At the end of reading this I was left with a dreamy visual of a giant wave which looks destined to break in a tremendous fashion against the ship I am sitting in. At the very last moment, however, the swell rolls under my lonely craft. While the ship survives, there is that one full-stop second; that heavy moment as the wave passes UNDER the portside where your bodymindandsoul recognizes the strength of the ocean and the power of that one beautiful wave that barely missed destroying you. View all 3 comments. Mar 05, Werner rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Classics fans; fans of "sailing-ship navy" yarns.
Shelves: historical-fiction , classics. Herman Melville's place in the literary canon is secure today, mainly on the strength of his novel Moby Dick ; but ironically, that work was largely panned by critics and regular readers alike when it was published, and in the last decades of his life he died in the author turned away from trying to publish fiction to write poetry instead. But he didn't give up writing fiction privately; and this novella, begun late in , is the testament to the fictional achievement of his later years.
It was discovered and pieced together among his disorganized papers in by his first biographer, Raymond M. Weaver, who had been given access by the author's widow, and was published a few years later. The current Wikipedia article makes the claim that it was unfinished at Melville's death; but there's no internal or external evidence to that effect, to my knowledge. As it stands, the text reads like a complete and coherent whole. I read it in college for my American Literature class, and appreciated it from the get-go. Like much of Melville's work, this is set on the sea, and benefits from his experience as a sailor on sail-powered ships.
Unlike his other maritime novels, though, this is set in a British milieu and in the generation before the author's birth: the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars. This is a setting much explored in subsequent fiction. Though Melville wasn't the first writer to do so --he had several 19th-century predecessors, especially if we consider age-of-sail naval fiction more broadly and Melville's own earlier novel White Jacket or, the World on a Man-of-War , though dealing with the American navy, was part of that 19th-century tradition , I think it's arguable that he was a significant influence on both the authors of Mutiny on the Bounty and C.
If you like later works of this type, by the above-mentioned authors or others such as Patrick O'Brian, and you aren't put off by 19th-century diction, this read might appeal to you as well. Much shorter than Moby Dick , it lacks the latter's info-dumps and wordy philosophical digressions, and the tighter narrative benefits from this. The three main characters are very well-developed, the plot is well-organized and absorbing, and the tone and approach serious.
Nautical terminology isn't so thick that a modern-day landlubber like myself can't understand it well enough to follow the basic narrative. Without giving out any spoilers, though, readers should be warned that this isn't a feel-good story. That wasn't the author's intention. The ambiguity of Melville's message s here have been, IMO, greatly exaggerated by interpreters who like ambiguity. It's definitely an exploration of the possible conflict between genuine justice and the letter of the law, and through the last two chapters especially of the ways that people knowingly or unknowingly distort reality by seeing it through their own lenses or using it to serve their own agendas.
Unlike some critics, I don't see any clear Christ symbolism in the protagonist; I think that's something that's more read into the text than deduced from it. A victim of a Calvinist religious upbringing that repelled him, Melville's attitude towards Christianity, at least when he wrote his earlier works, wasn't particularly positive. Critics tend to treat Moby Dick as Melville's masterpiece; but I personally rated this tale higher, and stand on that. I can't say it's his masterpiece, because I haven't read any of his other novels --but I definitely want to, someday! Although Goodreads is more concerned with books than film, it's also worthwhile to note that the movie adaptation starring Terence Stamp, Peter Ustinov and Robert Ryan is a top-notch production very faithful to the original, and highly recommended.
Jul 10, Barry Pierce rated it really liked it Shelves: read-in , 19th-century. Jealousy's a green-eyed monster, folks. Jul 05, Marcus rated it liked it. Billy Budd adds to the evidence in Moby Dick that Melville was a master of the English language and a master of all things nautical. It's a great, short tale of good, evil and the sometimes harrowing injustice of circumstance.
