Melville Stories

by: Herman Melville

Important Quotations Explained

But some dull sense of another body that should be interred, of another cross that should hallow another grave—unmade as yet—some dull anxiety and pain touching her undiscovered brother, now haunted the oppressed Hunilla. Her hands fresh from the burial earth, she slowly went back to the beach, with unshaped purposes wandering there, her spellbound eye bent upon the incessant waves. But they bore nothing to her but a dirge, which maddened her to think that murderers should mourn.

This quote is an example of Melville's skill with imagery and metaphor. The idea of the waves playing a "dirge" for Hunilla's husband and brother, making her think it strange that "murderers should mourn"—the poetic nature of this idea is on par with some of the best passages from Moby Dick. Such passages reveal how different "The Encantadas" is from Melville's earlier works about exotic locations (such as Typee).

This passage is also an example of prosopopoeia. Prosopopoeia is a technique in which a poet or author gives an inanimate object human qualities. In this case, the waves are both murderers and in the act of "mourning" for Hunilla's husband and brother. The concept of the living sea is a very classical one, echoing the Greek and Roman poets.