Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Brady Harrison


Ahab, Anatomy, Editor, Ishmael, Perspective, Self, Identity, Society, Teufelsdröckh


University of Montana


Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1831) and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or, the Whale (1851) combine the novel and the anatomy, creating a plot as well as a reflection on the human condition. The result of this combination produces a narrator whose single-minded focus on an object both propels events forward while at the same time stalling the progress of a traditional plot. The aspects of the text that connect to the novel, such as character and plot, offer a reflection of the effect truth and society have on character. Aspects that connect to the anatomy, such as the exhaustive knowledge of a particular subject, allow for an introspection of that reflected truth. Published twenty years after Carlyle wrote Sartor Resartus, Melville's Moby Dick, through his characters Ahab and Ishmael, picks up the threads of identity and the quest for truth and meaning that Carlyle examined with the characters of Teufelsdröckh and the Editor. Looking to combat feelings of hopelessness stemming from society and the self, each narrator—the Editor and Ishmael—begins a figurative journey in which he attempts to understand the inner-workings of man through the intense study of someone else. In this thesis I argue that the combination of the novel and anatomy as both plot and knowledge based allows the narrator to lose himself in his subject’s identity while still remaining central. Through the lives of Teufelsdröckh and Ahab respectively, each narrator examines the shaping of identity and self. Resulting from his role as the informant and observer as well as the singular nature of his inquiry, the narrator exposes his quest for his own identity, and in the process, he unintentionally takes on the self of his subject. Not simply narrators who tell someone else's story, the Editor and Ishmael, become the very men who stand "fixed in ocean reveries"(Melville 4) in search of a "new Truth"(Carlyle 8) that will shape and inform their identity.



© Copyright 2013 Torey Elizabeth Davie