The Melville-Hawthorne Friendship and its Impact on Moby-Dick

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Steven Olsen-Smith


My research seeks to explore the friendship between Herman Melville and Nathanial Hawthorne and its influence on Melville’s writing of Moby-Dick. Through my review of existing scholarship on the composition of Moby-Dick, including Melville’s likely alteration of the narrative from an adventure tale to what became a work of unsurpassed artistic and philosophical significance, I wish to highlight the role Hawthorne played as a creative catalyst in Melville’s life and work. Particularly, I seek to make a connection between the Melville-Hawthorne friendship and how it profoundly influenced the rewriting of the opening chapters of the book, which Melville expanded to highlight the friendship of the main character, Ishmael, and his close fraternal bond with the harpooner Queequeg. More than any other change to the narrative, I argue, these late additions grew from and mirror the fraternal bond Melville developed with Hawthorne during the composition of his masterwork.

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