Fire and Brimstone (and Linguistics): The Sermon in Moby-Dick

18 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2012

Date Written: May 10, 2010


Many commentators discuss the broad theme of religion in Melville’s Moby-Dick. None have yet attempted a more precise, linguistic analysis of the novel in order to better illuminate this theme. Linguistic analysis can elucidate the defining characteristics of the “seamen’s chapel” sermon, a sub-genre of the sermon. These characteristics can then be compared to other passages in Moby-Dick. Close comparison shows that Melville’s use of the sermon in Moby-Dick was largely influenced by his knowledge of the “seamen’s chapel” sermon type. This is evident not only in Father Mapple’s sermon, but throughout the text. Most interestingly, Melville prefers the style of the "seamen's chapel" genre whenever he conveys a profound philosophical idea to the reader.

Keywords: Herman Melville, Moby Dick, linguistics, register

Suggested Citation

Bader, Christopher Kennedy, Fire and Brimstone (and Linguistics): The Sermon in Moby-Dick (May 10, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Kennedy Bader (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics