Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Moby Dick” that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Moby Dick” offer a short summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics for “Moby Dick” below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Moby Dick” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Sea as a Character in “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
It is not uncommon for animals or natural objects to take on human characteristics (anthropomorphism) in many literary works, whether through overt personification or through symbolic representation. Such is the case in Moby Dick. In this novel, the sea becomes an important character, even though it is not human and does not speak. Consider the role of the sea in “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and cite specific passages that support your explanation about the character of the sea. Be sure to identify how the sea functions in shaping the trajectory of the plot of “Moby Dick”. You may also want to address the sea’s surface characteristics, as well as those that lurk beneath the surface.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Symbolism of Moby Dick
There are many whales in the sea, but Moby Dick is a particularly desirable catch because he is a whale that has taken on mythic, legendary proportions for sailors and whalers. Beyond this obvious symbolism, however, Moby Dick can represent a range of other ideas. Choose one or two symbolic meanings pertaining to Moby Dick and develop an essay in which you expand upon the symbol and its meaning. You may choose, for example, to write about the religious or Christian symbolism of the whale, or you may choose to focus on the symbolic relationship between humans and animals. Whatever particular symbolism you select, be sure to build your argument by citing specific passages from “Moby Dick”
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Significance of the Sermon in “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
Father Mapple’s sermon is offered early in “Moby Dick”, yet its content foreshadows much of what is to follow as the plot of Moby Dick unfolds. Father Mapple presents a sermon on the biblical passage about Jonah and the whale. Of course, there is an obvious parallel in the story of Jonah and the story crafted by Melville. However, a deeper analysis of Father Mapple’s sermon in “Moby Dick” may yield some other interpretations as well. Re-read the sermon of Father Mapple and mine its deeper meaning. Then, write an analytical essay on “Moby Dick” in which you offer your own interpretation of the sermon and determine its significance in relationship to the plot.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Problematic Endings? The Case of “Moby Dick”
Moby Dick is a lengthy novel. While it engages the reader’s interest because of its sea-adventure motif, the ending may be disappointing for some readers, as all of the human characters have died, with the exception of Ishmael. It may feel that all of the adventure has been for naught. Reflect upon the ending of “Moby Dick” and write a persuasive essay in which you seek to convince your reader that the novel’s ending is problematic. Alternatively, if you feel that the ending is satisfying, convince your reader of that position.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Ishmael’s Narration in “Moby Dick”
Narration is a crucial part of any novel, for it establishes the relationship with the reader, and sets the tone and pace of the novel’s events. The narrator of Moby Dick is Ishmael, whose narrative style is detailed and discursive. Ishmael draws from a wide range of subjects and often diverges from the main story in order to pursue what seems to be a tangent. Considering this narrative style, make a case with respect to its efficacy. Be sure to address issues such as reliability, credibility, and perspective. If you feel that the tangents are helpful, build an argument in which you defend your position. If, on the contrary, you feel that Ishmael’s digressions and his narrative style are not useful, explain why.
This list of important quotations from “Moby Dick” will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Moby Dick” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville they are referring to.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.This is my substitute for pistol and ball." (1)
“…the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish." (6)
“Nevertheless, a man like Queequeg you don't see every day, he and his ways were well worth unusual regarding." (27)
“What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow." (39)
“And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale.Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a model for repentance.Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah." (46)
“Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are." (54)
“Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise!." (165)
“For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events,—as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to." (176)
“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method." (359)
“The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth? —Because one did survive the wreck." (857)
Reference: Melville, Herman. Moby Dick, or The Whale. Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent, eds. New Y