It was fascinating to see in Melville's last work, the dramatic difference in his earlier writing and the style of Billy Budd. For example, comparing two completely random sentences, first from Typee : In the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effects of his ad Billy Budd adds to the evidence in Moby Dick that Melville was a master of the English language and a master of all things nautical. For example, comparing two completely random sentences, first from Typee : In the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effects of his adventure with the Happar warriors; the wound on his head rapidly healing under the vegetable treatment of the good Tinor.
And from Billy Budd : Nevertheless, to anybody who can hold the Present at its worth without being inappreciative of the Past, it may be forgiven, if to such an one the solitary old hulk at Portsmouth, Nelson's Victory, seems to float there, not alone as the decaying monument of a fame incorruptible, but also as a poetic reproach, softened by its picturesqueness, to the Monitors and yet mightier hulls of the European ironclads.
The language in Billy Budd is remarkably more dense and lush. It makes for a more difficult read, but also makes the effort that much more rewarding. A Digression The other reviews of Billy Budd by high school kids and adults who read Billy Budd in high school are indicative of the overall quality of education in the US. This isn't to come across as condescending, if I had read it in High School, my review would have probably been equally dismal since I was in no way prepared to appreciate a book that wasn't as exciting as a Bond movie or that used sentences more complex than Lord of the Flies.
Billy Budd definitely shouldn't be required reading in high school, at least not until high school provides a competent enough education for students to appreciate a great work, even if they don't "like" it. But again, I digress. The story of Billy Budd isn't the most moving that I've ever read, but the characters are good and it's interesting moral dilemma.
I think the criticism that it is too blatantly a metaphor for Christ come from people who either don't understand Billy Budd or don't understand the basics of the life of Christ.
Budd is probably a metaphorical character and maybe even for Christ, but it's naive to give up on the book and characterize him as simply a mechanical metaphor for Christ. There are enough differences, enough other issues raised and enough nuances to make Billy Budd stand on its own as a solid book and a precautionary tale of the harsh realities of justice and circumstance. Aug 20, Alex rated it it was ok Recommends it for: anguished closet-case sailors.
Shelves: rth-lifetime , Billy Budd, another in Melville's oeuvre of nautical tales of gay passion, is shorter than his masterpiece and not as rewarding. The problem is that it's kindof boring and not much happens. It was Melville's last work, and he never really finished it - he just left a ton of scribbles and sketches and conflicting drafts kicking around - and maybe that's why it feels like a bit of a mess: because it literally was, before various people tried to stitch it together. Your basic story is that there's th Billy Budd, another in Melville's oeuvre of nautical tales of gay passion, is shorter than his masterpiece and not as rewarding.
Your basic story is that there's this super-pretty guy, Billy Budd, and this other dude on the ship, Claggart, is deeply closeted and therefore confused and eventually enraged by his unstoppable attraction to him. So of course he view spoiler [accuses him of plotting mutiny, and then Budd punches him in the face and kills him, and then the also-possibly-closeted captain has Budd martyred. Maybe Claggart just doesn't like the guy. I underlined all the stuff that sounds kinda gay - what, you don't do that?
Like when Claggart would gaze at Billy, his eyes strangely suffused with incipient feverish tears. Then would Claggart look like the man of sorrows. Yes, and sometimes the melancholy expression would have in it a touch of soft yearning, as if Claggart could even have loved Billy but for fate and ban. Just sayin'. He's a master of language; if he can mean two things, he generally does.
And here, thanks probably in part to his natural desire to leave things open he is a brilliant writer, after all, and the best books aren't easily defined , and in part to the fact that he himself was I think a closet case whose own unrequited crush on Hawthorne ended up causing a rift between them , and of course also due to the obvious fact that back in one couldn't just run around writing gay love stories whether or not one wanted to - a fact that Oscar Wilde could still attest to 75 years later - he's written a book that never explicitly says it's a story about the thin line between closeted love and hate.
But, I mean, let's be serious, that's definitely what it is. View all 11 comments. Dec 31, Calista rated it liked it Shelves: classic , histiorical , school , genre-drama-tragedy , , genre-fantasy , bage-mature. It's an story from English Lit and honestly I remember very little. I didn't even remember I read it, so you see how it stuck with me. View 1 comment. In reading the book a 3rd time, I continue to find Melville's novella a most captivating tale and one conveying considerable psychological depth.
