Bipolar Disorder And PTSD In Melville's Moby Dick

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The sea is Vietnam. With ever-present danger and high death rates, the sea acts similar to a battlefield. Melville’s classic Moby Dick is set in a dangerous environment similar to the Vietnam War setting. As an unfortunate aftermath of the Vietnam War, many returning veterans developed PTSD. The character Ahab, like many of these returning, injured soldiers, develops PTSD after losing an entire leg due to an attack by Moby Dick. However, instead of simply suffering PTSD, Ahab suffers from a combination of two psychoses: PTSD and Bipolar Disorder. John Halsell, a psychologist and reporter for The Atlantic, describes the relationship between these two psychoses in “PTSD and Bipolar Disorder: One Feeds the Other”. Halsell claims, “There is a strong…show more content…
Halsell argues that “suicidal tendencies are the most common result of PTSD” (Halsell). Ahab’s personality divides into insanity and depression. The friction between these two mental states causes Ahab to bear a subconscious tendency for suicide. Melville supports this assertion by revealing the reason why some men pursue the sea for whaling. Ahab goes to the sea because the sea is a place where men go when they are unable to suicide. The chapter titled “The Blacksmith” explains the reason in detail. The blacksmith aboard the Pequod had pursued whaling after his addiction to alcohol cost him his family and his home. Ishmael laments, “Therefore, to the death-longing eyes of such men [Perch], who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-reception ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures” (Melville 480). Ahab displays similarities with the blacksmith since Ahab himself lost everything to his own addiction. Thus, Ahab wishes for death subconsciously. This suicidal tendency stems from Ahab’s

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