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
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
Melville, Herman. "Moby Dick", Spencer Press, Inc. 1936
Webmaster Unknown. "Herman Melville", Internet. 10/01/96
Webmaster Unknown. "Moby Dick", Internet. 10/01/96 Available