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Moby-Dick  
Moby-Dick FE title page.jpg
Title page, first edition of Moby-Dick
Author Herman Melville
Original title The Whale
Country United States
Language English
Series 8
Genre(s) Adventure novel, Epic, Sea story
Publisher Richard Bentley
Publication date October 18, 1851
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages 822

Moby-Dick is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. Originally misunderstood by its contemporary audiences and critics[citation needed], Moby-Dick is now often referred to as The Great American Novel and is considered one of the treasures of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a white sperm whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Comparatively few whaleships know of Moby Dick, and fewer yet have encountered him. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character's journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator's reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor's life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides.

Often considered the embodiment of American Romanticism, Moby-Dick was first published by Richard Bentley in London on October 18, 1851 in an expurgated three-volume edition titled The Whale, and weeks later as a single volume, by New York City publisher Harper and Brothers as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale on November 14, 1851. The first line of Chapter One—"Call me Ishmael."—is one of the most famous opening lines in American literature. Although the book initially received mixed reviews, Moby-Dick is now considered one of the greatest novels in the English language and has secured Melville's place among America's greatest writers.

The story is based on the actual events around the whaleship Essex, which was attacked by a sperm whale while at sea and sank.

Contents

Background

Melville published Moby-Dick in 1851 during a productive time in American literature. The year before, Melville's good friend and neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne published his bestseller The Scarlet Letter. The year after, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin, which would become the second best-selling book in America in the 19th century after the Bible. Two actual events inspired Melville's tale. One was the sinking of the Nantucket ship Essex, which foundered in 1820 after it was rammed by a large sperm whale 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from the western coast of South America. First mate Owen Chase, one of eight survivors, recorded the events in his 1821 Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. Already out-of-print, the book was rare even at the time.[1] Knowing that Melville was looking for it, his father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, managed to find a copy and buy it for him. When Melville received it, he fell to it almost immediately, heavily annotating it.[2] There had also been a successful earlier novel about Nantucket whalers, which influenced elements of Melville's work, Miriam Coffin or The Whale-Fisherman (1835) by Joseph C. Hart.[3]

The other event was the alleged killing in the late 1830s of the albino sperm whale Mocha Dick, who was usually encountered in the waters off the Chilean island of Mocha. Riddled with dozens of harpoons from his numerous escapes from whalers, Mocha Dick often attacked ships with premeditated ferocity. One of his battles with a whaler served as subject for an article by explorer Jeremiah N. Reynolds[4] in the May 1839 issue of The Knickerbocker, New York Monthly Magazine. Melville was familiar with the article, which described "an old bull whale, of prodigious size and strength... [that] was white as wool".[5] Significantly, Reynolds writes a first-person narration that serves as a frame for the story of a whaling captain he meets. The captain resembles Ahab and suggests a possible symbolism for whales in that, when his crew first encounters Mocha Dick and cowers from him, the captain rallies them thus: "'Mocha Dick or the d----l [devil],' said I, 'this boat never sheers off from any thing that wears the shape of a whale.'"[6]

Mocha Dick had over 100 battles with whalers. First noted (because of his color, and later for his wounds) in 1810, he battled them on a regular basis until the late 1830s. He was described as being giant (even for a whale). He was covered in barnacles. Mocha Dick may not have been the only white whale in the sea. A Swedish whale-ship claimed to have taken a very old white whale in 1859[7]; a retired Nantucket whale-ship claimed to have harpooned a white whale in 1902.[8] Nor was he the only whale to attack his hunters. Periodic attacks on whaleboats were recorded until they were replaced by the harpoon gun. In 1850, the bark Parker Cook was rammed in mid-Atlantic; the crew killed and harvested the whale, but had to put into port for repairs. Later that same year, the Pocahontas was almost sunk in the same area. In 1851, not long after publication of the novel, the Ann Alexander was destroyed by a sperm whale near where the Essex was sunk, but the crew were picked up the next day. In 1820 the Essex was alone in mid-Pacific, but by 1851 the area "virtually swarmed with whalers".[9] Other whalers disappeared at sea, perhaps sunk by their prey.[10] Other reported rammings by whales were a ship in 1640 {damaged}; the "Harmony" in 1796 {sunk}; the Union in 1807 {sunk}; the "Waterloo" in 1855 {sunk}; the "Herald of the Morning" in 1859 {damaged}; the "Forest Oak" in 1865 {damaged}; the "Watanga" {damaged—later sank in 1873}; the "Eastern City" {ran into a whale} in 1869 [11] and the Kathleen in 1902.[12]

The most important inspiration for the novel was Melville's experiences as a sailor, in particular those during 1841-1842 on the whaleship Acushnet. He had already drawn on his different sailing experiences in previous novels—Mardi the closest to Moby-Dick in its symbolic or allegorical aspirations—but he had never focused specifically on whaling. Melville had read Chase's account before sailing on the Acushnet in 1841; he was excited about sighting Captain Chase himself, who had returned to sea.[13] During a mid-ocean "gam" (rendezvous) he met Chase's son William, who loaned him his father's book.

