Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Melinda Knight


Herman Melville (1819-1891)--Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1819-1891)--Benito Cereno , Herman Melville (1819-1891)--Political and social views, Politics and literature


The goal of this thesis is to explore and identify Herman Melville’s position on a government that participated in slavery in the 1850’s. By examining the stories of Moby- Dick and Benito Cereno Melville’s distrust in government is exposed. The period in which he wrote was filled with political and social reforms during which he took influence from other vocal authors and slaves involved in revolt. I use two research strategies: (1) a look at literary and social events during Melville’s writing and (2) his personal correspondences. In the first part of the exploration is Melville’s attack on a government that allowed the continuation of slavery. The research then goes on to explore the signs and warnings in his texts that lead readers to question their governing system of power. This thesis seeks to show that Melville was not solely interested in slavery and his writings were not just an attack on the slave trade. He was an advocate for brotherhood and unity in the face of an immoral government. Some critics strive to show that he wrote about larger issues and not the simple issue of color. By exposing his personal writings, Melville was not passive and was quite disappointed in his government.

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