In every great literary work there is a symbolic element that makes the author’s message more detectable to his readers. In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick there is the idea of the “counterpane” of humanity. This theme is mixed in throughout the story as a symbol of the worldТs multiculturalism. Melville shows that the world is a counterpane of diverse cultures, races, and environments, in which we are always connected by our humanity. Melville also uses the open sea as a metaphor for the world and mankind.
The most obvious counterpane in Moby Dick is the crew of the Pequod. Every shipmate on board the Pequod brought some sort of different culture and background to the ship. The three colored harpooners and the three white mates each had their own beliefs about life. The other members of the crew such as Fedallah, Pip, Ahab, and Ishamael made up one big mixture of cultures. It is interesting how the white crew on the ship who in their wildest dreams never thought of putting their lives in the hands of colored people. Yet every one of them was completely dependent on one or all of the colored members of the crew. Without the harpooners the Pequod would have perished long before they even spotted Moby Dick.
One great example of interdependency within the shipmates is the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg. Ishmael was one of the only crew members to accept other beliefs. His friendship with Queequeg paints the perfect picture of a man to live lovingly and acceptingly with his peers. This dependency is how the Pequod performed. Every member, although each individual was different from the next, did their part in trying to assure the success of the Pequod. The interdependency on the ship transfers over to show the counterpane of humanity….