Moby-Dick contains large sections — most of them narrated by Ishmael — that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot but describe aspects of the whaling business. Melville believed that no book up to that time had portrayed the whaling industry in as fascinating or immediate a way as he had experienced it. Since Romantics such as Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley had greatly influenced him from an early age, he hoped to emulate them with a book that was compelling and vivid both emotionally and poetically. Early Romantics also proposed that fiction was the exemplary way to describe and record history (after all, Walter Scott had invented the historical novel, and almost all of Irving's work had the trappings of history), so Melville wanted to craft something educational and definitive. However, despite his own interest in the subject, Melville claimed to struggle with it, writing to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. on May 1, 1850:

I am half way in the work ... It will be a strange sort of book, tho', I fear; blubber is blubber you know; tho' you might get oil out of it, the poetry runs as hard as sap from a frozen maple tree; — and to cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy, which from the nature of the thing, must be ungainly as the gambols of the whales themselves. Yet I mean to give the truth of the thing, spite of this.[14]

Themes

Moby-Dick is a symbolic work, but also includes chapters on natural history. Major themes include obsession, religion, idealism versus pragmatism, revenge, racism, sanity, hierarchical relationships, and politics. All of the members of the crew have biblical-sounding, improbable, or descriptive names, and the narrator deliberately avoids specifying the exact time of the events (such as the giant whale disappearing into the dark abyss of the ocean) and some other similar details. These together suggest that the narrator — and not just Melville — is deliberately casting his tale in an epic and allegorical mode.[citation needed]

The white whale has also been seen as a symbol for many things, including nature and those elements of life that are out of human control.Ch 42 The character Gabriel, "in his gibbering insanity, pronounc[ed] the White Whale to be no less a being than the Shaker God incarnated; the Shakers receiving the Bible."[15]. Melville mentions the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu, the first among ten incarnations when Vishnu appears as a giant fish on Earth and saves creation from the flood of destruction. Melville mentions this while discussing the spiritual and mystical aspects of the sailing profession and he calls Lord Vishnu as the first among whales and the God of whalers.

The Pequod's quest to hunt down Moby Dick itself is also widely viewed as allegorical. To Ahab, killing the whale becomes the ultimate goal in his life, and this observation can also be expanded allegorically so that the whale represents everyone's goals. Furthermore, his vengeance against the whale is analogous to man's struggle against fate. The only escape from Ahab's vision is seen through the Pequod's occasional encounters, called gams, with other ships. Readers could consider what exactly Ahab will do if he, in fact, succeeds in his quest: having accomplished his ultimate goal, what else is there left for him to do? Similarly, Melville may be implying that people in general need something to reach for in life, or that such a goal can destroy one if allowed to overtake all other concerns. Some such things are hinted at early on in the book, when the main character, Ishmael, is sharing a cold bed with his newfound friend, Queequeg:

... truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.
Moby-Dick, Ch. 11 [4]

Ahab's pipe is widely looked upon as the riddance of happiness in Ahab's life. By throwing the pipe overboard, Ahab signifies that he no longer can enjoy simple pleasures in life; instead, he dedicates his entire life to the pursuit of his obsession, the killing of the white whale, Moby Dick. A number of biblical themes can also be found in the novel. The book contains multiple implicit and explicit allusions to the story of Jonah, in addition to the use of certain biblical names (see below).

Ishmael's musings also allude to themes common among the American Transcendentalists and parallel certain themes in European Romanticism and the philosophy of Hegel. In the poetry of Whitman and the prose writings of Emerson and Thoreau, a ship at sea is sometimes a metaphor for the soul.

