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Questions tagged [herman-melville]

For questions about Herman Melville and his works, most notably Moby Dick.

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52 votes
3 answers

Why is there so much technical detail of whaling included in Moby-Dick?

One of the peculiarities of Moby-Dick is that it includes large quantities of information about the science of whales and the practice of whaling. Whole chapters are dedicated to describing the ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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15 votes
4 answers

What did Melville mean by the "Pythagorean Maxim" in "Moby Dick"?

From Herman Melville's Moby Dick. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the ...
Fomalhaut's user avatar
  • 573
13 votes
1 answer

Is calling Queequeg a "cannibal" meant to imply he literally consumed human flesh?

Ishmael and other characters repeated refer to Queequeg as a cannibal, which in modern parlance means that he consumes human flesh. However, the novel doesn't ever say that outright, rather, Ishmael ...
GGMG-he-him's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers

Does "call me Ishmael" imply that that might not be his real name?

The narrator of Moby-Dick famously tells readers to "call me Ishmael." Is this implying that this might not have been his real name? If so, why would he lie about that?
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer

Is there any significance to the races of mates and harpooners in Moby Dick?

To my best knowledge, all four boatmates in Moby Dick are white men from the New England. The boatmates are the men in charge of the small whaling boats. Ahab - Quaker(?) from New England, possibly ...
RichS's user avatar
  • 486
9 votes
2 answers

Why does Melville call Washington "General" rather than "President"

In Moby Dick, beginning of chapter 10, I read about the resemblance of Queequeg's head to George Washington's: It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington's head, as seen in ...
Mario Trucco's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer

What is the meaning of the rescue of Tashtego?

In Moby Dick, Tashtego falls into the sinking head of a sperm whale from which the crew was extracting the spermaceti; he is saved by Queequeg who cuts the head and extracts Tashtego as if the head ...
mattiav27's user avatar
  • 307
6 votes
2 answers

Melville's chain of thought in the "great democratic God" passage in "Moby-Dick"

I am not a native English speaker. I am struggling with the last few paragraphs of chapter 26 ("Knights and Squires") of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I tried using a dictionary and even ...
rishabh jain's user avatar
6 votes
3 answers

Why is Ishmael sometimes seen as an unreliable narrator? Does he ever actually lie in the text?

Related: Does "call me Ishmael" imply that that might not be his real name? Ishmal in Moby-Dick has sometimes been called an example of an unreliable narrator. Why do some people think that?...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer

Is there a math mistake in Moby Dick Chapter 99?

In Chapter 99 ("The Doubloon") of Moby Dick, Flask comments that the doubloon is worth 16 dollars, and, at two cents a cigar, that will get him 960 cigars. But if each cigar is two cents, then you ...
William Grannis's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers

Are there adaptations of Moby Dick that try to emulate the novel's diverse use of genre/styles?

The novel Moby Dick uses many different genres of writing (most famously the encyclopedia-style chapter on whale types, but also play-scripts, Shakespeare-style soliloquies, sermons, etc.). Are there ...
IglooMaster's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer

Why was "a world" used in this sentence of Melville?

I cannot make much sense of "a world" in the following passage from Moby-Dick: There’s your law of precedents; there’s your utility of traditions; there’s the story of your obstinate ...
John Smith's user avatar
  • 1,615
3 votes
1 answer

In which editions of Moby Dick is this a six inch chapter?

Towards the beginning of Moby Dick there is a chapter which is dedicated to a character called Bulkington, in this chapter the Author addresses this as a "six-inch chapter" Wonderfullest things are ...
Niffler's user avatar
  • 919
3 votes
1 answer

Bewilderment at "not the smallest atom stirs ..." in "Moby-Dick"

In Chapter 70 (The Sphynx) of Moby-Dick, Ahab states: "O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has ...
TomDot Com's user avatar
  • 1,207
2 votes
1 answer

Why there are no annotations in Penguin English Library edition of "Moby-Dick"?

I recently bought a copy of Moby-Dick belonging to the Penguin English Library Series. I found that at the end of the book, there are no annotations as other versions of the same book commonly do, ...
Ethan's user avatar
  • 909
2 votes
1 answer

What are "deadly voids and unbidden infidelities" in "Moby-Dick"?

From chapter 7 ("The Chapel") of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing among flowers can say—here, here lies my beloved; ye know ...
Rishabh's user avatar
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