This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
Abstract: The Transcendentalist’s Movement of the 19th century, which Melville was a part of, was tied to the philosophy, religion, and literature of the East. Consequently, Melville was also informed by the Persian prophet, Zoroaster, and his doctrine. The evidence for this acquaintance is illustrated in the Zoroastrian character he introduced in his towering novel, Moby Dick. This character is Fedallah, a Parsee. Throughout the novel Melville moves back and forth between his Calvinistic upbringing, with its emphasis on Original Sin, and his leanings toward the Zoroastrian ideology that emphasizes the presence of man’s God-like figure and responsibility of man to counter evil. Aspects of both doctrines are found in Captain Ahab, along with the existence of Zoroastrianism’s cosmic evil embodied in Moby Dick.
This article argues that, beyond this supposition, the result of original sin does not conclude with its inherent guilt; but, it is also outwardly and physically reflected, an example of which is the ivory leg of Captain Ahab. Contrary to Calvinism, there is no original sin in Zoroastrianism, and man was born into this world to side with Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian deity of good, in his constant struggle with Ahriman, the Zoroastrian deity of evil. These two doctrines parallel one another in this book, but ultimately, the Calvinistic doctrine prevails.