Herman Melville: Anti Transcendentalism And Symbolism Essay

2395 words - 10 pages

Throughout American history, few authors have earned the right to be called great. Herman Melville is one of these few. However, Melville’s journey towards becoming one of the greatest early American authors was less than simple. As an author writing during the heart of the American Renaissance and Transcendentalist Era, a time where people believed humans were at one with nature and God, Melville chose to break the mold. Facing many hardships in his life, Herman Melville became an author renowned for his anti-transcendentalist style, yet was perhaps the most underrated author of his time.
On August 1, 1819, Herman Melville was born into a family of war heroes and wealthy merchants. His father, Allan Melville, was a Boston merchant wealthy enough to provide a comfortable life for his family. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Allan Melville went bankrupt in 1830, leaving him to abandon the city and the Melville family. Herman Melville, now poor and father less, was left to the care of his strict mother, Maria Gansevoort. Having no formal education, Melville taught himself using literature and the bible. (Anderson. “Herman” 294). Moving from home to home, Melville now found life to be a struggle. Through this struggle, however, a fascination for the sea developed in him.
Melville’s enchantment for the sea inspired him to begin the daring challenge of being a sailor. Departing on his first voyage with the St. Lawrence, Melville was prepared for his dreams of the sea to become a reality. Instead, he was met with bad weather and an unorganized crew (“Herman” 590). As the St. Lawrence continued to sail away, so did Melville’s captivation of the sea. Despite this harsh first experience, Melville decided to try sailing again. On January 1, 1841, he departed on the whaling ship, the Acushnet, on a four year journey to sea. Much like the St. Lawrence, the Acushnet’s trip faced many problems. The ship was doomed to bad weather and a slew of misfortunes while fishing and an ill-tempered captain. As a result, Melville and his friend, Richard Tobias Greene, deserted the ship eighteen months into its voyage (“Herman” 590). Left in Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, Melville soon found himself facing a challenge like none other; he was trapped on an island with cannibals. Taipis, or as Melville called them Typees, were the native people living on Nuku Hiva. To Melville’s surprise the Taipis seemed to be more friendly than terrifying. Despite the Taipis’ generosity, Melville was still wary of their true intent. Not risking the chance of being eaten, Melville escaped aboard another whaling ship, the Lucy Ann, two weeks later (“Herman” 591). The Lucy Ann turned out to be worse than the Acushnet. The captain was very ill the entire voyage, leaving the first mate in charge. The first mate, however, was constantly drunk, leaving the chaotic crew to either desert the ship or turn mutinous. During this time, Melville was also tried for mutiny but managed to...

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