Melville's Attacks on Oppressive Social Codes Term Paper by CatKaryna

Melville's Attacks on Oppressive Social Codes
A discussion on Herman Melville's strategies to attack the oppressive social codes, stereotypes and values of the America of his times, through four of his texts.
# 92580 | 4,124 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2005 | US
Published on Feb 25, 2007 in Literature (American) , English (Argument) , English (Analysis)

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This paper shows how Herman Melville critiqued the social values of his time. In works such as 'Bartleby', 'Benito Cereno', 'Moby Dick' and 'Redburn,' Melville offers very powerful social critiques in covert ways, as he enjoyed playing around with his readers. The paper shows that sometimes Melville seemed to be in favor of something when in reality he was against it and vice versa. Melville could not be direct on his condemnations of slavery, stereotyping and oppressive social codes. Instead, the paper shows, he opted for a more subtle way to express his opinions; playing with his reader's point of view without them even noticing.

Resistance against Oppression and its Consequences
Masculinity as a Strong American Value
America's Idyllic Affair with Europe
Racism, Stereotypes and Melville's Condemnation of Slavery

From the Paper:

"Herman Melville critiqued the social values of his time in a very slight and restrained manner. The only work, perhaps, that clearly and directly attacks slavery is "Benito Cereno"; however it is worth to state that "Bartleby", "Moby Dick" and "Redburn" also offer very powerful social critiques in underground ways. In Benito Cereno and Bartleby, for example, Melville presents an alternative to fight oppression: rebellion; as he criticizes the institutions of labor and slavery, Melville shows the pros and consequences of resistance against oppression. Melville also enjoyed playing around with his readers' values and ideals. In "Redburn" and "Moby-Dick," he portrays the American ideal of Masculinity and how hard life is for those who live outside such ideal. He also depicts the relationship between America and its past, Europe, as an idyllic affair. Finally Melville makes a mockery out of the American thoughts on race and attacks slavery in works such as "Benito Cereno," "Moby- Dick" and "Redburn.""

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Chase, Richard. Herman Melville: A Critical Study. New York: Macmillan, 1949.
  • Peterson, Mark. "Melville and His Characters." Notes & Queries. Vol. 5 no. 3 (June 1962): 23-26.
  • Melville Herman: Moby-Dick
  • Melville Herman: Redburn
  • Melville's Short stories: Benito Cereno

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