Herman Melville Discussion Topics

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In what ways did Herman Melville’s first two commercially successful novels become misfortunes for him?

What traits of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick make him such a memorable character? Can this character be comprehended or is he ultimately mysterious?

What does the white whale in Moby Dick symbolize?

In “Bartleby the Scrivener,” why does Bartleby “prefer not to”?

What characteristics of modern Manhattan are already present or adumbrated in “Bartleby the Scrivener”?

Discuss lack of imagination as a weakness in the lawyer in “Bartleby the Scrivener” and Captain Delano in Benito Cereno.

Does Captain Vere make the right decision in Billy Budd, Foretopman? Do Billy’s final words cast any light on the matter?

Did Melville make his mature works too ambiguous?