AP Lit and Moby Dick


Last night my dad and I went to the Kennedy Center to see the Washington National Opera’s rendition of Moby Dick, thanks to the kindness of my grandparents. The orchestra was captivating, the set stunning, and the graphics imaginative. The production brought a classic piece of literature to life with nods to Star Trek, including graphics that portrayed a ship traveling through space – brilliant! Despite the impressive production, the story left me feeling empty. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Moby Dick tells the story of a whaling ship’s crew led by an obsessive captain who puts the crew at risk to seek revenge on the whale that took his leg. The story concludes in a nasty battle with the infamous whale, Moby Dick, that leaves the entire crew, except for one man, dead. Such a warm, light-hearted tale.

I felt empty because there was no redemption. All around me were adults applauding and standing for an opera that exemplified the depravity of man. I heard people praising the sarcastic remarks the characters made about Christian kindness. While the opera did a fine job illustrating how “Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy,” (ch. 1) they did not address another significant point of the literary classic. Greenhorn remarks, “…and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending,” (ch. 17).  To me, that is the point of Moby Dick.

This year I’ve been assigned many classic books to read for AP Literature, and nearly all have left me depressed at the state of humanity. Hamlet tells the story of murder and revenge. Gulliver’s Travels reveals the faults of human society and politics. Frankenstein shows the extreme of obsession and isolation. The list continues.

But if there’s one thing that AP Lit has taught me it is that we are all fallen humans badly in need of a savior. C. S. Lewis says it well…

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

There is only One who can save us. The only person who can fill our hole of longing inside is Jesus. His death on the cross gave us worth, hope, and redemption. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)

That is your hope! That is my hope! Enter your own name into that verse: Phebe, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.

Whenever I hear applause now, I always hear in my head the voices of the Liberians repeating “Clap for Jesus!” Yes, clap for Jesus! He chose to save us despite our obsessions, doubts, murderous thoughts, and disloyalty. Praise be to God!

– – Phebe


One thought on “AP Lit and Moby Dick

  1. Yes, Amen! Thank you for such insightful and inspiring words, Phebe. A sad commentary on the brokenness around us, but everlasting hope and beauty in the midst of it. Only God can do that. SO thankful for Light in the darkness and Truth revealed through His Spirit, His Word, and His children. You bring much glory to your Father. Keep writing, girl.

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