Melville, Herman. (1819 - 1891).
L i f e
- a sailor: jumped the whaling ship Acushnet for a too rough discipline, and spent several weeks among the cannibals on the South Pacific islands
- his realistic and rich prose not acknowledged in his lifetime => suffered financial problems
W o r k
< influenced by William Shakespeare and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dark aspect
- saw and felt a complex moral reality: on one pole affirmed the grandeur of the individual x on the other perceived his egotism
N o v e l s :
Typee (1846), sequel Omoo (1847):
- travel and adventure stories
- a political allegory in the realm of philosophy, satire, and fantasy
Redburn (1849) and White Jacket (1850):
- gently ironic stories of his early maritime experience
Moby Dick (1851):
- Captain Ahab seeks to kill the white whale to revenge the loss of his leg
- the destructive mission results in sinking of the ship
- a dark exploration of sexuality, identity, depravity, and inevitable destruction
The Confidence-Man (1857):
- criticised both the American culture and its corrupt language
S h o r t S t o r i e s :
The Piazza Tales (1856):
- filled with vertical images and phallic shapes: lightning rods, masts, chimneys, etc.
Billy Budd, Sailor (1924, posthumously):
- a classic confrontation between good and evil
- an innocent young sailor finds himself unable to defend himself against a wrongful accusation and is consequently hanged
Bartleby, the Scrivener (1853):
- an unprecedented case in the tedium of a law office
The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles (1854):
- a wasteland with a cruel natural life and even crueller human life
P o e t r y :
Battle Pieces (1866):
- a collection of Civil War poems
- an 18,000-line long poem exploring religion x Darwinian scepticism
John Marr and Other Sailors (1888)
(Picture: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorHerman Melville. (1819 - 1891). American.
WorkNovelist. Short story writer. Poet. Author of Moby Dick (1851).
GenresRomanticism. Psychological realism. Adventure novel.
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"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask"!
Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (1851).