Loneliness in Herman Melville's Writing
"[Melville read] The Solitude of Nature and of Man, or The Loneliness of Human Life (by Horatio Alger) making particular note of passages linked with solitude to the intellectual life" (528 Lorant).
Loneliness is a major theme of the life and work of Herman Melville. What makes one so damnably alone and is there a cure for this? Loneliness was something that Melville suffered with his whole life yet he must have cherished his alone time somewhat since a writer's life is to be alone. He has been diagnosed through his work as being bi-polar which may have much to do with how his artisitc career shaped up. How else to account for the seemingly impossible outburst of 7 novels in 7 years with such scope and magnitude and widely differing tones? It is the tone Melville takes with each of his books that is the key to his own personal feeling of loneliness at the time of his writing. I aim to show not only the development of this theme, but also the development of the man through the development of this theme. It is a most illuminating key to one's ambiguous inner self that all artists try to express and do justice.
"The whole landscape was one unbroken solitude" --TYPEE
TYPEE was his first novel and the adventurous, whimsical love of the process of writing is what comes through the most.TYPEE is not characterized by any of the language, dialog, or images of the dark, cracked embittered loneliness on display throught he rest of his career. To be sure, there is little of his later loneliness in TYPEE, but it's absence is worth mention and is notable. And this may hve had much to do with it's success as his subsequent darker works would be far less successful with critics and audiences.
With MOBY-DICK we know that Melville thought this a "wicked" book. The author's own one word description speak volumes as to his own perception of how his novel would be received. The fact that this did not occur has to be seen as an over-riding reason behind the swing in his tone with PIERRE. MOBY-DICK is a blend of two extremes the adventure of TYPEE with the denser, more literary allusioned MARDI. MOBY-DICK is more than just that even. It's a grand meditation-a symphonic Shakespearean rhapsody on the major themes of one's existence in which man's place in the world is given it's ultimate rendering. Melville sees man as ultimately alone standing amidst a vast emptiness. There is nothing more alone than the images he conjures of the waves of the sea the men stare into. So, loneliness naturally get its due with Ahab, but Melville must have felt that he covered himself from being too dark with his entertaining and lightly comic "frame" story for lack of a better term (The "frame" being the first third of the book which takes place on land before Ishmael boards the Pequod). However in writing at two such strikingly different extremes in one work he left audiences of his day confused and ended up...