Moby Dick By Herman Melville

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Moby Dick By Herman Melville

The Characters and Plot

There are numerous characters in Moby Dick, but only a few of them

have any impact on the story. A common sailor named Ishmael is the

narrator. The book, however, focuses on Captain Ahab , the one-legged

commander of the whaling ship Pequod . Ahab has sworn to kill the

gigantic whale Moby Dick, who took away his leg. Starbuck is the

first mate of the Pequod. Queequeg , Tashtego, and Daggoo are the

three harpooners.

The story begins with Ishmael becoming restless. He decides to go

out to sea on a whaling ship. In the port of New Bedford, he meets

and shares a room with a harpooner named Queequeg. The two of them

become close friends, and agree to ship out together.

The day after they reach Nantucket, Ishmael begins searching for a

whaling ship preparing to leave harbor. Out of three ships ready to

leave, he chooses the Pequod. The owners of the ship, Captains Peleg

and Bildad are excited to hear of Queequeg from Ishmael and gladly

let him join the crew. They are told the captain of the ship is

named Ahab. Peleg and Bildad say that he is a good man, but because

of some strange illness, he is confined to his cabin.

On Christmas day, and with Ahab still in his cabin, the Pequod sets

sail in the Atlantic. As the weather begins to warm up (several

months after leaving port), Ahab is finally seen on deck. The

strangest thing about Ahab is his leg. Instead of flesh and bone, he

has a white ivory peg leg.

As the weeks wear on, Ahab starts to become friendlier. One day, he

calls the crew before him. He tells them that the sole mission of

the Pequod is to kill Moby Dick. Moby Dick is a gigantic sperm whale

with a crooked jaw and a deformed forehead. He has never been

defeated, and has attacked and sunk entire ships. Ahab admits he

hates Moby Dick for taking his leg away, and wants revenge. The crew

agree to this challenge, and swear to hunt him down. The only who is

not excited about hunting down Moby Dick is first-mate Starbuck.

For many months, the Pequod sails South, through the Atlantic,

around the Cape of Good Hope (the southern tip of Africa), and into

the Indian Ocean. Along the way, they kill and drain the spermaceti

oil from every sperm whale they encounter. Each time they meet

another ship, Ahab begins the conversation with “Hast seen the White


Finally, after entering the Japanese sea, the Pequod encounters a

whaling ship named the Enderby. The Enderby’s captain had just

recently lost his arm to Moby Dick. Ahab becomes so excited at the

news that he breaks his ivory leg. The ship’s carpenter builds him a

new one.

Once reaching the waters around the equator, the Pequod meets

another whaling ship, the Rachel. They had seen Moby Dick, and had

become separated from one of the whaling boats during the battle.

Ahab refuses to help them look for the missing men.

At last, Moby Dick is spotted by Ahab. In the first day of

fighting, the whale is harpooned many times, but escapes after

smashing Ahab’s boat. On the second day, the whale is harpooned

again, but still escapes. On the third day, Ahab’s harpoon pierces

the whale, but the rope catches him by the neck and Moby Dick drags

him to the bottom of the sea. An angry Moby Dick rams and sinks the

Pequod. Only Ishmael survives, and he is rescued by the Rachel.

My Response

Moby Dick was not the novel I expected. I was under the impression

that it would be about seafaring and the whale Moby Dick. Instead,

Moby Dick is a story about Captain Ahab’s obsession. There is very

little in the story about the revenge itself, just about Ahab’s

monomania. Out of 465 pages, only forty-two of them deal with the

actual battle between Ahab and Moby Dick.

The novel places very little emphasis on actual seafaring. Ishmael

never even steps on a boat until page seventy-four. Even when the

ship finally leaves port, the mention of anything involving sailing

or the life of sailors is kept to an absolute minimum.

There is, however, plenty of emphasis is on whaling, the anatomy of

whales, and their behavior. The book goes into great detail

describing the whalers of Nantucket, and gives in-depth explanations

of the different types of whales, quoting several outside sources in

the process. The narrator mentions the awesome size of the sperm

whale, and how few books even try to describe it. He

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Related Topics

Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab, Moby Dick, Ishmael, Pequod, Queequeg, Adaptations of Moby-Dick, Sperm whale, Whale, Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick

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