Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

David Greven


In 1973, Gerhard T. Alexis published “Two Footnotes on a Faceless Whale” (AN&Q, vol. 11, pp. 99-100) to point out how Melville was alluding to an exchange between Yahweh and Moses in Exodus 33 during a commentary by Ishmael in Chapter 86 “The Tail” of Moby-Dick (1851). By using Ishmael’s allusion to the facelessness of Yahweh in relation to his hand in Exodus 33 as a window, I meditate on the relationship between the hand and face images more properly to propose how they are functioning in Melville’s epic in regard to the phenomenon of veiling. The corporeal body in both the Old Testament of the King James Bible and Moby-Dick (i.e. the face, hand, arm, leg, etc.) are powerful drivers for plot, expression, and aestheticization and, thus, are images that can be honed in on for performing meaningful readings. I build on this framework by arguing that the outwardly masculine plot in Moby-Dick can be read as a narrative grappling with the Old Testament’s representation of the archetypal Son’s creation in Genesis as distinctly Motherless under the trinitarian schema of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I argue that Melville’s controversial character, Ahab, is a direct descendant of Adam still grappling with his origin story, and I use Melville’s comparisons of them to make my case. Lastly, I connect Michelangelo’s painting, the Creation of Adam, with Ahab’s speech to his “fiery father” in Chapter 119 “The Candles” to apply my meditation on the hand and face images in the context of the trinity to argue that Adam and Ahab are both reaching past their Father through the Ghost of their creation for the face of their captured Mother.