With each draft, there was a broadening of the 3 principal characters, 1st Billy Budd, then the master-of-arms John Claggart and finally the ship's captain, Edward Fairfax Vere. It was said that at this time, men often ran away to the sea as women took themselves to a nunnery, in an attempt to expiate past sins or alter their fate by somehow transforming themselves. However, Billy Budd is no ordinary sailor but rather an exceedingly innocent lad who his shipmates quickly come to love, excepting the one named Claggart who is both transfixed by Billy's seeming purity of spirit and his stature among his fellow seaman.
Is Billy to be seen as a Christ-figure or a gay icon of some sort, with reviewers following both camps? I sense that Billy is far more complex than a character who can be quickly shoehorned into a single type. For, Billy came on board Not that he preached to his fellow sailors or did anything in particular; but a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones. And, will you believe it, the fellow now really loves Billy! But with Billy Budd's ability to mesmerize his fellow seamen, while ably performing his duties as foretopman on the ship, he did have an Achilles heel as it were, manifesting an occasional nervous stutter that made it difficult for Billy to speak when he most needed to, a state that led to the primary confrontation of Melville's brief novel.
In spite of Billy's abiding innocence, Claggart does lay a trap that ultimately leads to the demise of both with Captain Vere presiding over a "drumcourt" that condemns Billy for striking a superior officer, shortchanged of a vocal defense of himself by his temporary speechlessness. But there is no telling the sacrament, seldom if ever revealed to the world.
- All About Chinese Crested Puppies.
- Die Außenseiter: Roman (German Edition).
- Billy Budd, Sailor?
- Dead Hand Control.
That the condemned one suffered less than he who had mainly effected the condemnation was apparent. The night before Billy Budd is to die, he is visited by "a minister of Christ receiving his stipend from Mars", a man who doesn't know quite how to comfort the young sailor but before departing, kisses Billy's cheek. Billy listened to the man but less out of reverence than from a certain natural politeness. And this sailor way of taking clerical discourse was not unlike the way in which the primer of Christianity, full of transcendent miracles, was received long ago on a tropic isle by a superior savage --a Tahitian say, of Captain Cook's time.
Out of natural courtesy he received but did not appropriate it. It was a gift placed in the palm of an outstretched hand on which the fingers do not close. There is also an excellent operatic depiction of Melville's tale by Benjamin Britten. And so ends a tragedy of wonderfully rendered force that is somehow uplifting, at least for me. And for Billy's fellow sailors on the Bellipotent it was said that the spar from which the foretopman was suspended became sacred, like a chip from the cross on which Christ died.
The novel ends with a poem composed by one of Billy's mates, an epitaph entitled Billy in the Darbies , with that word employed to describe the chains or handcuffs in which Billy spent his final night. It is a most fitting conclusion to this powerful story, one with many biblical references and very memorable characters. View all 4 comments. Nov 18, Michael Finocchiaro rated it really liked it Shelves: short-stories , americanth-c , fiction , posthumous.
The tragic story of Billy Budd is a captivating and interesting read. Melville is a master of physical and psychological description and an expert at ships at sea and this makes for a great story. I am all too familiar with rumor-mongering and how poisonous and destructive it can be and this posthumously published novella serves as a sort of naval parable about it.
A must read after Moby Dick. May 05, Jason Koivu rated it liked it Shelves: fiction. Melville, what are you about man? That's just too much telling for the story's own good! In Billy Budd, Sailor we have what could've been a grand, character-driven swashbuckling adventure. However, Melville apparently wanted to write about sailing and the early navy, and must have felt he needed to throw in a story to justify the book.
The two subjects needed to merge more seamlessly for this to work. Otherwise two separate books should have been published, a treatise and a tale, for they are two Melville, what are you about man? Otherwise two separate books should have been published, a treatise and a tale, for they are two entirely different ships passing in the night.
