Moby-Dick Herman Melville 1851
Melville • 1819-1891 • Many jobs: bank clerk, teacher • Went to sea in 1841 • Sailed the world, wrote books about it • Lived among Polynesian cannibals
Melville • Read Shakespeare (and Hawthorne) and grew dissatisfied with his own books • Wrote MOBY-DICK in 1851, dedicated it to Hawthorne, who encouraged him to make it an allegory • Moby-Dicknot well received • Continued to write until his death • Suffered breakdown, lost jobs • Died in 1891
Why a book about whaling? • Very profitable-like oil industry today • Very American-we dominated this industry • Whales largest creatures on earth • Whale expeditions epic in nature • Every bit of whale used for something-heating, lighting, clothing, perfume…
Is it a true story? • Based on true story of The Essex • Left Nantucket in 1820…storm and supposed attack by a sperm whale sunk ship. Only a few survivors
Why is it so long? • Encyclopedic in scope • EVERYTHING is in here! • Epic • Etymology/Extracts: attempts to define the whale
Themes (all alluded to in chapter one!) • Search for Truth • “All men, by nature, desire to know” Aristotle • “ungraspable phantom of life” (5) ?
Themes • Monomania/hubris • Obsession/pride • “And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all” (3).
Themes • Universality/Connectedness “…and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content” (4)
Themes • Fate vs. Free Will • “this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way-he can better answer than any one else” (5)
Sea vs. Land • “Meditation and water are wedded forever” (2) • “tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks” (2)
Motifs-recurring images • Whiteness • Mechanical • Religion • Transcendentalism • Counterparts • Characters Ahab/Starbuck, Stubb/Flask • Motifs: land/sea, good/evil, life/death…
* Ch. 1-22: Ishmael and Queequeg • Ch. 23-45: Ahab and Moby Dick • Ch. 45 – 72: The business of the Pequod and the pursuit of the whale • Ch. 73 – 105: Whales and whaling • Ch. 106 – 135: The search and the chase