Herman Melville American Literature Analysis
Melville died in 1891, a forgotten author. His death came almost forty years after he had stopped publishing fiction and more than thirty years before the discovery of the manuscript of Billy Budd and its posthumous publication began the revival of the author’s literary reputation. By the middle of the twentieth century, the significance of his work was recognized, and his novel Moby Dick was viewed as one of America’s literary masterpieces. Although Melville’s poetry has received increasingly favorable attention, his literary reputation is firmly based on the remarkable series of novels and stories that he created over eleven years during the 1840’s and 1850’s. Although his fiction is varied, written in different genres, for different purposes, and with differing degrees of success, Melville’s work is unified by themes and techniques that allow readers to trace the remarkable development of his literary skills during this brief period.
Using the term “theme” in its broadest sense, all Melville’s major themes spring from his lifelong concern with the question of authority. His treatment of this subject would be less interesting if he had been a polemicist arguing from a set viewpoint. Instead, Melville explored ideas and was often driven between opposing viewpoints. One of his favorite transitional words was “nevertheless,” an indication of the contrariness of his thinking. Because Melville was open and sympathetic...
(The entire section is 5944 words.)
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