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White Jacket

Herman Melville

Book Overview: 

This is a tale based on Melville's experiences aboard the USS United States from 1843 to 1844. It comments on the harsh and brutal realities of service in the US Navy at that time, but beyond this the narrator has created for the reader graphic symbols for class distinction, segregation and slavery aboard this microcosm of the world, the USS Neversink.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . handicrafts-men are lost to their trades and the world by serving in men-of-war. Indeed, from a frigate's crew might he culled out men of all callings and vocations, from a backslidden parson to a broken-down comedian. The Navy is the asylum for the perverse, the home of the unfortunate. Here the sons of adversity meet the children of calamity, and here the children of calamity meet the offspring of sin. Bankrupt brokers, boot-blacks, blacklegs, and blacksmiths here assemble together; and cast-away tinkers, watch-makers, quill-drivers, cobblers, doctors, farmers, and lawyers compare past experiences and talk of old times. Wrecked on a desert shore, a man-of-war's crew could quickly found an Alexandria by themselves, and fill it with all the things which go to make up a capital.

Frequently, at one and the same time, you see every trade in operation on the gun-deck—coopering, carpentering, tailoring, tinkering, blacksmithing, rope-making, preaching, gamb. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Well, well; no more. Thy shrunk voice sounds too calmly, sanely woeful to me. In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, th...more

Amazing. A must read for everyone. A book I plan to re-read soon.

5 stars for Moby Dick. It makes me feel like an idiot to give 5 stars to Moby Dick. It should make you feel like an idiot, too. Why do we live in such idiotic times? Why must I care obsessively about our idiotic times? Why does it feel like the times we live in bit off my right leg? Why must I dr...more

This volume contains three novels - Redburn, White-Jacket, and Melville's masterpiece, Moby-Dick. All three include a great deal of nineteenth century sea lore. Aspiring writers are told to "show, don't tell." Melville, on the other hand, did quite a bit of "telling" in these chapters. The story...more

I'm speechless. OK, maybe a few words. At first I gave this book four stars, but then I looked at other books I'd given five stars to and said, "Who am I kidding? No way is that in a league with the Whale." I wanted to chip a star for some of the excess, the stuffed in chapters, the lengthy and i...more

Melville In The Library Of America

The novels of Herman Melville (1819 -- 1891) were among the first volumes published by the Library of America, a nonprofit organization devoted to presenting the best of American writing and thought in uniform hardcover editions. At the time of his death, Melvill...more

classic tale of an epic adventure,you don't want to miss. This is one to buy and keep handy on your shelf.

It took me a long time to be able to read Moby Dick. I tried on many occasions, but I wandered away in the middle. I remembered, recently, the strategy of just plowing through. That's what I had to do with William Blake; I took a seminar where we read the complete works, chronologically, without...more

My favourite novel. The Library of America edition is beautiful.

I always planned on reading this book but just kept putting it off until I took an Great American Novels Course. A lot of people think the novel is overrated and while I can see thier point I still have to disagree. There are just so many metaphors and different interpretations of this novel for...more

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