Plot

"Call me Ishmael," Moby-Dick begins, in one of the most recognizable opening lines in English-language literature. The narrator, an observant young man setting out from Manhattan, has experience in the merchant marine but has recently decided his next voyage will be on a whaling ship. On a cold, gloomy night in December, he arrives at the Spouter-Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and agrees to share a bed with a then-absent stranger. When his bunk mate, a heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner named Queequeg, returns very late and discovers Ishmael beneath his covers, both men are alarmed, but the two quickly become close friends and decide to sail together from Nantucket, Massachusetts on a whaling voyage.

In Nantucket, the pair signs on with the Pequod, a whaling ship that is soon to leave port. The ship’s captain, Ahab, is nowhere to be seen; nevertheless, they are told of him – a "grand, ungodly, godlike man,"[16] according to one of the owners, who has "been in colleges as well as 'mong the cannibals." The two friends encounter a mysterious man named Elijah on the dock after they sign their papers and he hints at troubles to come with Ahab. The mystery grows on Christmas morning when Ishmael spots dark figures in the mist, apparently boarding the Pequod shortly before it sets sail that day.

The ship’s officers direct the early voyage while Ahab stays in his cabin. The chief mate is Starbuck, a serious, sincere Quaker and fine leader; second mate is Stubb, happy-go-lucky and cheerful and always smoking his pipe; the third mate is Flask, short and stout but thoroughly reliable. Each mate is responsible for a whaling boat, and each whaling boat of the Pequod has its own pagan harpooneer assigned to it. Some time after sailing, Ahab finally appears on the quarter-deck one morning, an imposing, frightening figure whose haunted visage sends shivers over the narrator. (A white scar, reportedly from a thunderbolt, runs down his face and it is hinted that it continues the length of his body.) One of his legs is missing from the knee down and has been replaced by a prosthesis fashioned from a sperm whale's jawbone.

Soon gathering the crewmen together, with a rousing speech Ahab secures their support for his single, secret purpose for this voyage: hunting down and killing Moby Dick, an old, very large sperm whale, with a snow-white hump and mottled skin, that crippled Ahab on his last whaling voyage. Only Starbuck shows any sign of resistance to the charismatic but monomaniacal captain. The first mate argues repeatedly that the ship’s purpose should be to hunt whales for their oil, with luck returning home profitably, safely, and quickly, but not to seek out and kill Moby Dick in particular – and especially not for revenge. Eventually even Starbuck acquiesces to Ahab's will, though harboring misgivings.

The mystery of the dark figures seen before the Pequod set sail is explained during the voyage's first lowering for whales. Ahab has secretly brought along his own boat crew, including a mysterious harpooneer named Fedallah, an inscrutable figure with a sinister influence over Ahab. Later, while watching one night over a captured whale carcass, Fedallah darkly prophecies to Ahab hints regarding their twin deaths.

The novel describes numerous "gams," social meetings of two ships on the open sea. Crews normally visit each other during a gam, captains on one vessel and chief mates on the other. Mail may be exchanged and the men talk of whale sightings or other news. For Ahab, however, there is but one relevant question to ask of another ship: “Hast seen the White Whale?” After meeting several other whaling ships, which have their own peculiar stories, the Pequod enters the Pacific Ocean. Queequeg becomes deathly ill and requests that a coffin be built for him by the ship’s carpenter. Just as everyone has given up hope, Queequeg changes his mind, deciding to live after all, and recovers quickly. His coffin becomes his sea chest, and is later caulked and pitched to replace the Pequod's life buoy.

Soon word is heard from other whalers of Moby Dick. The jolly Captain Boomer of the Samuel Enderby has lost an arm to the whale, and is stunned at Ahab's burning need for revenge. Next they meet the Rachel, which has seen Moby Dick very recently. As a result of the encounter, one of its boats is missing; the captain’s youngest son had been aboard. The Rachel's captain begs Ahab to aid in the search for the missing boat, but Ahab is resolute. The Pequod’s captain is very near the White Whale now and will not stop to help. Finally the Delight is met, even as its captain buries a sailor who had been killed by Moby Dick. Starbuck begs Ahab one final time to reconsider his thirst for vengeance, but to no avail.

The next day, the Pequod meets Moby Dick. For two days, the Pequod's crew pursues the whale, which wreaks widespread destruction, including the disappearance of Fedallah. On the third day, Moby Dick rises up to reveal Fedallah tied to him by harpoon ropes, clearly dead. Even after the initial battle on the third day, as Moby Dick swims away from the Pequod, Starbuck exhorts Ahab one last time to desist, observing that "Moby-Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!"

