HERMAN MELVILLE2 by niusheng11


One of America’s greatest authors

 All but ignored in his lifetime

Moby Dick—not recognized in
      Melville’s lifetime
Arrowhead, Melville’s family home
Born in New York City into a distinguished
         A turn of events
Age ten—Melville’s father became

His family is poverty stricken

Age 12—father collapses under stress,
grows ill, insane, dies
Melvilles thoughts turn to the age-
   old dream of going to sea.
A whale ship was my Yale College and my
 Melville became a voracious


English and American literature and
 Experienced early success

In spite of Melville’s early literary
  and financial success as an
  adventure writer, he did not
  continue writing these adventure
  novels. Instead…
• Melville had suffered the hardships and
  inhumanity of life aboard three whaling sips
  and a navy frigate. He had taken part in the
  slaughter of no fewer than half a dozen
  whales. He had seen native peoples shamed
  and manipulated in the name of progress and
  piety. At home, the burning issue of slavery
  was dividing the nation. The Industrial
  Revolution had turned cities into smoky,
  disease-ridden warrens (habitats).
• Gold had been discovered in California,
  and America’s pristine frontier was being
  ravaged by the stampede westward.

• To Melville, man seemed at war with his
  own better nature. All this weighed heavily
  on him. He combined his old passion for
  adventure at sea with his newfound
  appreciation for the terrible price men paid
  for their exploits.
He wanted to write a novel that
would seek the ultimate truth of
      human existence.

Is truth (real life) benign or evil?
What other transcendentalist went
to the water to discover if life was
       “mean or sublime”?

•benign or evil-Melville
• Sublime      mean-Thoreau
  Melville uses the great white whale,
Moby Dick, as a symbol for exploring the
       truth of human existence
In Moby Dick, Melville reflected on a wealth
          of whaling experience
                 Moby Dick
• Melville exploits (uses) his extensive whaling

• Seeks the ultimate truth of human existence.
Critics and readers were puzzled and

  We don’t get it, and we don’t care
• Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Nathaniel
  Hawthorne who had been a mentor to him
  for several years.
      Poor Melville????

• Melville falls into debt
• Ill health
• Possible mental derangement
• three more novels are poorly
  received and Melville cannot
  escape his impoverished life
 Can Melville turn his life around?

• Finds a job in a customhouse; stays for
  twenty years

• Continues writing with little success

• During this time, two sons die tragically
The calm, the coolness, the silent, grass-
 growing mood in which a man ought
 always to compose—that, I fear can
 seldom be mine. Dollars damn me; and
 the malicious Devil is forever grinning in
 upon me, holding the door ajar. My dear
 sir, a presentiment is on me—I shall at
 last be worn out and perish…What I feel
 most moved to write, that is banned—it
 will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the
 other way I cannot. So the product is a
 final hash, and all my books are botches.
      Success at last
Melville writes Billy
 Budd which is
 not discovered
 until after his
Thirty-three years
 later it was
 published and
A note was found near the desk where
     Melville penned Billy Budd…

“Be true to the dreams of
        thy youth.”
Moby Dick
             TV Wasteland
• What are the worst shows on TV?
• From that list, decide which shows are the
  most popular.
• If these shows are awful, why are they so
• What shows do you watch?
• Are these shows trashy, tasteless, tacky,
  vulgar, offensive, worthless…. (choose all
  that apply)
• Why do you watch them?
•If you needed money, would you pander to
the public or maintain your integrity?

•Example—produce Jackass episodes or
produce more respectable material?

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