Herman Melville's response to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 12th gradeA, January 1997

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Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne are two of the most influential authors in American Literature. Both men wrote about similar themes, creating great admiration between them. The relationship that had grown between them was a source of critic and interpretation that would ultimately influence each of their works. Melville in particular was moved by Hawthorne's intellectual stimulation and inspired him to write Moby-Dick, a dramatic novel that has proved to be one of the greatest in American Literature. Moby-Dick explores the element of tragedy and how one must pursue dreams relentlessly without letting obstacles get in the way. Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter of a woman who had to face reality and accept it, Melville takes a different approach demonstrating the potential disasters of one who refuse to accept it. Melville was influenced by the individualism represented in Hester and tried to express its importance through Ishmael. Finally, the conflict between good and evil was displayed between Melville's characters, Ishmael and Ahab, as it had been between Hester and society.

Hawthorne gave numerous suggestions to Melville concerning subject matter and themes for him to write. However, the most important impact on Moby-Dick was the correspondence between the two writers. Hawthorne's influence proved to be a factor in Melville's decision to write a novel exploring the 'meaning of life.' The experiences of both writers helped them realize that individuals have to figure out their purpose in life for themselves and that individuality is implicit for a meaningful and successful one.

Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter of a tragic 'phase of humanity,' the idea that reality must not be ignored but rather accepted in order to pursue happiness. Hester was a woman who acted on her own, not following the crowd and Melville carried over the same theme in his...