Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2008
Species of Thought
When the Whale Responds
Narrating the Ethical Subject in Farley Mowat’s A Whale for the Killing
The essay discusses the significance of narrative for environmental ethics by attending to the conventions of autobiography in Farley Mowat’s anti-whaling text, A Whale for the Killing. A tension emerges in environmental nonfiction narrative between the desire to transcend the self and its expression in autobiographical form, which necessarily places the self at the centre of the narrative. I trace the construction of the narrator’s and whale’s ethical personae to argue that even as Mowat’s narration of a subject-to-subject encounter challenges the ontological and ethical divide between “human” and “animal,” it nevertheless reconstructs a liberal-humanist notion of subjectivity.