In all likelihood, “Midnight, Forecastle,” which brings the Moby-Dick’s excursion into drama to a climax, owes a debt to the Walpurgisnacht scene in Part I of Goethe’s Faust, a book that Melville knew well. According to the editors of the Norton Critical Edition of the novel, Melville found in Faust “analogues of demonic temptation and heroic obsession.”

The poet Charles Olson tells us this about the chapter in his study Call Me Ishmael, published in 1947: “For bottom dogs made pretty SEE the balletic chapter called MIDNIGHT, FORECASTLE, in Moby-Dick.” The comment comes in a section of the book in which Olson is reminding us of “the part the chase of the whale played in American economy.” The “bottom dogs” to whom he refers are the “miserably paid tools” upon which American whaling had grown to depend, here represented by the