The Pilgrim Soul: Herman Melville's Moby-Dick as Pilgrimage


Theatre and Performance Studies

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Recent research in ritual studies argues that the pattern of pilgrimage qualifies as trans-historical and trans-cultural and, therefore, archetypal. While previous studies of Moby-Dick have interpreted Herman Melville's epic novel as a “symbolic voyage” or a “nekyia,” they do not explore the implications that emerge when the story of the Ishmael's journey is considered as a performance of pilgrimage. In Pilgrimage:From Gangs to Graceland, Linda Kay Davidson and David M. Gitlitz describe pilgrimages as journeys “of the soul from unworthiness to worthiness” and “from a state of sin to one of redemption” (479). We may read Melville's Moby-Dick as a story of the soul's pilgrimage towards redemption and Ishmael's “damp, drizzly November” in his soul as a metaphor for the holy longing. This essay sees into and sees through Moby-Dick as a pilgrimage.