Moby-Dick and Melville’s Anti-Slavery Allegory
I had hoped that during the time that has lapsed between having had to read this and Moby-Dick or, The Whale as an undergraduate and now I would have warmed up a bit more to Melville, who along with Dickens holds the dubious distinction as being my least favorite "canonical" authors. No dice. I found this just as difficult to read and even more difficult to sustain any kind of interest in, and was most grateful for the relative brevity of Billy Budd , especially as Melville's writing style can ch I had hoped that during the time that has lapsed between having had to read this and Moby-Dick or, The Whale as an undergraduate and now I would have warmed up a bit more to Melville, who along with Dickens holds the dubious distinction as being my least favorite "canonical" authors.
I found this just as difficult to read and even more difficult to sustain any kind of interest in, and was most grateful for the relative brevity of Billy Budd , especially as Melville's writing style can charitably be described as impenetrable, if not at times actually unreadable. I love reading interpretations of Melville's writing, as they are of the type that fracture and fragment under postmodern analysis, bursting with utterly fascinating queer resonances.
Certainly the all-but-slavering characterization of the titular character throughout the novella is one of the glories of homoerotic 19th century literature: "He was young; and despite his all but fully developed frame, in aspect looked even younger than he really was, owing to a lingering adolescent expression in the as yet smooth face all but feminine in purity of natural complexion but where, thanks to his seagoing, the lily was quite suppressed and the rose had some ado visibly to flush through the tan.
Not that, Claggart, his shadowy nemesis, is accorded any particularly interiority either that would help rationalize the hatred he develops that will eventually destroy Billy… But Melville's silence in regards to the character of Claggart is also one of the most evocative qualities of the novella, creating an opening that has often been interpreted as sexual in nature: that Claggart is motivated by an attraction that is almost inevitably one-sided, that his fateful claim against Billy is rooted in a self-hatred caused by this attraction, etc.
One way or the other, what interests me about Billy Budd is that Melville's elusively was appropriated by director Claire Denis for her lyrical and very loose adaptation Beau Travail France, In Denis's capable hands the bare bones of Melville's story is transformed into a beautiful meditation on postcolonialism, homoeroticism, the human specifically male body, marginality, movement, race relations, etc, etc, etc that in its own way is just as elusive and endlessly evocative as Melville's text.
Only rendered, if you excuse my very biased opinion, with a masterfulness and density that Melville's text barely hints at. Aug 02, Matty-Swytla rated it it was ok Shelves: classics-american , books , quick-reads. Boring and meandering - the writing style too, is not to my taste.
Why is this a classic and on the book you need to read list?
Guide to Billy Budd
Note: I read the version of this book collected in The Norton Anthology of American Literature ; I chose this edition on Goodreads for convenience's sake and because it also contains the text of the novella—that of Hayford and Sealts—the Norton uses. It seems odd that this novella should ever have been required reading in American high schools and introductory literature courses.
Its unfinished text remains in an uncertain state; its prose is maddeningly involuted, its sentences clogged with his Note: I read the version of this book collected in The Norton Anthology of American Literature ; I chose this edition on Goodreads for convenience's sake and because it also contains the text of the novella—that of Hayford and Sealts—the Norton uses. Its unfinished text remains in an uncertain state; its prose is maddeningly involuted, its sentences clogged with historical, religious, and mythological allusion and blunted by circumlocution and periphrasis; its theme is desire between men and the perversions created by that love's interdiction; its moral is either fascism —the necessity of order above all and at all costs—or revolution —the absolute primacy of man's natural right against all prohibition.
It is a riddling novella; to teach it in a literature course is to feel that one is posing a word problem. The plot is simple enough. During the Napoleonic wars, a beautiful young sailor, a foundling of mysterious origin and indomitable innocence named Billy Budd, is impressed, forced from a ship called the Rights of Man to one called the Bellipotent. On the ship, he is beloved of all, except for the master-at-arms, one John Claggart.
