Essay, Research Paper: Herman Melville And Moby Dick

Literature: Herman Melville

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I. Biographical Insights A. The culture this great author was a part of was the
time in American history where inspiring works of literature began to emerge. It
was also a time when American writers had not completely separated its literary
heritage from Europe, partly because there were successful literary genius'
flourishing there. B. Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, he was the son
of Allan and Maria Melville. During Herman's childhood he lived in the
"good" neighborhoods of New York City. In 1832 Herman suffered tragedy
when his father died after trying to cope with the stress of debts and
misfortunes. After a short time in a business house in New York City, Herman
determined he needed to go to sea. He spent years traveling on a variety of
ships, including whaling ships. C1. Melville's perspective on life is that God
created the universe with an infinite number of meanings and man is always
trying to determine one specific meaning. D2. The "lessons" that
Melville is likely to weave into his writing are 1. An exposition on whales and
the whaling industry. 2. A commentary on the universe and human destiny. 3.
Thoughts about God and Nature. III. Characters B. The protagonist in this book
is Ishmael, a Christian, schoolteacher and part-time sailor. Ishmael's role in
the hunt for "Moby Dick" is to interpret what is happening. He
discusses his reasons for going to sea and interprets and looks for
understanding a number of reasons for any specific action where other characters
only understand one reason. C. It is hard to say what changes take place in
Ishmael's personality, since he is the narrator he doesn't talk about himself,
he only talks about what he sees. D1. Ishmael befriends Queequeg who is a
cannibal. Even though Queequeg is very ugly Ishmael sees that Queequeg has an
honest heart, great honor, and a lot of courage. This friendship had a positive
influence on Ishmael's behavior because it taught him not to judge on outward
appearances. E2. Another relationship that was very short was the relationship
between Ishmael and Captain Ahab. For the first few days aboard the Pequod
Ishmael always saw Ahab in the shadows. When Ishmael finally saw Ahab he had
shivers run through his body. Ishmael felt Ahab's attitude of determination,
dedication and hatred towards "Moby Dick" in Ahab's appearance. This
relationship was a negative relationship because Ishmael now feared Ahab and did
not want to become friends with such an evil person. F. The conflict that
Ishmael experienced was that he saw how Ahab was such an evil man and that
Ishmael was a good natured man and did not want to be corrupted by Ahab. To
resolve this conflict Ishmael stayed away from Ahab. Representative Passage on
Imagery and Figurative Language "Yonder, by the ever-brimming goblet's rim,
the warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver
sun–long dived from noon,–goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her
endless hill. Is, then, the crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of
Lombardy. Yet is it bright with many a gem; I, the wearer, see not its far
flashings; but darkly fell that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. ‘Tis
iron–that I know–not gold. ‘Tis split, too–that I feel; the jagged edge
galls me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid metal." Chapter LV A.
The details being used to make us feel like we are watching a sunset is that it
says "the warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The
diver sun–long dived from noon,–goes down; my soul mounts up!" B. The
similes the author uses are the comparison of the colored waves of the sunset to
wine. I believe that when the author is talking about the "Iron Crown of
Lombardy" he is talking about the sun. When it says "Is, then, the
crown too heavy that I wear?" he is talking about the sunrise as the sun
first starts ascending. I think that noon is where it is says "Yet is it
bright with many a gem; I, the wearer, see not its far flashings;". I also
think that "‘Tis iron–that I know–not gold. ‘Tis split, too–that
I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid
metal." means he wants to take off the crown signifying sunset. IV.
Symbolism / Allusions D. The objects that are representative of larger ideas are
Moby Dick who is a symbol of all of the things in the universe. The color of the
whale being white could mean so many different and conflicting things that it
can't be narrowed down to one meaning. The coffin that was turned into a buoy
that saved Ishmael's life could suggest that the meaning of any object lies in
the beholder of the object not the object itself. The place that is a
representative of a larger idea is the sea. The sea represents a mans life, it
symbolizes the fears that a man must overcome in life in order to gain a fuller
understanding of life. B. The sea is a constant presence throughout the novel.
As the sea is constantly in the background of the scene. C. References to
previous literature are outlines on the Sperm Whale, but the literature he is
referring to do not have name of the works only the names of the authors.
"I know of only four published outlines of the great Sperm Whale: Colnett,
Huggins, Frederick Cuvier's, and Beales." E. Representative Passage on Tone
and Author's Philosophy "What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and the
crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it's too late
to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and
the chips were carted off a million years ago." Chapter II A. The metaphors
Melville is using indicates the condition of man and about man's uncertainty in
the universe we live in. His tone is that of questioning man choosing his own
destiny through his own actions. Melville's attitude is that of Man's absolute
insignificance in the universe. There is nothing Man can do to improve the
present state of the universe once he has acted on his decision. F. Aspects of
his philosophy which can be inferred is Man's continual struggle with himself in
this universe. The vastness of the universe and man's place in it is difficult
for the average man to comprehend. At best he can just figure out one meaning,
but there could be more. I. Evaluation F. This novel has influenced my attitudes
and beliefs on the destiny of man and has shown me that there is more than one
view of every object. It showed me that I need to be open minded and examine
things from more than one point of view before I judge the object. G. In this
novel one of the author's goals was of indicating the condition of man and about
man's uncertainty in the universe we live in. Melville also shows the reader
about Man's absolute insignificance in the universe. H. I believe the author was
very successful in achieving these goals. Herman did a great job of representing
objects with things of deeper meaning. Throughout the book you are shown Man's
insignificance in the universe by the relationship of the crew to the ocean. You
are also shown of how a Man's decision once executed can't be changed, an
example of that is when Captain Ahab throws the spear into Moby Dick. The spears
rope got wrapped around Ahab's neck and when the whale dove Ahab went with it.
There was nothing Ahab could do to escape. I. The topics in this novel are very
true but an adventure loving reader will read this book and focus on what went
on rather than what the novel was trying to say. This book could be significant
to a reader who wants to know about Man's relation to the universe. The
difference this novel will have on society is that it will help a person find
their relation to the universe.
Bibliography
Melville, Herman. "Moby Dick", Spencer Press, Inc. 1936 Webmaster
Unknown. "Herman Melville", Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW: http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/melville.html
Webmaster Unknown. "Moby Dick", Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW:
http://www.compclass.com/~vincent/motor.city/moby*censored*.html
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