Moby Dick: Culturally Aceptable Essay

Moby Dick: Culturally Aceptable Essay

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Contained in the text of Moby Dick, Herman Melville uses many widely cultural symbols, stories and actions to tell the tale of a whaling ship bent on the desires of its captains abhorrence for a real, and also symbolic, creature in the form of an albino sperm whale named Moby Dick. The time is 1851 and civil unrest is looming just over the horizon: slavery is the main point of interest in American politics, the last major novel released was The Scarlet Letter, Millard Fillmore becomes the 13th president following the untimely death of then president Zachary Taylor; the Fugitive Slave Act legally mandates all runaway slaves to be returned to their owners (regardless of what state in the union they were found); and religion is a driving force that defines both social and political actions. These among other things effected and determined the cultural climate of the United States found in Moby Dick. Herman Melville uses an isolated boat analogously to create and explore a microcosm of American culture and civilization. The story of Moby Dick is more than one of revenge, but an allegory of American culture and political unrest.
In American culture during 1851, slavery was the major topic. The lines were drawn in the proverbial sand, as the Civil War was just a decade away from breaking out. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed just the year prior making all slaves in the union prisoners no matter what soil they stood on. Running did no good and hiding was the only option if they were to escape the cruel hand yielding the whip. Melville tried to create in the text of Moby Dick an allegorical story that taught tolerance in many forms. Culturally speaking, slavery would have been on the forefront of everyone's mind. The topic...


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...ent, that perhaps had America been willing to seek help from an outside source, the mounting tension between the north and south could have been relieved before it resulted in the deaths of millions in the Civil War.
Armed with the understanding of how the American people think and operate culturally, Melville was able to create, in fiction, an allegory for slavery, tolerance, leadership, and the political climate of America. Using religious devices he was able to form an epic that would not only entertain the public, but also give them reason to examine their own particular brand of cultural and political views. His ideas of equality were far to progressive at this time for society as a whole to except, though perhaps with his allegorical words he was able to get people to consider their own values, and what as American's and as people they found importance in.

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