In the paranoid atmosphere of mutiny surrounding the French Revolution and its aftermath, Claggart schemes to get Budd accused of conspiring against order. When the aristocratic Captain Vere brings Budd before Claggart to answer the charge, the stammering Billy inadvertently kills Claggart with one blow. Vere hastily convenes a drumhead court, at which he is the only witness, and ensures that Billy is condemned.
In short order, Billy is hanged, his dying words: "God bless Captain Vere! Billy Budd is compared to everyone from Christ to Apollo, Adam to Isaac, a rustic beauty to a vestal virgin, a Tahitian "barbarian" to an ancient Saxon. The upshot is that Billy represents unfallen nature, the best of humanity, albeit defective in those two postlapsarian arts of civilization: knowledge and language. As for Claggart, he desires pretty plainly to possess Billy Budd, as we learn in a passage of extraordinary eroticism: The ship at noon, going large before the wind, was rolling on her course, and he, below at dinner and engaged in some sportful talk with the members of his mess, chanced in a sudden lurch to spill the entire contents of his soup-pan upon the new scrubbed deck.
Claggart, the Master-at-arms, official rattan in hand, happened to be passing along the battery in a bay of which the mess was lodged, and the greasy liquid streamed just across his path. Stepping over it, he was proceeding on his way without comment, since the matter was nothing to take notice of under the circumstances, when he happened to observe who it was that had done the spilling.
His countenance changed. Pausing, he was about to ejaculate something hasty at the sailor, but checked himself, and pointing down to the streaming soup, playfully tapped him from behind with his rattan, saying in a low musical voice peculiar to him at times, "Handsomely done, my lad! And handsome is as handsome did it too! Not noted by Billy, as not coming within his view, was the involuntary smile, or rather grimace, that accompanied Claggart's equivocal words.
Aridly it drew down the thin corners of his shapely mouth.
- Similar authors to follow.
- On Christ and Antichrist & The Refutation of All Heresies (Two Books With Active Table of Contents);
- Herman Melville;
- User Reviews.
- If You Dont Start Drinkin (Im Gonna Leave);
- Hayford, Harrison.
Melville's narrator tries to explain "what was the matter with the master-at-arms," and ends up referring us to the Biblical "mystery of iniquity. Evidently its intent makes it applicable but to individuals. Not many are the examples of this depravity which the gallows and jail supply. At any rate for notable instances, since these have no vulgar alloy of the brute in them, but invariably are dominated by intellectuality, one must go elsewhere. Civilization, especially if of the austerer sort, is auspicious to it.
It folds itself in the mantle of respectability. It has its certain negative virtues serving as silent auxiliaries. It never allows wine to get within its guard. It is not going too far to say that it is without vices or small sins. There is a phenomenal pride in it that excludes them from anything mercenary or avaricious. In short the depravity here meant partakes nothing of the sordid or sensual.
It is serious, but free from acerbity. Though no flatterer of mankind it never speaks ill of it. The narrator, attempting a credible impersonation of a conservative philosopher, leaves just enough clues in his labyrinthine rhetoric to allow us to find our way to the revolutionary meaning actually intended. To be clear, Claggart's desire to touch Billy, his sensual satisfaction in smacking the young man's bottom, is the only part of him not depraved.
Later we hear that he "could even have loved Billy but for fate and ban. Precisely that he is over-civilized, over-intellectual, over-refined: everything that Billy is not. According to Melville in this anti-Platonic mode, queer desire of the most sensual variety is as fresh and natural as unspoiled nature, pre-Christian tribes, Greek mythology, the body of Christ, while its proscription or even sublimation is the unnatural work of war-mongering civilization.
Once we understand this, we are prepared to call into question the intellectual reactionary Captain Vere's courtroom speeches about the necessity of overlooking nature and sentiment to preserve order. And, schooled by the novella in the reading of desire, we can perceive Vere's own desire for Budd, perhaps the main secret concealed by his mystagogy of power.
