White Jacket or The World in a Man of War

White Jacket or The World in a Man of War

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by Herman Melville
     
 

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Melville wrote White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War during a two-month period of intense work in the summer of 1849. He drew upon his memories of naval life, having spent fourteen months as an "ordinary seaman" aboard the frigate United States as it sailed the Pacific and made the homeward voyage around Cape Horn.

A crewman on the man-of

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Overview

Melville wrote White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War during a two-month period of intense work in the summer of 1849. He drew upon his memories of naval life, having spent fourteen months as an "ordinary seaman" aboard the frigate United States as it sailed the Pacific and made the homeward voyage around Cape Horn.

A crewman on the man-of-war Neversink, White-Jacket gets his name from the shirt he turned into a coat and lined with rags, old trouser legs, and cast-off socks. The journey he undertakes is dangerous—a man falls overboard, White-Jacket tumbles from the rigging, and the least insubordination is punished with the lash. Melville's story portrays the inhumanity of naval life, saving special vitriol for the unnamed ship's surgeon, who has the power to stop a flogging if a man's life is endangered—but never does; and for the inept Dr. Cuticle, who amputates a sailor's healthy leg to make a point. The description of such excesses was instrumental in convincing the United States Navy to outlaw flogging. Many scandalized Northern readers acknowledged that the treatment of sailors was little different than that given to slaves in the South.

Melville regarded the writing of White-Jacket as a mere job, undertaken for much-needed cash, but the novel received almost universal acclaim. The English liked its praise of British seamen and its vivid descriptions of naval life. Americans were interested in Melville's attack on naval abuses and his advocacy of humanitarian causes. Part autobiography, part epic fiction, White-Jacket remains an imaginative social novel by one of the great writers of the sea.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's terrific to see this in print again, and with a useful appendix as well."—Charles Npravnik, State University of New York at Brockport

"An unusually attractive edition, from the cover design to the print and the generous margins. The author chronology, bibliography, and explanatory notes are all helpful. I also like the size and the feel of this edition."—Donald Coen, Sam Houston State University

"Delighted to have a moderately priced, well annotated edition available again."—Marvin Fisher, Arizona State University

"Excellent! Good, clear type—a much needed new edition."—George F. Day, University of North Iowa

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765542540
Publisher:
Quality Paperback
Publication date:
06/21/2000
Pages:
504

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), and after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition, especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature. He was the first writer to have his works collected and published by the Library of America.

Brief Biography

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

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White-jacket, or, The world in a man-of-war 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Mike0301 More than 1 year ago
Read this before Moby Dick to understand what the sailor's life was like aboard ships of that era.