Abstract

Abstract:

This essay focuses on the stakes of Melville's decision to resituate Israel Potter's childhood from Rhode Island to the Berkshire farm country. By presenting sketches of the same Massachusetts scene in the 1770s, 1820s, and 1850s, Melville connects unsustainable agricultural practices to failed revolutionary promises. Despite the novel's seemingly bleak conclusion, Melville hints that Israel's decaying body constitutes a symbolic alternative to extractive land use. Ultimately, this essay argues that the bookended Berkshire scenes reflect Melville's effort to oppose monumental national history, instead imagining that the decay and transformation of old forms might create the ground for political renewal.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 45-57
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-19
Open Access
No
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