born with halters around their necks.’
He had Herman work for him at the family business for a short time, saw him off to their uncle’s farm for a further period, andfinally set him afloat the Atlantic as a cabin boy on the St. Laurence. Doubtless thesewere all well intentioned actions, but it was his brother Allan whom Herman chose to livewith when he finally settled back in his native New York, an address he stayed at until hisdeath in 1886.The time line concerned here is as follows:1830 – Herman (aged ten) and his father Allan fled New York in the night.1831 – Herman (aged eleven) watched his father descend into alcohol & insanity.1832 – Herman (aged twelve) experienced his father’s death.1851 - Moby Dick, (aged twelve) the missing son
is looking for.The word coward is used a lot in the book, and not always in conventional ways.‘An utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward’
If Allan wasunimpressed with his docile but amiable son, it is possible that Melville was equallyunimpressed with his father’s reckless pursuit of capitalism. In the couple of yearsfollowing their flight from New York, Herman watched his father’s demise and this can be paralleled closely with a statement made of Ahab ‘in his inclement, howling old age…shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom’
Several references are made throughout the text which appear to indicate a first hand andquite frightening knowledge of insanity, for example, ‘Human madness is oftentimes acunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but becometransfigured into some still subtler form’
it may be a common observation, or first handexperience veiled as a common observation.Two chapters of absolute searing relevance stand out here,
The Whiteness of theWhale
. I believe that Melville presented the Rachel as his father’sconscience coming back again to ask him was he not going to help his desperate child?