Herman Melville Moby Dick Essay Research Paper

Herman Melville- Moby Dick Essay, Research Paper

Herman Melville- Moby Dick

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


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


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


http://www.compclass.com/ vincent/motor.city/mobydick.html



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