The whale avatar of the Hindoos in Melville's Moby Dick

Bruce M Sullivan, Patricia Wong Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Herman Melville depicted the great whale Moby Dick as a powerful force of nature, impossible to comprehend fully. He attributes to the whale not only great antiquity, but also divinity. One of the most striking and effective ways in which he does so is by describing the whale as a manifestation (avatar) of the Hindu deity Vishnu, whose mythology he recounts, the Matsya Avatāra. These passages are analysed in the context of the novel's other references to India and Hindu religious thought. In an effort to interpret the significance of India and Hinduism in the novel, aspects of Melville's life and thought are also analysed. We conclude that the structure of the myth of the fish avatar is reflected in the novel's structure, arid that the novel presents a concept of the divine at variance with Christian theological orthodoxy. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-372
Number of pages15
JournalLiterature and Theology
Volume15
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

Fingerprint

Moby-Dick
Avatar
Deity
Thought
Novel
India
Hinduism
Manifestation
Mythology
Nature
Herman Melville
Fish
Divinity
Forces of Nature
Vishnu
Dignity
Antiquity
Orthodoxy
Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this

The whale avatar of the Hindoos in Melville's Moby Dick. / Sullivan, Bruce M; Hall, Patricia Wong.

In: Literature and Theology, Vol. 15, No. 4, 2001, p. 358-372.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sullivan, Bruce M ; Hall, Patricia Wong. / The whale avatar of the Hindoos in Melville's Moby Dick. In: Literature and Theology. 2001 ; Vol. 15, No. 4. pp. 358-372.
@article{cace08f104b6418a8202110c9ea18a2c,
title = "The whale avatar of the Hindoos in Melville's Moby Dick",
abstract = "Herman Melville depicted the great whale Moby Dick as a powerful force of nature, impossible to comprehend fully. He attributes to the whale not only great antiquity, but also divinity. One of the most striking and effective ways in which he does so is by describing the whale as a manifestation (avatar) of the Hindu deity Vishnu, whose mythology he recounts, the Matsya Avatāra. These passages are analysed in the context of the novel's other references to India and Hindu religious thought. In an effort to interpret the significance of India and Hinduism in the novel, aspects of Melville's life and thought are also analysed. We conclude that the structure of the myth of the fish avatar is reflected in the novel's structure, arid that the novel presents a concept of the divine at variance with Christian theological orthodoxy. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.",
author = "Sullivan, {Bruce M} and Hall, {Patricia Wong}",
year = "2001",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "15",
pages = "358--372",
journal = "Literature and Theology",
issn = "0269-1205",
publisher = "Oxford University Press",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The whale avatar of the Hindoos in Melville's Moby Dick

AU - Sullivan, Bruce M

AU - Hall, Patricia Wong

PY - 2001

Y1 - 2001

N2 - Herman Melville depicted the great whale Moby Dick as a powerful force of nature, impossible to comprehend fully. He attributes to the whale not only great antiquity, but also divinity. One of the most striking and effective ways in which he does so is by describing the whale as a manifestation (avatar) of the Hindu deity Vishnu, whose mythology he recounts, the Matsya Avatāra. These passages are analysed in the context of the novel's other references to India and Hindu religious thought. In an effort to interpret the significance of India and Hinduism in the novel, aspects of Melville's life and thought are also analysed. We conclude that the structure of the myth of the fish avatar is reflected in the novel's structure, arid that the novel presents a concept of the divine at variance with Christian theological orthodoxy. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.

AB - Herman Melville depicted the great whale Moby Dick as a powerful force of nature, impossible to comprehend fully. He attributes to the whale not only great antiquity, but also divinity. One of the most striking and effective ways in which he does so is by describing the whale as a manifestation (avatar) of the Hindu deity Vishnu, whose mythology he recounts, the Matsya Avatāra. These passages are analysed in the context of the novel's other references to India and Hindu religious thought. In an effort to interpret the significance of India and Hinduism in the novel, aspects of Melville's life and thought are also analysed. We conclude that the structure of the myth of the fish avatar is reflected in the novel's structure, arid that the novel presents a concept of the divine at variance with Christian theological orthodoxy. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=63849304356&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=63849304356&partnerID=8YFLogxK

M3 - Article

VL - 15

SP - 358

EP - 372

JO - Literature and Theology

JF - Literature and Theology

SN - 0269-1205

IS - 4

ER -