Why this book?
Writing to Hawthorne, Melville invoked “the all feeling,” a pantheistic oneness with nature. But Melville always qualified such feelings: “what plays the mischief with the truth is that men will insist upon the universal application of a temporary feeling.” Melville elaborated on his pantheism to his main squeeze—his belief that one could transcend isolated male individuality by merging with a divine nature: “I felt pantheistic then—your heartbeat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God’s. The Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling.” Moby-Dick’s narrator is overtaken by the same temporary feeling of infinite fraternity, achieved through a pantheistic fusion of bodies in nature. Moby-Dick stages a contest between Ishmael’s desire to merge with nature and Ahab’s attempt to dismember the totem of nature that dismembered him.