Theses and Dissertations @ UNI


"Among the unspeakable foundations": Melville's use of the book of Job in Moby-Dick


Thesis (Electronic Copy Not Available)


his thesis examines Herman Melville’s use of the Book of Job within his masterpiece, Moby-Dick. Although the influence of both the Bible and the Book of Job on Melville’s writing is widely acknowledged, there is wide disagreement between interpretations as to what purpose Melville intends with its usage. The Book of Job explores the problem of suffering at length, and indicates from the divine speeches specifically that God is altogether amoral, and that the only possible justice in the world is the justice humanity makes for itself, thereby destroying the notion of divine retribution. Melville appropriated the Book of Job to further its message of critiquing a God-centered judicial system. The subversive nature of Moby-Dick has been established within scholarship, yet its message has not supplanted the hegemonic God-centered perspective, even within secular society. Through Moby-Dick, Melville attacks the basis of Christian notions of justice. Melville emphasizes both ambiguity and multiplicity of perspectives, revealing that structures are human constructs, and thus the security garnered from them may actually be rationalization or coping mechanisms ultimately hindering one from fully experiencing life. If divine retribution does not exist, then neither can God-centered sin or righteousness, and Moby-Dick acknowledges this while calling for an androcentric humanist view that judges righteousness based off actions and their effects, rather than arbitrary or illusory religious principles.

As the Book of Job argues, and Moby-Dick illustrates, such laws do not exist, or are irrelevant to humanity. To this day, Judeo-Christian-Islamic types of God-centered judicial attitudes continue to affect the American court system. Furthermore, on an everyday basis, the mainstream American still does not understand the impact these mentalities continue to have on sexuality, gender, family, hierarchal systems, etc. Essentially, these views are fundamentally integrated into the foundations of society, and only once this process is demystified,the damaging effects rooted in a divine retribution-based world view can be removed to liberate society, creating a structure based in empirical human dignity. Moby-Dick, through its use of the Book of Job, illuminates these issues, and furthers the dismantling of harmful notions of divine retribution by pairing it with an androcentric, humanist replacement.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Julie Husband, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (iv, 94 pages)



Electronic copy is not available through UNI ScholarWorks.