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At the same time, his experience in Polynesia where he actually lived for a time with native people outside the orbit of modern commodity culture shaped his view of an alternative to what he came to understand as a society bent on self-destruction. In slightly more than a decade, from when he published Typee to , Melville published nine novels and a collection of short stories Piazza Tales, Thus the genius of Melville was to symbolically represent the psychological disorder that motivates an entire civilization in its insane goal of conquering nature.
Goldner, by contrast, draws attention in his subtitle to the two ages, as they are conceived by Melville. The emergent industrial capitalist assault on nature is an interim development, for Melville, more regress than progress.
The linchpin of such an industrial attainment is what Marx saw in the scientifically-based megatechnological productive forces which capitalist mode of production develops and deploys to serve the egoism of its ruling class in their utopian quest for accumulation without cost.
So the creator was killed by the creature.
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So the bell was too heavy for the tower. And so pride went before the fall.
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It symbolic significance is that it fails to do anything at all. In this his view ran counter to that of Marx. But as Goldner points out in chapters comparing Melville and Marx, both men look back to the antemosaic world, not so much for a model of the future as for a confirmation of human possibility. Both in scale and scope the difference between then and now is enormous.
Whaling ships that chased down, harpooned, and butchered one whale at a time cannot compare with contemporary commercial fishing fleets with drift nets capable of hauling in and processing every fish in fifty square miles of ocean, and able to do it with less of a working crew than that found on the Pequod. Although Marx envisioned the replacement of human labor by automated machinery powered by the harnessing of natural energy, he could not foresee, for example, the development of a megatechnology that would make it possible to shape the values and cultural aspirations of the great mass of the population through message-reinforced imagery delivered to every home via electronic media.
Nor could he foresee the re-design of biological species through genetic modification. For this reason the countercultural response to the problem of an alternative future has to be rethought.