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 


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