Monday, October 2, 2017

The Happy Failure by Herman Melville Analysis

"The Happy Failure" by Herman Melville is a short story not about success or failure. It is more likely that it is a story about man's attitude to life.


Herman Melville is an American writer of the eighteenth century, well known for his novel "Moby-Dick".  When I read this story and especially when I listened to the audio (both links for these resources put here after the essay) I had a feeling of that epoch. That was a time of great inventions, when the terms of New World (referring to America) and Old World (Europe) were commonly used. But nevertheless, I keep repeating that this story was not about inventions. Let's look to the plot of this story.


The narrator (he was called youngster in the story), a very young man, was called to help his uncle. After the short riding on the boat, the narrator saw his uncle and the servant of the uncle, Yorpy, who carried a heavy, big box.  Yorpy put the box in the boat under many instructions given by the uncle such as "Put it in, you grizzled-headed cherub--put it in carefully, carefully! If that box bursts, my everlasting fortune collapses."


The uncle said that this a deal of lifetime -device for draining swamps-  and he is going to test it on the island located about ten miles up the river. Youngster expressed some doubts about the necessity of such a long trip under a scorching sun and the uncle demanded that he would put him ashore. The major turn of the story happened when the narrator realizes his mistake, expressed support of the uncle's intentions and continued to help his uncle.


When they came to the island, the uncle seemed to notice somebody in the bush, but he was mistaken. The narrator and Yorpy cooperated with the old man and made a deal about searching for strangers on the island. Afterwards, they started an experiment with the new invented device. They continued their actions in that time even though the uncle understood that this experiment was going to fail. The uncle gave for youngster one advice "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but--happiness." and he said "Boy, I'm glad I've failed. I say, boy, failure has made a good old man of me. It was horrible at first, but I'm glad I've failed."


The last statement was said by the narrator after the death of his uncle with a great respect:
"I seemed to hear again his deep, fervent cry--"Praise be to God for the failure!"


My interpretation of the moral of this story, that action, aspiration is more important than results. The energy of an elderly uncle, this is what moves the progress. We see this energy from the beginning when he exclaimed "Come, hurrah” when the uncle refused the skeptical mood of his nephew when the old man passed his failure and concluded that it is not the end of the world and so on.


It often happens when the elderly people who worked with a great enthusiasm, begin to be ill as soon as they retire. But if they have hobbies, everything changes - they continue living active and happy life.


The importance of being involved in something interesting was illustrated through the statement which the old man said: "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but - happiness."



These are the links to the text and audio of the story: