White Jacket...was understandably acclaimed for its authenticity when it was first published in 1850, since Herman Melville drew on his own experiences serving on a U.S. Navy frigate in writing it. (The book's celebrated depiction of the horrors of corporal punishment was widely credited with influencing COngress to prohibit flogging aboard Naval vessels.) Yet while it is true that the book can be read as an involving account of life aboard the U.S.S. Neversink and the adventures that befall its officers and crew - the stalwart foretop captain Jack Chase; the poetic seaman Lemsford; the ferretlike quarter-gunner Quoin and the rest - there is something more here than a hearty tale of the sea. For already there are clear signs - the mysterious, perhaps cursed, white jacket that gived the narrator his identity, the elevation of the noble Jack Chase to an almost godlike status, the subtle depiction of the ship's company as a self-contained universe - of the symbolism and powerful themes that would characterize Melville's greatest work.
Original title: White Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War
Genre: Fiction→ Adventure→ Military and Naval Adventure