"In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece. You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say, they have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly burn their lengths in spermaceti candles."
This line, which comes from Chapter 6, emphasizes the environmentally exploitative aspect of whaling and the harm that comes from an imperial perspective more generally. Ishmael explains that many people in New Bedford objectify whales and overuse the resources which their bodies provide, an approach which will ultimately deplete their population over time. While this moment refers specifically to the relationship between humans and whales, this exploitative dynamic also plays out among colonizers like the United States and the cultures they colonize.
"He is, without doubt, the largest inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of all whales to encounter; the most majestic in aspect; and lastly, by far the most valuable in commerce; he being the only creature from which that valuable substance, spermaceti, is obtained."
As Ishmael aims to scientifically explain the whale in Chapter 32, he matter-of-factly states that the sperm whale specifically is “by far the most valuable in commerce.” This detail offers an objectifying view of the whale and implies that its resources are a heavily exploited commodity. While Ishmael will spend the rest of the novel offering alternative and sometimes even humanizing depictions of whales, beginning with this assertion emphasizes that this imperial view is the primary one associated with these elusive creatures.
"I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul."
After Ahab reveals the vengeful purpose of their voyage, Ishmael begins Chapter 42 by explaining that he, along with the rest of the crew, felt somehow compelled to rally around their leader and his ill-fated plan to hunt Moby Dick. The fact that even the novel’s narrator, who the reader knows is skeptical of Ahab’s intentions, ultimately falls under his spell emphasizes the significant extent to which the crew’s sense of camaraderie is taken advantage of. Ahab exploits the democratic spirit that exists among them in order to gain support for his authoritarian endeavors.
"And here was Flask now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a breastband to lean against and steady himself by."
During the crew’s first whale chase in Chapter 48, Flask ends up standing on the shoulders of his harpooneer, Daggoo, in order to get a better vantage point of the waters ahead of them. This image of a white sailor perched on top of an African man offers a glimpse into the hierarchy of the crew and reflects the exploitative nature of American colonialism. Flask essentially uses Daggoo as a prop in this moment in order to achieve his goal of killing a whale, and act which both dehumanizes him and disregards his own needs.
"Hist! above there, I hear ivory—Oh, master! master! I am indeed down-hearted when you walk over me."
In Chapter 129, Pip, a young African American boy aboard the Pequod, goes to Captain Ahab with the intention of helping him and ultimately finds himself being pushed away. Ahab views Pip as a threat to his pursuit of Moby Dick because of his ability to evoke emotion, so he sends him below deck to ensure that nothing can distract him from the hunt. Placing Pip below deck while Ahab walks above him reflects the racial politics of Melville’s era by giving more importance to a whale than to a young boy.