I came to this reading with the help of Caleb Crain's treatment of the novella as a false palinode in his American Sympathy ; for Crain, the narrator "sets out all the lies that love must take back.
But irony is like a mercenary force: it is not necessarily loyal to the one who has hired it, and blowback is therefore always possible. Where does the narrator's unreliability end? The novella concludes with a ballad commemorating Budd's last night before his hanging, and it presents a mature, sophisticated, punning, and heterosexual sailor, not at all the "Baby Budd" we have known. If this is the view of the common sailor, of "the people," then how should we take the novel's queer thematics, which the people reject? Can the people be trusted after all?
Moreover, is the novel's Rousseauism not rather at odds with its own manner? That is, how could a "natural man" have ever produced a text this cryptic, so cryptic as to be positively Decadent? Or are we to believe that we can find our way "back to the garden" through irony alone? That seems unlikely. Finally, it is not as if Budd does not commit violence, does not in fact substitute physical force for language.
Is his unfallen person really a model for man as redeemed by revolution? A pun lurks in the ship's name, doesn't it? Bellipotent : war's power, yes, but also its beauty. Maybe this is a tragedy, after all: maybe revolutionary irony has slipped the leash and led us into a labyrinth from which there is no escape. I doubt there is any coming to the end of Melville's final fiction; it may not offer any liberation but the modernist freedom, equivocal indeed, of the reader in the maze of meaning.
Needless to say, I am absolutely enamored of it. I feel like I should ask forgiveness for allotting only two stars to a Melville, but I felt adrift while reading Billy Budd, Foretopman. Perhaps, children, for whom this book was written, were more acclimated to reading books awash with philosophy about working relationships aboard a Royal Navy vessel, but I see few children in today's world tuning into this story. I had a hard time tuning in until more than halfway through Billy Budd aka The Handsome Sailor, orphan, and already a seasoned fore I feel like I should ask forgiveness for allotting only two stars to a Melville, but I felt adrift while reading Billy Budd, Foretopman.
Billy Budd aka The Handsome Sailor, orphan, and already a seasoned foretopman at the age of nineteen I believe finds himself conscripted to the Indomitable and away from his happy employment on a merchant vessel. As with his previous vessel, he is the perfect soul and well-liked by the officers and crew alike. There is a cheesy sense of too-perfect young man here. Of course, something upsets the apple cart in the form of an officer, Claggart, who is jealous of Billy's perfectness. He sets him up for a fall and that is where the book finally takes off and becomes somewhat interesting.
Melville does an excessive amount of analyzing the motives of Claggart, the perception of people in regards to Billy, etc. Melville also obsesses about Billy's perfect appearance and how it made people love him. I felt this put undue emphasis on something that few children can change drastically. I almost put the book down and screamed, but it was only pages with lots of illustrations of perfect Billy, so I went ahead and finished it.
I buy none of the characters Melville, and that is a first with you. The story is there though and it was a good adventure story - Sir Walter could have told it better, and that too is a first with you. But, despite the cribs, the foretopman and the motley crew will stay with me, but not for the telling. The narrator, a crew member of a whale ship, calls himself "Tom". He spends four months among a group of islanders on Nukuheva in the Pacific Ocean and learns to make a distinction between a savage and cannibal. Tattooing he rejects. Typ ee sold roughly 6, copies in its first two years.
Its sequel, Omoo , was based on Melville's experiences in Polynesian Islands, and gained a huge success as the first one. Throughout his career Melville enjoyed a rather higher estimation in Britain than in America. His older brother Gansevoort held a government position in London, and helped to launch Melville's career.
With his third book, Mardi and a Voyage Thither , Melville decided to take distance to the expectations of his readers. In this he also succeeded, and lost his audience. In Melville married Elisabeth Shaw, daughter of the chief justice of Massachusetts. After three years in New York, he bought a farm, "Arrowhead", near Nathaniel Hawthorne 's home at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and became friends with him for some time.
