Abstract

Abstract:

I identify a probable source for Melville's striking image of the "monkey-rope" (Moby-Dick, ch. 72) in his reading of the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca. In a passage in his essay "On Peace of Mind" (De Tranquillitate Animi), Seneca argues forcibly that "all our whole life is a servitude" and exhorts us to bear up under our state of bondage with fortitude. Seneca's passage would have furnished Melville not only the striking metaphor of life-as-bondage that he adopts in the chapter "The Monkey-Rope," but also a philosophical basis for recasting his preoccupations elsewhere in Moby-Dick. In order to argue the allusion, I briefly survey Melville's knowledge of Seneca; identify the translations of "On Peace of Mind" known to have been in his possession; and call attention to the consonance of language and imagery between Seneca's and Melville's passages.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 58-65
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-19
Open Access
No
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