Why Moby-Dick after all these years and in spite of prior Hawthorne aversion? Good question. Basically it is this: I’m often inspired to read what has inspired people who inspire me. This guy, Henry Murray, was a biochemist and surgeon who was suddenly appointed (by a committee of one without consultation with anyone else) to the position of research associate at the Harvard Psychological Clinic in the 1920s, even though he had no training in psychology. Within two years he was the Clinic’s “ostensibly unqualified” director. He was brilliant, though, and became well-known in the field of personality theory. He’s probably best known for developing a test called the Thematic Apperception Test, which is still used.
Why did he switch from surgery to psychology? Two reasons, he says. One was that he hung out with Carl Jung for two days in 1925 and was completely fascinated by psychology and psychoanalysis. The second was that he read Moby-Dick and found the richness of the characters and their motivations interesting. Jung and Moby-Dick. Meeting a famous person and having a two-day conversation with him (an experience not just anyone could have), and reading a book (something anyone could do).