Moby Dick is the story of Captain Ahab's quest to avenge the whale that 'reaped' his leg. The quest is an obsession and the novel is a diabolical study of how a man becomes a fanatic. But it is also a hymn to democracy.
Moby-Dickwritten inrecounts the adventures of the narrator Ishmael as he sails on the whaling ship, Pequod, under the command of the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. Melville dedicated the book to fellow Dark RomanticNathaniel Hawthorne : "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne. We also offer a short story version of the chapter, The Chase for your convenience.
Sascha Morrell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. This is a novel that announces itself as the tale of a whaling voyage, and expands from there as if to encompass the whole of existence.
Born inauthor Herman Melville grew up during the peak of American dominance of the whaling industryroughly the period between and the start of the Civil War. Weaving contemporary accounts and his own experiences as a whaler, Melville created his American masterpiece. The young Melville was famously inspired by the story of George Pollard, the former captain of the whaler Essex.
Matthiessen "From the Trade Paperback edition. No American masterpiece casts quite as awesome a shadow as Melville's monumental Moby Dick. Mad Captain Ahab's quest for the White Whale is a timeless epic--a stirring tragedy of vengeance and obsession, a searing parable about humanity lost in a universe of moral ambiguity.
First published inMoby Dick ranks on almost any list as one of the greatest works in the English language. Its three famous opening words, and the image of the one-legged Ahab in mad pursuit of the great White Whale, have become cultural icons. This grand—and occasionally grandiose—adventure tale unites the many voices of Herman Melville in a mongrel mix of epic poetry, Shakespearean tragedy, encyclopedic cataloguing, biblical oratory—and not a small dose of comedy.
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The character of Moby Dick is larger than life, but this is an instance where truth is as strange if not stranger than fiction. The white whale is based on a real-life cetacean called Mocha Dick. Named after the Chilean island of Mocha near which the beast was first encounteredhe was an albino sperm whale with a formidable reputation.