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Herman Melville


Herman Melville But it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. He who has never failed somewhere, that man cannot be great. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Herman Melville

Herman Melville
  • But it is better to fail in originality than to
    succeed in imitation. He who has never failed
    somewhere, that man cannot be great.

Teaching Objectives
  1. Melvilles Life and Main Works
  2. Melvilles masterpiece Moby Dick
  3. The Main Plot, Major characters, theme, Symbols
  4. Social significance of Moby Dick

Life Experience
  • born on August 1, 1819 in New York City into an
    established merchant family, the third of 8
    children. His father became bankrupt and insane,
    dying when Melville was 12.
  • His sea experiences and adventures furnished him
    with abundant materials, and resulted in five
    novels that brought him wide fame as a writer of
    sea stories.
  • In 1850, he met Hawthorne and they became good
    friends. He read Hawthornes books and was deeply
    impressed by Hawthornes black vision.
  • His fame was recognized after his death.

Melvilles Major Works
  • 1) Typee ??
  • 2) Omoo ??
  • 3) Mardi ??
  • 4) Bedburn ???
  • 5) White Jacket ???

from his adventures among the people of the South
Pacific islands
an account of his voyage to England
his life on a United States man-of-war
Melvilles Major Works
  • 6) Pierre ???
  • 7) Billy Budd ????(a sign that he had
    resolved his quarrel with God)
  • Clarel ????( a poem)

Melvilles Major Works
  • Moby-Dick ??,????

an encyclopedia of everything
history, philosophy, religion, the whaling
a Shakespearean tragedy of man fighting against
(No Transcript)
His Tragic Influence from Literary Tradition
  • At the time of writing, Melville was reading
    Greek tragedy, especially the Orestia (?????) of
  • Immersed in the tragedies of Shakespeare King
    Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth
  • Epic poetry, Homer

Moby Dick (1)
  • This book is dedicated to Hawthorne, for
    Hawthorne encourged Melville to change this novel
    from a story full of details about whaling, into
    an allegorical novel.

Moby Dick (2)
  • Epic in scope.
  • It consists of 135 chapters.
  • - the long and arduous journey
  • - the great battle
  • Defined as an epic, which contains a tragic
    drama, a tragedy of pride, and pursuit and
    revenge, which is also a tragedy of thought

  • ????????,?????????,????????,??????????????,???????
  • ??,????,??17????,?????????,??????????????,????????

Discussion Questions
  • What do you think of eye for eye, tooth for
    tooth ? Will you be revengeful when you are hurt
    by the evil power?
  • Should human beings conquer nature or yield
    before nature? Whats your opinion on nature?

  • Ishmael The name has come to symbolize orphans,
    exiles, and social outcasts (in Genesis)----the
    son of Abraham and the slave girl Hagar
  • ElijahThe character Elijah (named for the
    Biblical prophet, Elijah
  • AhabAhab is the tyrannical captain of the Pequod
    who is driven by a monomaniacal desire to kill
    Moby Dick,
  • Mates Starbuck, Stubb. Flask. The three mates of
    the Pequod are all from New England
  • Harpooners Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo, Fedallah
    (from different countries in the world)

Introduction to Ishmael
  • The narrator of the story (knowledgeable,
    intelligent), digression from art, geology,
    anatomy, to legal codes, and literature ---- Jack
    of all trades
  • A whaling ship is my Yale College and Harvard
  • His intention in the ship journey out of some
    spiritual malaise (?????)
  • Additionally, Ishmael represents the
    contradiction between the story and its setting.
    (suitable but fictional)
  • Learned person working-class men
    (less-educated and even rough)

  • The Peqods obsessed captain, represents both an
    ancient and a modern type of hero. Like the
    heroes of Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, Ahab
    suffers from a single fatal flaw (??????).
  • According to the critic M. H. Abrams, such a
    tragic hero move us to pity because, since he is
    not an evil person, his misfortune is greater
    than he deserves but he moves us also to fear,
    because we recognize similar possibilities of
    error in our own lesser and fallible selves.
  • ?????????????????,?????????,?????????????????????

Moby Dick
  • Moby Dick is not a character, as the reader has
    no access to the white whales thoughts,
    feelings, or intentions.
  • Instead, moby dick is an impersonal force, one
    that many critics have interpreted as an
    allegorical representation of God, an inscrutable
    and all-powerful being that humankind can neither
    understand nor defy.

Symbols in Moby Dick
  • The Pequod
  • Moby Dick(Is Moby Dick evil or good?)

The Pequod
like a primitive coffin
is painted gloomy black and covered in whale
teeth and bones
named after a Native American tribe in
did not long survive the arrival of white men
a symbol of doom (????????) The Pequod is the
microcosom of human society and the voyage
becomes a search for truth.
Moby Dick
is hidden all the time
unknown and unknowable truths
inscrutable, mysterious
only the surface of the ocean is available for
human observation and interpretation
mirrors its enviorment
the depths conceal unknown truths
a metaphor for the human relationship with the
Christain God God is unkown and cannot be pinned
  • For the character Ahab, however, the whale only
    represents evil.
  • For Melville and Ishmael--the narrator, Moby Dick
    is still a mystery, an ultimate mystery of the
    universe, inscrutable and ambivalent.
  • So, the symbolic meanings of Moby Dick are
    ambiguous. It is the symbol of both holy and evil

Themes of Moby Dick
futility and meaninglessness of existence
loneliness and suicidal individualism
rejection and quest
Themes of Moby Dick
  • Melvilles bleak view (negative attitude) the
    sense of futility (????)and meaninglessness of
    the world.
  • Man in this universe lives a meaningless
    and futile life, meaningless because futile. Man
    cannot overcome nature. Once he attempts to seek
    power over it he is doomed.

Themes of Moby Dick
the embodiment of nature
  • the adventure of killing Moby Dick is
  • Ahab tries to control it, which leads to his

the loss of faith, the sense of futility
well expressed in Moby Dick
modern life
Themes of Moby Dick
  • 2) alienation (far away from each other)
  • exists between man and man, man and society, and
    man and nature.

Ahab cuts himself off from his family, stays away
from his crew, hates Moby Dick and becomes a
devil rushing to his doom.
Themes of Moby Dick
the basic pattern of nineteenth-century American
  • 3) loneliness and suicidal individualism
    (individualism causing disaster and death)

4)rejection and quest Voyaging for Ishmael has
become a journey in quest of knowledge and
Writing style
  • His works are symbolic and metaphorical.
  • voyage- "search and discovery, the search for the
    ultimate truth of experience."
  • the Pequod -the ship of the American soul
  • Moby Dick---a symbol of
  • its whiteness--- paradoxical color

death and corruption
purity, innocence, and youth
Writing style
  • (2) He manages to achieve the effect of ambiguity
    through employing the technique of multiple view
    of his narratives.
  • Moby Dick is portrayed for the reader from
    different angles. The author is unwilling to
    commit himself, and the reader is thrown upon
    himself for judgment.

Writing style
  • (3)narrative point of view
  • a. Ishmael is the narrator (as a learned
    person, the only people who survived the
  • b. dramatic monologues and soliloquies of Ahab
    and other characters.

Social Significance
  • Harmonious view between Man and Man, Man and
    Nature,man and God.
  • Respect the natures law, otherwise human beings
    will got punished by nature
  • Nature is of good will, mans activities corrupt

  • Preview Whitmans O, Captain, My Captain
  • Try to learn about the social backgrounds of
    American Realism
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