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essays

The Encantadas: Two Sides to a Tortoise

by Herman Melville in 1856

In his literary sketches of the Galapagos Islands, Melville sees a lens through which individuals can fully explore existence, power, liberty, and responsibility.

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The Lightning Rod Man

by Herman Melville in 1856

Melville’s short story echoes his generation of artists’ widespread fears for America’s future. Without sufficient individual virtue, could polite society survive?

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Jimmy Rose: Failure & Sympathy

by Herman Melville in 1855

A failure at business and a failure at life, Jimmy Rose was a lot like the rest of his generation—drowning in change.

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Poor Man’s Pudding/Rich Man’s Crumbs

by Herman Melville in 1854

With a taste of actual poverty and a whiff of fake charity, Melville leaves us doubting whether our personal ethics have much improved.

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The Tartarus of Maids

by Herman Melville April 1855

Melville suggests that unless the modernizing, industrializing world retained its humanistic sensibilities, we’ll create our own Hells.

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The Paradise of Bachelors

by Herman Melville April 1855

Melville provides a more-or-less first-hand account of the almost excruciatingly lucious lives of London’s lawyerly elite.

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Melville and America: 1848

by Literature of Liberty Reviewer on Mar 1, 1980

A review of Herman Melville’s probes into Jacksonian America’s existential crisis.

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Melville on Slavery

by Literature of Liberty Reviewer on Mar 1, 1980

Melville reflected literary Young America’s hopes that a culture of republicanism and democracy could serve all individuals.

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Fear and Loathing in Retrospect

by Jack Shafer on Mar 1, 1980

“Thompson’s art has always been guided by the principle that the story of getting the story is always more important than the story itself.”