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White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War: Volume Five (Melville) Paperback – November 22, 2000


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White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War: Volume Five (Melville) + Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (Penguin Classics) + Moby Dick
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“We find in [Melville’s works] revolt and acceptance, unconquerable and endless love, the passion for beauty, language of the highest order—in short, genius.” —Albert Camus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

One of Melville's most popular novels during his lifetime—and the subject of renewed interest in recent decades—White-Jacket is both a brisk sea adventure and a powerful social critique. Based on Melville's own experiences, it explores the fascinating and often harrowing world of a naval fighting ship, the Neversink. The ship becomes for Melville a microcosm of America itself; its hierarchy, social divisions, and cruel practices suggest larger injustices, including slavery.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic reproduces the definitive Northwestern-Newberry Edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Melville
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press (November 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810118289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810118287
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book makes me not only admire Melville the author but love Melville the man.
M. Nesbit
'White-Jacket' contains far too much content that doesn't add to the allegory, and some of it clearly is not even meant to.
thepete8
This book is a good read for anyone looking for a more indepth look at what naval life was/is like.
Bobby K. Daugherty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Nesbit on October 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is second only to Moby-Dick in the list of Melville's greatest works. And Melville's greatest works are America's greatest works.

White-Jacket has it all; humor, pathos, poetry and philosophy. This book makes me not only admire Melville the author but love Melville the man.

To suggest that the book would be better off without its "sermons" against cruelty in the Man-of-War's world is to suggest that Melville should have written some other book. He didn't write that book, he wrote this one and this is the one he wanted us to read. God bless him.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the second of three books Melville published in quick succession--after Redburn in 1849, and before Moby-Dick in 1851. If you read them in that order, you can actually witness Melville's powers as an author growing. White-Jacket has passages that approach the difficulty of Moby-Dick, but it also has not a few chapters that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. It's not the best of Melville, but it is certainly brilliant! (Smokers, and non-smokers alike, should take a look at ch.91)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Fascinating, entertaining account of life on a man-of-war. Hilarious in parts; always subversive. Melville's mock glorification of the U.S. Navy and its officers is brilliant.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on September 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after reading Erving Goffman's "Asylums". In that book, Goffman, a sociologist, discusses the rise of "Total Institutions", i.e. institutions that totally control the lives of those within. Melville's "White Jacket" is a book that Goffman often referred to in order to illustrate different aspects of life within the total institution.
The introductory essay to this book discusses White Jacket in relationship to the growing bro-ha-ha over slavery, but I thought the book was much more interesting then that.
What was most suprising to me, having never read Melville before, was how funny some of the chapters were. Episodes involving Surgeon Cuticle amputating the leg of an unwilling seaman recall the funniest moments of television shows like Monty Python or the Simpsons.
Melville's accurate portrayal of life within the "T.I.", reminded me of Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". There, the setting is an insane asylum, here it is a Man O' Wear, but both books deal with the tactics and strategies an individual might employ when faced with an oppressive living environment.
Although I am not sure when, or if, I might try to tackle author's masterpiece 'Moby Dick', I did come away from this book with a profound respect for Melville's capabilities as a writer. I will no longer take for granted his status among the pantheon of American writers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Coppedge on June 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
The title, "White Jacket", serves as a double entendre by the author, Herman Melville. He actually sews up a hand-stitched jacket made from white sail cloth and other material, but it is ill-fitting, continually wet, ineffective against the cold, and actually the source of trouble between himself and the crew. So, the white jacket is a suit of his own making that very well brings about his own downfall. In the end, he discards it when he sees himself about to drown. And so, Melville uses this theme to serve as a metaphor for white superiority and the threatening danger of civil war over slavery.

Indeed, Melville experiences effective slavery during his voyage aboard the USS United States (USS Neversink in the book) during its run from the Pacific back to the Atlantic. And like so many black slaves, he and his crewmates suffer the ever-present threat of public lashings for even minor infractions. So, Melville also uses his book as an indictment against a hypocritical system, whereby officers are never wrong and never experience corporal punishment but the enlisted crew remain in perpetual danger of arousing the slightest displeasure of any officer with the ultimate result of a humiliating public lashing. However, no military organization could function effectively if it were a democratic institution; who would ever risk their life in such a case? (Even the early Communists quickly abandoned that principle.)

But the vast majority of the book focuses on the minute details of life aboard a frigate during the age of sail. Several hundred (500?) souls are packed into the space of a single wooden vessel for months on end. How the ship is organized and the rituals of life aboard ship are the mainstay of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Getter on June 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
In this early title from the great Melville, we get an episodic account of the author's service aboard the USS United States, sister ship of "Old Ironsides." To avoid prosecution under the Articles of War, the name of the ship (called in the book the "Neversink") and his fellow crew members have been changed, but the stories retain their often startlingly candid detail. From the ritual floggings at the masthead to a critical grog shortage, Melville gives us a seaman's eye view of life of the 400-man crew of an American man-of-war marooned uncomfortably in a time of peace.

Each chapter is a commentary on some facet of life aboard the ship. Some are laden with irony and dry humor, others express thinly veiled outrage at an institution that completely deprives men of any form of liberty and justice as they work to protect the freedom of their country. In these chapters, you will also see the seeds of the themes and images that appeared in Melville's later works.

"A blog," you ask? That is exactly what this book is. There are many characters, no plot to speak of, but an incredibly rich garden of facts, opinions ideas and observations. It does little to flatter the U.S. Navy of the mid-1800's but provides a richly detailed and distinctly un-romanticized view of the lives of those who served. If you're a fan of Melville or just like books about sailing the seas, White Jacket is a must-read.
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White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War: Volume Five (Melville)
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