Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

Historical and Cultural Context

Herman Melville was a 19th-century American author known for his sea adventure novels. His most famous work, Moby-Dick, was initially not recognised for its brilliance. Only in the 20th century did it gain its status as a masterpiece of American literature.

The American Renaissance was a period of rich literary and cultural output in the USA around mid-19th century. Great writers, like Melville, produced works that deeply examined the human condition and American society.

The whaling industry was vital during Melville's time. Whale oil lit lamps and lubricated machinery, underlining the era's progress. Moby-Dick reflects this, showcasing a whaling ship's perilous journey, providing a detailed insight into the industry.

The melting pot refers to the diverse mix of cultures in America. Melville's Moby-Dick captures this diversity through characters of various backgrounds, symbolising a society grappling with different cultures and ideas.

Melville's work embodies the Gothic tradition and religious themes. Moby-Dick" is full of dark, mysterious imagery and biblical allusions. The relentless pursuit of the white whale also explores profound spiritual and metaphysical questions.

The Industrial Revolution was transforming society during Melville's lifetime. His portrayal of the whaling industry, with its mechanisation and exploitation of natural resources, mirrors industrialisation's larger impacts.

Melville was influenced by Hawthorne, Shakespeare, and the Bible. The deep symbolism and moral complexity in Moby-Dick show Hawthorne's influence. Shakespearean drama inspires the novel's tragic tones, while biblical references enrich its spiritual dimensions.

Moby-Dick is a product of its time and Melville's influences. It paints a vivid picture of mid-19th century America, reflecting the realities of the whaling industry, cultural diversity, religious and gothic undercurrents, and the effects of industrial revolution. Its literary influences deepen its rich, philosophical core.

a) A 20th-century British author

b) A 19th-century American author

c) A 19th-century British author

d) A 20th-century American author

a) The textile industry

b) The mining industry

c) The whaling industry

d) The shipping industry

a) Oscar Wilde

b) Nathaniel Hawthorne

c) Emily Dickinson

d) Charles Dickens

a) Comedic tone

b) Dramatic tones

c) Depiction of royalty

d) Love poetry

DISCUSSION:  When does an obsession become harmful?

Further reading