Characters Discussed

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Herman Melville

Herman Melville, an American sailor who is rescued from a cannibal island by the crew of a British whaler, the Julia, and who signs on the ship as a deck hand. He is soon relieved of duty because of lameness in his leg. Conditions on the ship are bad, so Melville and the rest of the crew put ashore at Papeetee, on the island of Tahiti, and are imprisoned when they refuse to return to their ship. After the ship sails away with a new crew, Melville and the other sailors are freed by their Tahitian jailer. Later, Melville and his friend, Doctor Long Ghost, have several adventures in the islands together. Melville finally ships on a whaler that will take him to Japan and eventually home. In the course of his island-hopping, he becomes convinced that the natives have been corrupted by their contact with the white missionaries and were better off as primitive pagans.

Doctor Long Ghost

Doctor Long Ghost, the ship’s doctor on the British whaler that rescues Melville. The doctor becomes Melville’s close friend and companion in his adventures. The doctor tries to sign on the same ship with Melville when Melville decides to leave the islands, but the captain refuses to allow the doctor to sign on, either as a deck hand or as ship’s doctor, and he is left behind.

Captain Bob

Captain Bob, the jailer of Melville and the rest of the crew on the island of Tahiti. He is jolly and easy-going; after the whaler sails away, the old man frees his prisoners.

John Jermin

John Jermin, first officer of the British whaler.

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Critical Essays