Melville had almost completed Moby-Dick when Hawthorne encouraged him to change it from a story full of details about whaling, into an allegorical novel. Inspired by the achievement of Hawthore, Melville wrote his masterpiece, Moby-Dick. He worked at his desk all day not eating anything till 4 or 5 o'clock, and bursting with energy he shouted: "Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand!
Readers of Typhee and Omoo were not expecting this kind of story, and its brilliance was only noted by some critics. Through the story Melville meditated questions about faith and the workings of God's intelligence. He returned to these meditations in his last great work, Billy Budd , a story left unfinished at his death. Its manuscript was found in Melville's desk when he died.
We don't know is it his real name and exactly when the story is taking place. The biblical Ishmael was disinheriter and dismissedf from his home. Then the mood of the story changes. Suddenly the reader is confronted by a plurality of linguistic discourses, philosophical speculations, and Shakespearean rhetoric and dramatic staging. Melville named the character after the Israelite king who worshiped the pagan sun god Baal.
Ahab reveals to the crew that the purpose of the voyage is to hunt and kill the snow-white sperm whale, known as Moby-Dick, that had cost Ahab his leg on a previous voyage. The captain has his own faith and sees the cosmos in contention between two rival deities. Starbuck, the first mate, tries to dissuade Ahab from the quest. The novel culminates when Moby-Dick charges the boat which sinks. Ahab is drowned, tied by the harpoon line his archenemy. In his end Ahab takes his crew with him.
The only survivor is the narrator, who is rescued by a passing ship. One of Melville's sources was an article by Jeremiah N. It told about an albino sperm whale, which was said to have sunk ships, drowned men, and harpooned many times. Melville's masterwork was largely misunderstood and it sold only some 3, copies during his lifetime. Its original title was The Whale , when it was published in London by Richard Bentley in October , but this English edition was bowdlerized. The American Harper edition, which appeared in November, was definitive.
Moby-Dick can be read as a thrilling sea story, an examination of the conflict between man and nature — the battle between Ahab and the whale is open to many interpretations. It is a pioneer novel but the prairie is now sea, or an allegory on the Gold Rush, but now the gold is a whale. Jorge Luis Borges has seen in the universe of Moby-Dick "a cosmos a chaos not only perceptibly malignant as the Gnostics had intuited, but also irrational, like the cosmos in the hexameters of Lucretius.
The director John Huston questions in his film version which one, Ahab or the whale, is the real Monster. Ray Bradbury, with whom Huston wrote the screenplay, had to struggle with the Screen Writers' Guild over his credits. In Bradbury's version, the whale is destructed. The author compared his work to "sawing wood". Pierre , a Gothic romance and psychological study based on the author's childhood, was a financial and critical disaster.
Melville's pieces in Putnam's Monthly Magazine reflected the despair and the contempt for human hypocrisy and materialism. Among the stories were 'The Scrivener' , 'The Encantadas' and 'Benito Cereno' , in which a slave ship is secretly under the command of the captain's personal slave. The narrator, a Wall Street lawyer, tries in vain to understand the unresponsive employee, who refuses to leave the office after being fired. Her husband turns up after seventeen years, and tells lies where he has been, and takes off again.
His secret is that he is bigamously married. Though he had wrecked her life, Agatha did not seek vengeance. Melville heard the story of Agatha from the lawyer John Clifford, and sent all the material he had to Hawthorne. After playing with the story line a bit, Hawthorne encouraged Melville to write the novel himself. Their friendship cooled around In Melville had a breakdown — he started to believe that he was not going to get fame with his writing. The Confidence Man , Melville's last major effort, was a harsh satire of American life set on a Mississippi River steamboat. It has been suggested that the title figure is God's earthly counterpart, or Christ, or the Devil in disguise, or the author himself.
Fittingly, this book was published April Fool's Day. After Melville wrote only some poetry. His health was failing, he did not earn enough money to support his family, and he was a dependent of his wealthy father-in-law. To recover from a breakdown, he undertook a long journey to Europe and the Holy Land. The long poem Clarel , based on this trip, was about religious crisis and reflected Melville's Manichean view of God.
Clarel was ignored.