In Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, a recurring theme of death is seen throughout the book. A coffin appears at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book, Ishmael sees a large oil painting that foreshadows and represents many things and events that follow in the book, and Fedallah makes a prophecy talking about hearses and predicts Ahabs death. Ishmael stays at The Sprouter-Inn, whose proprietor was a man named Peter Coffin. In the end, Ishmael clings to a coffin for over a day until rescued by another boat. The picture Ishmael sees contains many things seen later in the book, such as a whale and a horrible storm. Fedallahs prophecy of hearses and hemp prove to be true.
Moby Dick begins and ends with a coffin. At the beginning of the book, Ishmael talks to Peter Coffin, the proprietor of The Sprouter-Inn, for a place to stay. He does not have any open rooms so Ishmael is forced to room with Queequeg whom he does not meet until after he goes to sleep. When Queequeg walks in, Ishmael says, “Landlord, for Gods sake, Peter Coffin! Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels! save me!” (Melville, 23)
This quotation foreshadows the event later in the story when Ishmael will again need a coffins help. In the epilogue, it is described, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft dirge-like main. (Melville, 552) In both situations, a coffin rescues Ishmael.
Ishmael studies an oil portrait in The Sprouter-Inn that foreshadows and symbolizes many things that are seen later in the story. Melville describes the picture,
“The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship
weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated
whale, purposing to spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling
itself upon the three mast-heads.” (Melville, 11)
The fist example of foreshadowing is that the painting is an oil painting and the whale hunters try to get the oil from the whales. The hurricane foreshadows the great storm which Ahab refuses to turn back from. The ship represents the Pequod and the three masts represent the three days to try to capture the white whale. The whale represents the white whale which Ahab searches for. And the whales act of impaling itself anticipates the whale being harpooned and the death of everyone on the ship except for Ishmael.
Fedallah makes a prophecy regarding Ahabs death and of other things which will all become true. Fedallah says, two hearses must verily be seen by thee on the sea; the first not made by mortal hands; and the visible wood of the last one must be grown in AmericaHemp only can kill thee. (Melville, 478-479) Fedallahs prophecy proves to be true. On the third day of the chase, Moby Dick is spotted with Fedallah on his back. Ahab then says, Aye Parsee! I see thee again. Aye, and thou goest before; and this, this then is the hearse that thou didst promise. But I hold thee to the last letter of thy word. Where is the second hearse? (Melville, 545) After the whale fatally wounds the ship, Ahab realizes that the ship was the second hearse. Ahab throws one last harpoon at the whale, but the rope became caught around his legs and he was hurled into the water and hurled to his death, which makes Fedallahs entire prophecy true.
In Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, there were many things that foreshadowed death for later in the story. Ishmael studies an oil portrait of a ship in a hurricane attacking a whale, which is a microcosm of Ishmaels journey in the story. Fedallah made a prophecy about death that becomes true. And finally, the novel ends in death for all but Ishmael, who lives because his friend Queequegs coffin serves as a buoy, which emerges from the sunken Pequod.