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Cock-A-Doodle-Do

Preamble. Fiction writers may choose to create first person narrators whose points of view are either very different from theirs, are somewhat similar, or diverge from the author’s point of view only slightly. In the case of Melville this is often complicated by how he sometimes moves back and forth between speaking as himself and adopting an attitude or point of view different from his own. Given this, readers need to be alert to when he is being ironic. His decisions about first person narrators invite the reader to consider possible reasons for these choices—how they can make a story more dramatic or allow the author to present from an indirect perspective a theme that may be of pressing personal interest. In the case of “Cock-A-Doodle-Do!,” Melville is like his narrator in having money-problems. However, it seems safe to say that the point of view, attitudes, and temperament of this narrator, the story’s main character, differ considerably from Melville’s own. This means that, in this story about possible attitudes to rely on in the face of money problems, there is a good deal of irony.

Assignment.
Read Herman Melville’s “Cock-A-Doodle-Do!”, and write an analytical paper in which you describe the temperament and attitudes of the narrator and suggest what reservations Melville is likely to have concerning the philosophy about dealing with hardships that the narrator eventually adopts as a result of his interactions with Merrymusk. Explain how Merrymusk’s philosophy is represented symbolically by the cock that he owns. Say what the significances of the cock’s general and then final effect on the Merrymusk family and also of the bird’s own death are likely to be, seen from Melville’s point of view. Comment also on the range of ironic effects in the story including those that are mainly humorous, the implicit critiques that are seriously meant, and the irony that is depressingly grim.

 

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