Ahab ignores this voice of reason and continues with his ill-fated chase. As the three boats sail out to hunt him, Moby Dick damages two of them, forcing them to go back to the ship and leaving only Ahab's vessel intact. Ahab harpoons the whale, but the harpoon-line breaks. Moby Dick then rams the Pequod itself, which begins to sink. As Ahab harpoons the whale again, the unfolding harpoon-line catches him around his neck and he is dragged into the depths of the sea by the diving Moby Dick. The boat is caught up in the whirlpool of the sinking ship, which takes almost all the crew to their deaths. Only Ishmael survives, clinging to Queequeg’s coffin-turned-life buoy for an entire day and night before the Rachel rescues him.

Characters

The crew-members of the Pequod are carefully drawn stylizations of human types and habits; critics have often described the crew as a "self-enclosed universe".

Ishmael

The name has come to symbolize orphans, exiles, and social outcasts — in the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, Ishmael tells the reader that he has turned to the sea out of a feeling of alienation from human society. In the last line of the book, Ishmael also refers to himself symbolically as an orphan. Maintaining the Biblical connection and emphasising the representation of outcasts, Ishmael is also the name of the son Abraham has with the slave girl Hagar before Isaac is born. In Genesis 21:10 Abraham's wife, Sarah, has Hagar and Ishmael exiled into the desert. Ishmael has a rich literary background (he has previously been a schoolteacher), which he brings to bear on his shipmates and events that occur while at sea.

Elijah

The character Elijah (named for the Biblical prophet, Elijah, who is also referred to in the King James Bible as Elias), on learning that Ishmael and Queequeg have signed onto Ahab's ship, asks, "Anything down there about your souls?" When Ishmael reacts with surprise, Elijah continues:

"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly. "No matter though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any — good luck to 'em; and they are all the better off for it. A soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."[5]

Later in the conversation, Elijah adds:

"Well, well, what's signed, is signed; and what's to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it wont be, after all. Any how, it's all fixed and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em! Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I'm sorry I stopped ye."[6]

Ahab

Ahab is the tyrannical captain of the Pequod who is driven by a monomaniacal desire to kill Moby Dick, the whale that maimed him on the previous whaling voyage. Despite the fact that he's a Quaker, he seeks revenge in defiance of his religion's well-known pacifism. Ahab's name comes directly from the Bible (see 1 Kings 16:28).

Little information is provided about Ahab's life prior to meeting Moby Dick, although it is known that he was orphaned at a young age. When discussing the purpose of his quest with Starbuck, it is revealed that he first began whaling at eighteen and has continued in the trade for forty years, having spent less than three on land. He also mentions his "girl-wife," whom he married late in life, and their young son, but does not give their names.

In Ishmael's first encounter with Ahab's name, he responds "When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?" (Moby-Dick, Chapter 16).[17]

Ahab ultimately dooms the crew of the Pequod (save for Ishmael) to death by his obsession with Moby Dick. During the final chase, Ahab hurls his final harpoon while yelling his now-famous revenge line:

... to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.

The harpoon becomes lodged in Moby Dick's flesh and Ahab, caught around the neck by a loop in his own harpoon's rope and unable to free himself, is dragged into the cold oblivion of the sea with the injured whale. The mechanics of Ahab's death are richly symbolic. He is literally killed by his own harpoon, and symbolically killed by his own obsession with revenge. The whale eventually destroys the whaleboats and crew, and sinks the Pequod.

Ahab has the qualities of a tragic hero — a great heart and a fatal flaw — and his deeply philosophical ruminations are expressed in language that is not only deliberately lofty and Shakespearian, but also so heavily iambic as often to read like Shakespeare's own pentameters.

Ahab's motivation for hunting Moby Dick is perhaps best summed up in the following passage:

The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil; -- Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.

Mates

The three mates of the Pequod are all from New England.

Starbuck

Starbuck, the young first mate of the Pequod, is a thoughtful and intellectual Quaker from Nantucket.

Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organization seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance... [H]is far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tend[ed] to bend him ... from the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. "I will have no man in my boat," said Starbuck, "who is not afraid of a whale." By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.
Moby-Dick, Ch. 26

Little is said about Starbuck's early life, except that he is married with a son. Unlike Ahab's wife, who remains nameless, Starbuck gives his wife's name as Mary. Such is his desire to return to them, that when nearly reaching the last leg of their quest for Moby Dick, he considers arresting or even killing Ahab with a loaded musket, one of several which is kept by Ahab (in a previous chapter Ahab threatens Starbuck with one when Starbuck disobeys him, despite Starbuck's being in the right) and turning the ship back, straight for home.

