Moby Dick By Herman Melville Essay, Research Paper
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.
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.? 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.
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: