thing and the opposite at the same time, without a solution of continuity, because he exercises total power and in that way saves the world. It is the technology of power based on the conjecture of language. He wields power with the force of a magnet's magnetism, so he will have no qualms about eliminating anyone who steps out of line, “out of order”. "Moby Dick" is an epic, a wild allegory of man's control over man and of man himself, it is a transcript of the spirit of perdition, of the power of evil envying in the pride of the cursed man. And that is how the ship runs into its whale, and the captain dies not eaten by the whale, a mere figurative replica of the narrative death, but eaten by his own pride, because he has faced himself. And the entire crew also dies there, except Ishmael, perhaps the only man aware of the evil company who left the port of Nantucket in New England one day, the only one who recognizes a dual world between the self and the rest and who proclaims it so. : “In this strange and confused business that we call life there are certain moments in which man considers the entire universe as a huge practical joke, although he barely glimpses what the joke consists of and has more than a suspicion that the joke is at his ribs ”. And the pride of feeling the superhuman power of the old tyrant was joined by hatred, the mad hatred to which Melville refers: “For old Ahab, what maddens and torments him the most, all malicious truth, everything that cracks the convolutions it fills the brain, all the subtle demonism of life and thought, all evil, was embodied in Moby Dick, and deserved the most resounding aggression. Accumulate on the white hump of the cetacean the sum of all the anger and hatred felt by the entire race, from the distance of Adam. It does not matter if the prophet and his flock die for this purpose. But Ishmael survives to testify to the most incredible story ever told, the only survivor who sighted the Leviathan and survived. The book begins with the phrase "Call me Ishmael," which, according to the American Book Review magazine, is the best novel opening ever written. Call me Ismael. You can call me Ismael. From the first moment he has a bond of empathy with the reader, even because he is the only survivor of this epic adventure and he can tell it. There will be a day that a young Ishmael recounts how a captain faced the worst possible enemy, which is his own self, and died. By dint of having a birthday, it is discovered that hatred and revenge are tiresome. If they become the mainstay of a season's guide to modern politics, they become tedious. And boredom, alas, boredom, is the greatest destroyer of wills. Ishmael is picked up by the ship “Raquel”, like an orphan who opposed free will to chance and Ahab's predestination. Ahab has despised men and Ishmael contemplates the outcome of his internal battle. It is desolation and, as such, invites reflection. But I have a feeling that pride is sordid and that it does not dissipate the mind. Only Ismael remains.

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Melville in July (or the force of self-destruction)

About the Author

Mario Garces Sanagustin

Mario Garces Sanagustin

Auditor and Auditor of the State. State Treasury Inspector. Member of the Academic Council of Fide.

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