Herman Melville

Melville, Herman (1819-91), an American Novelist, is widely regarded as one of America's greatest and most influential novelists; known primarily as the author of Moby Dick. He belonged to a group of eminent pre-Civil War writers-American Romantics or members of the American Renaissance-who created a new and vigorous national literature. He is one of the notable examples of an American author whose work went largely unrecognized in his own time and died in obscurity. American novelist, a major literary figure whose exploration of psychological and metaphysical themes foreshadowed 20th-century literary concerns but whose works remained in obscurity until the 1920s, when his genius was finally recognized. Melville was born August 1, 1819, in New York City, into a family that had declined in the world. The Gansevoorts were solid, stable, eminent, prosperous people; the (Hermans Fathers side) Melvilles were somewhat less successful materially, possessing an unpredictable. erratic, mercurial strain. (Edinger 6). This difference between the Melvilles and Gansevoorts was the beginning of the trouble for the Melville family. Hermans mother tried to work her way up the social ladder by moving into bigger and better homes. While borrowing money from the bank, her husband was spending more than he was earning. It is my conclusion that Maria Melville never committed herself emotionally to her husband, but remained primarily attached to the well off Gansevoort family. (Humford 23) Allan Melville was also attached financially to the Gansevoorts for support. There is a lot of evidence concerning Melvilles relation to his mother Maria Melville. Apparently the older son Gansevoort who carried the mother's maiden name was distinctly her favorite. (Edinger 7) This was a sense of alienation the Herman Melville felt from his mother. This was one of the first symbolists to the Biblical Ishamel. In 1837 he shipped to Liverpool as a cabin boy. Upon returning to the U.S. he taught school and then sailed for the South Seas in 1841 on the whaler Acushnet. After an 18 month voyage he deserted the ship in the Marquesas Islands and with a companion lived for a month among the natives, who were cannibals. He escaped aboard an Australian trader, leaving it at Papeete, Tahiti, where he was imprisoned temporarily. He worked as a field laborer and then shipped to Honolulu, Hawaii, where in 1843 he enlisted as a seaman on the U.S. Navy frigate United States. After his discharge in 1844 he began to create novels out of his experiences and to take part in the literary life of Boston and New York City. Melville's first five novels all achieved quick popularity. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846), Omoo, a Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas (1847), and Mardi (1849) were romances of the South Sea islands. Redburn, His First Voyage (1849) was based on his own first trip to sea, and White-Jacket, or the World in a Man-of-War (1850) fictionalized his experiences in the navy. In 1850 Melville moved to a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he became an intimate friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated his masterpiece Moby-Dick; or The White Whale (1851). The central theme of the novel is the conflict between Captain Ahab, master of the whaler Pequod, and Moby-Dick, a great white whale that once tore off one of Ahab's legs at the knee. Ahab is dedicated to revenge; he drives himself and his crew, which includes Ishmael, narrator of the story, over the seas in a desperate search for his enemy. The body of the book is written in a wholly original, powerful narrative style, which, in certain sections of the work, Melville varied with great success. The most impressive of these sections are the rhetorically magnificent sermon delivered before sailing and the soliloquies of the mates; lengthy flats, passages conveying nonnarrative material, usually of a technical nature, such as the chapter about whales; and the more purely ornamental passages, such as the tale of the Tally-Ho, which can stand by themselves as short stories of merit. The work is invested with Ishmael's sense of profound wonder at his story, but nonetheless conveys full awareness that Ahab's quest can have but one end. And so it proves to be: Moby-Dick destroys the Pequod and all its crew save Ishmael. There is a certain streak of the supernatural being projected in the writings of Melville, as is amply obvious in Moby Dick. The story revolves around