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Herman Melville 1819-1891


Moby Dick ... tragedies', as while writing Moby Dick, Melville was reading ... In what way is Moby Dick. a tragedy? Are we Ahab or Ishmael? Questions to ponder: ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Herman Melville 1819-1891

Herman Melville 1819-1891
Is the sea our cradle or our grave?
Generally ignored in his own time and almost
forgotten in the years after his death, Melville
has since then emerged as one of the giants of
American literature.
So God created the great sea monstersthe fifth
day. ---Genesis
The creator of the first fish in American
Is the whale our brother?
Herman Melville, the creator of Moby Dick
  • 1. Born in a New York family of Boston Calvinist
    and New York Dutch ancestry, into an atmosphere
    of security and comfort, well educated and
    socially happy.
  • 2. His parents accustomed to a comfortable and
    refined way of life his mother Maria Gansevoort
    and his father Allan Melville, educated in the
    College of New Jersey ( Princeton University)
  • 3. Taught by a family governess, and went to New
    York Male High School
  • 4. His father died early in 1832 ( overwork,
    nervous exhaustion, becoming insane, leaving
    heavy debts behind)
  • 5. Tried his hand at clerking, farming, teaching
    and writing

Herman Melville, the Big Questioner
  • 1. A common sailor on a merchant ship, and
    working on three whale ships to the South Seas,
    jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands and Hawaii
  • 2. The whale ship was my Yale and my Harvard
  • 3. Lived a life of genteel poverty as a customs
    inspector in the port of New York ( earning 4
    dollars a day)
  • 4. Married on August4, 1847 to Elizabeth Shaw.
    The daughter of a chief justice turning him from
    a world wanderer to a respectable family man
  • 5. Died in obscurity
  • 6. In 1924, his manuscript of the novella, Billy
    Budd was discovered and published, arousing
    public interest in him

Typee ( 1846)
  • Melvilles first novel. The narrator and his
    friend desert their whaling ship in the Marquesas
    Islands and spend three months with the Yypee
    cannibals. The narrator admires the easy
    primitive life of the islanders and especially
    fond of the lovely Fayaway.

Omoo (1847)
  • A sequel to Typee
  • The narrator and the crew desert their whaler
    because of an eccentric captain and bad living
    conditions. They are jailed in Tahiti, and later
    the narrator ships aboard another whaler, leaving
    his friend Captain Long Ghost in Tahiti.

Hula dancers
Fishermen of the South Sea
Hawaiian life
Men and the sea
His early romances the beautiful and the ugly
the civilized
and the savage
Hawaiian sunset
Moby Dick (1851)
  • It is the Hamlet of American literature, and
    Captain Ahab is one of the few characters in
    literature who is formed for noble tragedies,
    as while writing Moby Dick, Melville was reading
    Hawthorne and Shakespeare, and found in both a
    great sense of evil.

(No Transcript)
What do these masters of tragedy create?

Tragic Heroes
A victim of love
A victim of love
A victim of hatred
Captain Ahab
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago---never mind how
long preciselyhaving little or no money in my
purse, and nothing particular to interest me on
shore, I thought I would sail about a little and
see the watery part of the world.
And God created great sea monsters.
  • The five conflicts man suffers from
  • 1. Man and God
  • 2. Man and nature
  • 3. Man and society
  • 4. Man and man
  • 5. Man and himself

  • Two great archetypes in American literature
  • Ahab---a tragic figure who dares to seek
  • and challenge the supernatural power
  • while knowing that he is doomed to die.

2. The white whale---the symbol of nature
both good and evil as the color
Ahab---a man of action Ishmael---a man of thought
Pequod, the world of men trying their best to
catch the white whale
Can man conquer nature?
American literary tradition
Natty Bumppo, a civilized man going into the
woods ,trying to know himself and society and
nature with native Indians
Ahab, a civilized man going to the deep
ocean trying to challenge a power mightier than
him and his crew of different races to realize
his Dream.
Huckleberry Finn, a white boy going down the
Mississippi River to find his Place in the world.
Questions to ponder
What does the white whale symbolize?
In what way is Moby Dick a tragedy?
Are we Ahab or Ishmael?
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