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
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