Melville's Oriental Parsee: Reimagining Fedallah as Reader and Sign in Moby-Dick
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Published in 1851, Moby-Dick is audaciously experimental and defiantly unique for its time. Many scholars attribute problematic aspects of the book to this authorial ambition, and for the Melville critic, the figure of Fedallah is one of those problems. This study aims to explore how the Oriental character, Fedallah, operates within the larger world of reading and interpretation in Moby-Dick. Major critics of the past have struggled to reconcile the Parsee’s shadowy essence with the materiality of the whale ship, and have interpreted this figure as an evil force, or often bluntly, a devil. However, like many other subjects in the book, Fedallah evades definition. This thesis explores the idea that Fedallah is not an inconsequential bystander to the action, but a character of significant depth and feeling, and an active participant in the interpolated questing and prophetic narratives that lie at the heart of Moby-Dick.
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