Melville and Class

Myra Jehlen

in A Historical Guide to Herman Melville

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195142822
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850297 | DOI:

Series: Historical Guides to American Authors

Melville and Class

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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In Moby-Dick, Melville was able to somehow portray how the downfall of an ideal man is difficult to imagine, as such a character possesses much grandness and nobility. One of the chapters in Moby-Dick ends with a narrative that emphasizes the equality of common people with those who appear higher than them. Making use of the word “kingly” in describing the common people turns around the notion that kings and those who are perceived to be noble provide a kingdom with identity. It is evident that Melville made it a point to write about the situation of social hierarchy and class during the mid-nineteenth century as this appeared as one of the common themes in a number of his prominent works. In such writings, Melville does not just promote the rights of those who comprise the lower class, he also asserts that those in this class should serve as the epitome of Americans.

Keywords: ideal man; nobility; grandness; social class; hierarchy; identity; lower class; lower class rights; Americans

Chapter.  8165 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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