Melville critics have long detected a ritualistic quality in "The Candles," the storm scene late in Moby-Dick (1851) in which corpusants form atop the Pequod's masts, and Captain Ahab, after addressing the "clear spirit of clear fire" they embody, extinguishes them in an act of defiance that seals his doom. Lawrance Thompson, noting Ahab's prayerlike but blasphemous utterances, Stubb's supplications to the corpusants to "have mercy on us all," and the scene's profusion of trinities, tapers, and other Christian signifiers, described the storm scene as "a kind of inverted religious ritual" that correlates, as such, to the inverted communion of "The Quarter-Deck" and the inverted baptism of "The Forge." It may be, however, that "The Candles" is more than "a sort of" inverted rite-more, that is, than a scene suggesting, with obviously subversive intent, the forms and usages of pious Christian observance but having no particular original in mind. For to a remarkable extent the images, actions, dialogue, and dramatic structure of this chapter long and properly regarded as the novel's climax, seem to evoke but also to invert corresponding elements of the Easter Vigil, a religious observance itself long regarded as the climax of the Christian liturgical year.
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