This essay reconsiders the concept of individualism in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick by focusing on the affective aspect of Captain Ahab’s solitude. By considering the cultural fervor over connectivity in antebellum America, due to what is known as the communications revolution, I highlight Ahab’s solitude, which stems from his misguided faith in his networked status with the white whale. Ahab’s solitude has been understood as a manifestation of liberal individualism, which characterizes the ethos of mid-nineteenth-century America. However, what Ahab represents could be more accurately grasped by what I term “lonely individualism.” With its oxymoronic overtones, “lonely individualism” is intended to encapsulate the two valences of being alone: solitude and loneliness. By taking Moby-Dick as a case study, this essay seeks to join the recent critical endeavor of challenging the myth of individualism in Americanist literary studies by shedding light on the affective realm of an individualist.
"Lonely Individualism in Moby-Dick,"
Criticism: Vol. 62
, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol62/iss4/5