Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Dolly. Whaling vessel that carries the narrator to the Marquesas Islands. Before arriving there, the ship and its crew spend six months at sea in pursuit of sperm whales. Though Melville’s descriptions of life on this ship are minuscule in comparison to his lavish depictions of the islands, these matters are important because they explain why the narrator and his cohort Toby decide to jump ship. It is also through these descriptions that the author chronicles injustices suffered by sailors and thus sets into motion one of his concerns in this and in later narratives: reform of oppressive and intrusive Western institutions.


*Nukuheva (noo-koo-HEE-vah). Largest and most important of the Marquesas Islands. Approximately twenty miles in length and nearly as broad, Nukuheva (now generally rendered Nuku Hiva) is large enough to boast three good harbors and is consequently the place where foreign ships first land. As the Dolly enters the harbor, the crew finds that the French have occupied the island and are maintaining control with several warships and soldiers. However, despite this familiar Western presence, the narrator is still overcome by the exotic scenery as he describes the terrain of the island from the vantage point of the Dolly. What he finds most remarkable are the swelling heights of the surrounding hills and mountains rising from the placid, blue waters of the bay....

(The entire section is 552 words.)