Moby Dick

Moby Dick as a Social Allegory

With his novel Moby-Dick, Herman Melville uses the voyages of a New England whaler as a metaphor for the expansionist society in which he was living. Completed in 1851, the novel condemns America's values during the middle of the 19th century. During this time, the United States' expanding population encouraged the idea of manifest destiny, or that the nation was destined to span to the Pacific Ocean. This goal provoked many incidents between America and its bordering civilizations, such as Mexico, and the many Native Americans tribes that were either displaced or destroyed by the western settlers. The United States saw these civilizations as primitive; thus, exterminating them for their land was not seen as a criminal act, especially given the value of the natural resources that could be exploited for profit. Melville opposed this expansionist policy and the methods that were used to achieve it, and the novel shows this opposition as well as his admiration of native values.

One of the first indications that we have of the author's support for the native cultures that were being destroyed is his first interaction with Queequeg. Upon learning that he must share a room with the cannibal, he argues at first, then...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 724 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4180 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in