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Moby Dick By Herman Melville Essay, Research Paper

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville

by Cazi Brasga

Honors English III


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.

Melville, Herman. ?Moby Dick?, Spencer Press, Inc. 1936

Webmaster Unknown. ?Herman Melville?, Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW:


Webmaster Unknown. ?Moby Dick?, Internet. 10/01/96 Available WWW:


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