Over the last few weeks, I've had the chance to read. Alot. I finished Moby Dick (though I started this a while ago) and I read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I loved both books. Obviously, Moby Dick is epic. But both books really push the reader to answer the questions: "Is there any good in humanity?" and "Are we in control of our own destinies?"
Honestly, I don't think the answers are so simple. Certainly, people demonstrate small amounts of goodness at some point, but the question then becomes: what is the origin of that goodness? Is it generated from within us, or is it placed upon us somehow? McCarthy's book is a battle for survival - a journey where the only thing left to do is keep moving.
The road itself is, in the book, a metaphor for all of life: we don't know how things will turn out, but we have no choice but to continue on. McCarthy's book ends with a resounding "yes" to the question "Is there good in humanity?". But I tend to disagree with where that goodness seems to be generated from. McCarthy would most likely say that the goodness is self-generated and that all humans are inherently good. I think that this goodness is given to us.
I highly recommend both books, but I would suggest skipping some of the Melville's writing on Cetology. Though it adds a miniscule amount of depth to Melville's main character, it does not really add to the plot or overall effectiveness of the book. (Don't tell him I said that!)