Another step on our journey

Please excuse my late post! I had it mostly planned, but four trips to the VA with my dear hubby in the past week sort of took over my brain. The good news is that David is doing well after his lung cancer surgery and treatment. More recovery and treatment to come, but we’re praising the Lord for progress. Now I can get back to my writing responsibilities.

In my last post of 2017, I invited you to join me on a journey to learn more about Herman Melville and his magnum opus, Moby Dick. Here’s the next installment, taken from a lesson I taught my freshman composition students when I was a college professor. This is the introduction to an informative research paper. Many of my students had never written a research paper, so my purpose was to help them organize their paper with a sort of road map in the first paragraph. It needed to have an attention-getting device, a thesis statement, and a plan of development. By following my model and sticking to their plan of development, students could stay on course and not wander off track as they completed their papers on the author of their choice.

Enlightened individuals have always sought to increase their knowledge of far off places. Before our modern age of information, in which we can instantly discover some of the most obscure intelligence on just about anything, scholars and other curious people depended on experienced, well-informed writers to educate them about people of distant lands. One such writer is Herman Melville, a nineteenth century visionary writer having experience as a whaler in the Pacific South Seas, wrote shocking, realistic novels about seafaring life, informing his own generation of faraway worlds they did not know.

Two novels that display Melville’s broad understanding of his subject matter are White Jacket, based on his experiences aboard the Naval frigate United States, and Typee, based on his service as a cabin boy on the whaling ship Acushnet. Because he grew up in a well-to-do family, Melville’s early life gave no hint of the future adventures that would inform his work; however, financial disaster struck when he was only twelve. His father died, leaving the family in “genteel poverty,” thereby cutting short the future author’s educational opportunities. From then on, he essentially educated himself through an extraordinary variety of career choices – bank clerk, sales clerk, school teacher, whaler, and, of course, writer – some of which made appearances in his most successful stories. He was encouraged in his writing by such illustrious authors as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, to the latter of whom he dedicated his greatest novel, Moby Dick. Unfortunately for Melville, his early writing success could not be sustained during his lifetime (his later works were panned or ignored by critics), and the author died in poverty and obscurity. Subsequent generations of lovers of literature, however, have discovered his true literary genius. That the thundering, passionate, mysterious, and compelling novel Moby Dick is now standard reading in high school and college English courses (not to mention the myriad of books and motion pictures based on it) points to Melville’s enduring influence on American literature.

What do you think? Can you see each part of the introductory paragraph? Can you see how this provides a road map for a student writing an informative paper? I’m no longer teaching those college classes, but many of my students reported success from using my model. What more could a teacher ask?

Next, I will explore some of the themes I discovered in Moby Dick and how they influenced my master’s thesis, Ahab’s Bride. I hope you enjoy the next phase of my journey.

About Louise M. Gouge

Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical romance fiction, receiving the prestigious IRCA in 2005 and placing as a finalist in 2011, 2015, 2016, and 2017. When she isn't writing, she and David, her husband of fifty-plus years, enjoy visiting historical sites and museums. Please visit her Web site at Twitter: @Louisemgouge
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