Black and White Book Review by Writing Specialists

Black and White
This paper analyzes the use of color symbolism in "Moby Dick" and "Benito Cereno" by Herman Melville.
# 92833 | 2,326 words | 5 sources | MLA | 2007 | US
Published on Mar 01, 2007 in Literature (American) , English (Analysis)

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The paper portrays how Herman Melville's novels, "Moby Dick," and "Benito Cereno" are rife with vivid images that serve to further illuminate characters, events and places. The paper shows how Melville makes considerable use of color; whiteness and blackness are central to Melville's narrative in both novels. The paper discusses how white symbolizes all that is good, moral, virtuous and yet unattainable in contrast to the black surrounding us that symbolizes evil and death. The paper illustrates how in "Moby Dick" and "Benito Cereno," men are constantly confronted by things and choices that are either black or white, but together merge into a kind of grayness in which we all actually exist.

From the Paper:

"White was a powerful color in Herman Melville's world. The Victorians were obsessed with morality, with the idea of creating a more perfect world; one that was based on the highest principals, ethical and sacred. The ideas that were popular in Queen Victoria's rapidly industrializing Great Britain were equally fashionable in the growing United States. Whiteness symbolized goodness, purity, and virtue. A writer or artist would choose the color white to represent these and similar qualities. The great British Writer, Alfred Lord Tennyson, used the notion of whiteness to great effect in Idylls of the Kings, perfectly capturing the color's mythic associations."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Brody, Jennifer DeVere. Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.
  • Hodder, Karen. "Chapter Two The Lady of Shalott in Art and Literature." Sexuality and Subordination: Interdisciplinary Studies of Gender in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. Susan Mendus and Jane Rendall. London: Routledge, 1989. 60-88..
  • Mansfield, Luther S., and Howard P. Vincent, eds. Moby Dick Or, the Whale. New York: Hendricks House, 1952..
  • Melville, Herman. Four Short Novels. New York: Bantam Books, 1959.
  • Sten, Christopher. Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996.

Cite this Book Review:

APA Format

Black and White (2007, March 01) Retrieved April 05, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Black and White" 01 March 2007. Web. 05 April. 2020. <>