The White Jacket

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Overview

White Jacket written by Herman Melville (best known for his classic whaling novel) was first published in 1850 and is considered to be a semi-biographical book, written from Melville's own personal experiences while returning home to the Atlantic Coast from the South Seas with the American Navy on a man-o'-war vessel. In the note preceding the novel, Melville states, "In the year 1843 I shipped as 'ordinary seaman' on board of a United States frigate then lying in a harbor of the Pacific Ocean. After remaining in...
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White Jacket

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Overview

White Jacket written by Herman Melville (best known for his classic whaling novel) was first published in 1850 and is considered to be a semi-biographical book, written from Melville's own personal experiences while returning home to the Atlantic Coast from the South Seas with the American Navy on a man-o'-war vessel. In the note preceding the novel, Melville states, "In the year 1843 I shipped as 'ordinary seaman' on board of a United States frigate then lying in a harbor of the Pacific Ocean. After remaining in this frigate for more than a year, I was discharged from the service . . ."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466250802
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
  • Publication date: 9/4/2011
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville
Herman Melville's legend is as mammoth and elusive as the whale that established it. The author's Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale stands as one of literature's greatest epics, a story of mythological proportions that was grounded in real life and a new way of storytelling. Melville's work, underappreciated in its time, remains as much subject to debate and interpretation as it was when he first caught the public eye with his South Seas adventure, Typee, in 1846.

Biography

Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Date of Birth:
      August 1, 1819
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      September 28, 1891
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    Hello is thee a party here?

    Hello enyone

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2007

    Harsh Life Aboard a US Navy Ship in the Last Days of Sail

    The title, 'White Jacket', serves as a double entendre by the author, Herman Melville. He actually sews up a hand-stitched jacket made from white sail cloth and other material, but it is ill-fitting, continually wet, ineffective against the cold, and actually the source of trouble between himself and the crew. So, the white jacket is a suit of his own making that very well brings about his own downfall. In the end, he discards it when he sees himself about to drown. And so, Melville uses this theme to serve as a metaphor for white superiority and the threatening danger of civil war over slavery. Indeed, Melville experiences effective slavery during his voyage aboard the USS United States (USS Neversink in the book) during its run from the Pacific back to the Atlantic. And like so many black slaves, he and his crewmates suffer the ever-present threat of public lashings for even minor infractions. So, Melville also uses his book as an indictment against a hypocritical system, whereby officers are never wrong and never experience corporal punishment but the enlisted crew remain in perpetual danger of arousing the slightest displeasure of any officer with the ultimate result of a humiliating public lashing. However, no military organization could function effectively if it were a democratic institution who would ever risk their life in such a case? (Even the early Communists quickly abandoned that principle.) But the vast majority of the book focuses on the minute details of life aboard a frigate during the age of sail. Several hundred (500?) souls are packed into the space of a single wooden vessel for months on end. How the ship is organized and the rituals of life aboard ship are the mainstay of the book. Melville describes in factual detail the actual work (trimming sails, cleaning decks, etc.), the daily routines (meals on deck, standing watches, playing cards in secret, sleeping in the crew's quarters), the professions (sailor, waistman, quartermaster, boatswain, carpenter, surgeon, captain, commodore, purser, midshipmen, chaplain, pharmacist, cook, cockswain, gunner, and yeoman), the less usual events (floggings, making a port of call, receiving official dignitaries aboard ship, rounding Cape Horn, the order of Neptune initiation rites, rumors of war), and all the underlying social structure and tensions ever-present. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in life aboard naval ships in the days of sail. With the rise of modern wireless communication, captains no longer enjoy such an absolute despotism as in times previous, but he still remains the unchallenged master aboard US navy vessels. While much of life aboard ship has changed, probably half of the book would still be quite familiar to modern-day sailors.

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