This paper examines baptismal imagery and themes in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick through the ancient exegetical practice of typology. This method of reading sees events, characters, and rituals as "types" or foreshadows of Christ's life, linking apparently disparate stories as an interdependent group. Melville simultaneously draws upon the typological associations of baptism and subverts them. Baptism appears in the novel as the washing away of sins, initiation into a new identity and community, second birth, initiation into mysteries, consecration for a holy purpose, and death and resurrection. However, Melville's baptisms are reversed, incomplete, or uncertain. The characters are not baptized into Christian community and spiritual life, but into a savage, pagan identity as whalemen; what is consecrated is not dedicated to holiness, but to violence and bloodshed; and death does not lead to resurrection, but madness, insoluble ambiguity, and final destruction. Ultimately, Moby-Dick is a story of failed baptism, the very means of salvation overcome by demonic power; as Ahab says, "Baptizo ... in nomine diabolo."
""Ego Te Baptizo": The Typology of Baptism in Moby-Dick,"
Vol. 7, Article 1.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/globaltides/vol7/iss1/1