Melville First Draft - Ryan Pool Mrs. Seale Eng IV 9 Dec...

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Ryan Pool Mrs. Seale Eng IV 9 Dec 2010 Melville’s Madman The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines obsession as “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes in a person’s mind, often to a troubling extent.” A powerful fixation, obsession often controls a person’s thoughts, actions, and life. Obsession can drive a person to great success or it can lead a person to their demise. For example, Warren Buffet, the great American investor and philanthropist, possessed an obsession with finances from a very young age. Buffet read every book in the Omaha public library about finance and investing by the age of 12. His obsession led to great success seeing that he currently reigns as the third wealthiest person in the world. Although Buffet found great success in his life through his obsession, other people find the opposite outcome deriving from their fixations. Obsession is displayed in literature by many authors in varying works, each work possessing a unique end product stemming from the character’s preoccupation. Herman Melville shows a case of detrimental obsession by following one character’s progression from injury to hate to obsession to monomania. Melville uses the example of this obsession throughout his work Moby-Dick to show the manner in which obsession can grow to madness, eventually leading to downfall and destruction. Melville creates a focal point of the novel through the incredible hatred that Ahab holds against Moby Dick. This driving theme is formed by a previous encounter between Ahab and the whale. The whale’s attack on Ahab is recounted in the book when Melville describes the
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Pool 2 incident: “ … that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby-Dick had reaped away Ahab’s leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field” (164). Henry Nash Smith observes that Ahab’s developing madness possesses two distinct stages. The first stage occurs at the point of “the fury of his futile single-handed attack on the whale” and the second stage, which comes after Ahab’s injury, when “Ahab becomes insane” (187). Melville uses the loss of Ahab’s leg as the seed of Ahab’s monomania and obsessive hate for Moby-Dick. The actual injury inflicted by Moby is not the sole reason for hate, but from this injury grew a single tree of hate and anger. Melville shows the first repercussions to Ahab’s injury when he states that Ahab “ probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration” but did not feel truly injured until “[his injury] forced to turn towards home …” (165). Eyal Peretz speaks on this subject: “Ahab’s wound … is for him not just the actual and painful cutting open of the body, but is the more significant and painful realization that the body can be cut open” (49). The first psychological injury inflicted on Ahab comes from the injury of his pride. Melville shows the effect of this injury through the manner that Ahab becomes insulted upon realization that he is not invincible
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This note was uploaded on 03/27/2012 for the course UGS 302 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Melville First Draft - Ryan Pool Mrs. Seale Eng IV 9 Dec...

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