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Moby-Dick Historical Context

This Study Guide consists of approximately 139 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Moby-Dick.
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Historical Context

America in the mid-19th Century

America was in a tumultuous period, establishing its national and international identity at the time Moby-Dick was being written. It is noteworthy that the classic American novel of the period is not ostensibly about westward expansion. Instead it is about pursuit and capture, about following a dream. The American Dream, as it was envisaged by the Founding Fathers, is now considered by some as a dangerous preoccupation, a consuming national obsession. In a real sense, Melville's book is not about its time, but about ours. A possible reading would have the Pequod as modern corporate America, intent on control and subjection, and Ahab as a power-crazed executive, quick to seek vengeance for any received aggression.

Self-reliance

When the novel was being written, Transcendentalism was becoming the predominant philosophical and religious viewpoint. This view— propounded most cogently by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his...

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This section contains 630 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Moby-Dick Study Guide
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Moby-Dick from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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