Herman

Melville

An anti- transcendentalist or not Melville, Herman (1819-91), 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
(Hermanís Fatherís side) Melvilles were somewhat less successful materially,
possessing an unpredictable. erratic, mercurial strain." (Edinger 6). This
difference between the Melvilleís and Gansevoorts was the beginning of the
trouble for the Melville family. Hermanís 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 Melvilleís 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 the idea of an awesome sea mammal, which
drives the passions of revenge in one man and forces him to pursue a course of
action which leads ultimately to his death as well as the deaths of his
companions. There is a great deal of imagination involved in these stories and
the creativity is highly apparent. There is an expression of belief in the
supernatural, as the author strives to create the image of a humongous beast in
the mind of the reader. There are no indications that Melville was in any way
averse to fame or to the pursuit of excellence in his work. Every