Essays and stories accompany novels about a family secret, a Revolutionary War veteran, and a swindler
A surprisingly domestic novel, PIERRE is about a nuclear family and its claustrophobic emotional dependencies. Dealing with immensely controversial issues such as incest and moral relativism, PIERRE was savaged by critics upon its publication in 1852. ISRAEL POTTER tells the true story of a patriotic adventurer who, late in life, is a man forgotten by his country. The theme of unrecognized greatness that infuses ISRAEL POTTER is a recurring theme in Melville's work, and expresses his growing disillusionment with the direction American culture and politics were taking in the mid-19th century. THE CONFIDENCE MAN and his equally shifty victims are characters in a satirical allegory that is meant to expose what Melville saw as the smug, mindless materialism of mid-century America. The events take place on a Mississippi steamboat on April Fool's Day, reinforcing Melville's remark (in a letter to his friend Henry Savage) that "all that happens to a man in this life is only by way of a joke." Unpublished in Melville's lifetime, BILLY BUDD is considered one of his greatest works. The ambiguous plot raises more questions than it answers about good and evil, justice and injustice. Billy Budd, a handsome, angelic, and beloved young sailor, is wrongly accused of inciting mutiny. He lashes out in a rage and accidentally kills his accuser, the demonic Claggart, with one blow. The ship's commander, Captain Vere, a conflicted man of principle, is forced to call for a court martial, which condemns the saintly Billy to death. Billy Budd is widely interpreted as a Christ figure, the victim of a kind of ritual sacrifice, after which order is restored. He is also seen as an innocent, Adam-like character who is destroyed by the evil that is inescapable in the world.
- Fiction + Literature Genres, Fiction + Literature Themes
- Literary, Literary Genres + Types of Novels
- March 1, 1985
- March 1, 1985
- Herman Melville