The epic tale of Moby-Dick is told through the perceptions of Ishmael, the tale’s narrator, who reveals that he must go to seaward whenever he feels bored and caged in ashore. He joins a whale hunt, with the whale itself being highly symbolic. As in the myth in which Jonah is swallowed by a whale and gets another chance at life when he is vomited up from the whale’s belly, here the hero separates himself from his land-life obligations that swallow him up to go seaward and begin his life anew.
Perhaps the whale hunt for Ishmael is a symbolic crossing through a reflective waterway, and is a profound life-centering and life-renewing act. Seen in this way, the epic tale is perhaps symbolic of the individuation process, an image that seemimgly represents a conscious surrender to the power of the unconscious.
Left the only survivor once the boat of his sojourn sinks and all else are gone, it is only his words, his information, that leaves a trace. As Ishmael’s sea journey is symbolic of an individual’s need to find or redefine his or herself, he faces the monster from within, symbolized in the hunt for the great white whale. Instinctually then, he heads out to sea, straight toward that which could hold the key to his calling or destiny.
While some find and stick to a path and never reassess and redirect their course, others respond to the call for a rebirth into new ways of being, as is conveyed in Ishmael’s call and journey. When the boat sinks, the only trace from the epic tale’s initial call to its end is the storyteller’s mark, offering the hope that even from tragic events there is value, as long as even one survivor escapes to tell their stories.