TOEFL iTP | Intermediate – Reading | Herman Melville

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Herman Melville, an American author best known today for his novel Moby Dick, was actually more popular during his lifetime for some of his other works. He traveled extensively and used the knowledge gained during his travels as the basis for his early novels. In 1837, at the age of eighteen, Melville signed as a cabin boy on a merchant ship that was to sail from his Massachusetts home to Liverpool, England. His experiences on the trip served as the basis for the novel Redburn (1849). In 1941, Melville set out on a whaling ship headed for the South Seas. After jumping ship in Tahiti, he wandered around the islands of Tahiti and Moorea. This South Sea island sojourn was a backdrop to the novel Omoo (1847). After three years away from home, Melville joined up with a U.S. naval frigate that was returning to the eastern United States around Cape Horn. The novel White-Jacket (1850) describes this lengthy voyage as a navy seaman.

With the publication of these early adventure novels, Melville developed a strong and loyal following among readers eager for his tales of exotic places and situations. However, in 1851, with the publication of Moby Dick, Melville’s popularity started to diminish. Moby Dick, on one level the saga of the hunt for the great white whale, was also a heavily symbolic allegory of the heroic struggle of humanity against the universe. The public was not ready for Melville’s literary metamorphosis from romantic adventure to philosophical symbolism. It is ironic that the novel that served to diminish Melville’s popularity during his lifetime is one for which he is best known today.

  • The main subject of the passage is
  1. Melville’s travels
  2. The popularity of Melville’s novels
  3. Melville’s personal background
  4. Moby Dick
  • According to the passage, Melville’s early novels were
  1. Published while he was traveling
  2. Completely fictional
  3. All about his work on whaling ships
  4. Based on his travels
  • In what year did Melville’s book about his experiences as a cabin boy appear?
  1. 1837
  2. 1841
  3. 1847
  4. 1849
  • The word “basis” in line 5 is closest in meaning to
  1. Foundation
  2. Message
  3. Bottom
  4. Theme
  • The passage implies that Melville stayed in Tahiti because
  1. He had unofficially left his ship
  2. He was on leave while his ship was in port
  3. He had finished his term of duty
  4. He had received permission to take a vacation in Tahiti
  • A “frigate” in line 8 is probably
  1. An office
  2. A ship
  3. A troop
  4. A train
  • How did the publication of Moby Dick affect Melville’s
  1. His popularity increased immediately
  2. It had no effect on his popularity
  3. It caused his popularity to decrease
  4. His popularity remained as strong as ever
  • According to the passage, Moby Dick is
  1. A romantic adventure
  2. A single-faceted work
  3. A short story about a whale
  4. Symbolic of humanity fighting the environment
  • The word “metamorphosis” in line 15 is closest in meaning to
  1. Circle
  2. Change
  3. Mysticism
  4. Descent
  1. The passage would most likely be an assigned reading course on
  1. Nineteenth-century novels
  2. American history
  3. Oceanography
  4. Modern America literature


Answers on next page!

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