Starbuck is alone among the crew in objecting to Ahab's quest, declaring it madness to want revenge on an animal, which lacks reason. Starbuck advocates continuing the more mundane pursuit of whales for their oil. But he lacks the support of the crew in his opposition to Ahab, and is unable to persuade them to turn back. Despite his misgivings, he feels himself bound by his obligations to obey the captain.

Starbuck was an important Quaker family name on Nantucket Island, and there were several actual whalemen of this period named "Starbuck," as evidenced by the name of Starbuck Island in the South Pacific whaling grounds. The multinational coffee chain Starbucks was named after Starbuck, not for any affinity for coffee but after the name Pequod was rejected by one of the co-founders.

Stubb

Stubb, the second mate of the Pequod, is from Cape Cod, and always seems to have a pipe in his mouth and a smile on his face. "Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his whaleboat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner, and his crew all invited guests." (Moby-Dick, Ch. 27) Although he is not an educated man, Stubb is remarkably articulate, and during whale hunts keeps up an imaginative patter reminiscent of that of some characters in Shakespeare. Scholarly portrayals range from that of an optimistic simpleton to a paragon of lived philosophic wisdom.[18]

Flask

Flask is the third mate of the Pequod. He is from Martha's Vineyard.

King Post is his nickname because he is a short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales, who somehow seemed to think that the great Leviathans had personally and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of honor with him, to destroy them whenever encountered.
Moby-Dick, Ch. 27

Harpooneers

The harpooneers of the Pequod are all non-Christians from various parts of the world. Each serves on a mate's boat.

Queequeg

Queequeg hails from the fictional island of Rokovoko in the South Seas, inhabited by a cannibal tribe, and is the son of the chief of his tribe. Since leaving the island, he has become extremely skilled with the harpoon. He befriends Ishmael very early in the novel, when they meet in New Bedford, Massachusetts before leaving for Nantucket. He is described as existing in a state between civilized and savage. For example, Ishmael recounts with amusement how Queequeg feels it necessary to hide himself when pulling on his boots, noting that if he were a savage he wouldn't consider boots necessary, but if he were completely civilized he would realize there was no need to be modest when pulling on his boots.

Queequeg is the harpooneer on Starbuck's boat, where Ishmael is also an oarsman. Queequeg is best friends with Ishmael in the story. He is prominent early in the novel, but later fades in significance, as does Ishmael.

Tashtego

Tashtego is described as a Native American harpooneer. The personification of the hunter, he turns from hunting land animals to hunting whales. Tashtego is the harpooneer on Stubb's boat.

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers.
Moby-Dick, Ch.27

Daggoo

Daggoo is a gigantic African harpooneer from a coastal village with a noble bearing and grace. He is the harpooneer on Flask's boat.

Fedallah

Fedallah is the harpooneer on Ahab's boat. He is of Indian Zoroastrian ("Parsi") descent. Because of descriptions of him having lived in China, he might have been among the great wave of Parsi traders who made their way to Hong Kong and the Far East from India during the mid-19th century. At the time when the Pequod sets sail, Fedallah is hidden on board, and he emerges with Ahab's boat's crew later on, to the surprise of the crew. Fedallah is referred to in the text as Ahab's "Dark Shadow." Ishmael calls him a "fire worshipper" and the crew speculates that he is a devil in man's disguise. He is the source of a variety of prophecies regarding Ahab and his hunt for Moby Dick.

Tall and smart, with one white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and coiled round and round upon his head.
Moby-Dick, Ch.48

Other notable characters

Pip (nicknamed "Pippin," but "Pip" for short) is a black boy from Tolland County, Connecticut who is "the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew". Because he is physically slight, he is made a ship-keeper, (a sailor who stays in the Pequod while its whaleboats go out). Ishmael contrasts him with the "dull and torpid in his intellects" — and paler and much older — steward Dough-Boy, describing Pip as "over tender-hearted" but "at bottom very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to his tribe". Ishmael goes so far as to chastise the reader: "Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets."[19]

The after-oarsman on Stubb's boat is injured, however, so Pip is temporarily reassigned to Stubb's whaleboat crew. The first time out, Pip jumps from the boat, causing Stubb and Tashtego to lose their already-harpooned whale. Tashtego and the rest of the crew are furious; Stubb chides him "officially" and "unofficially", even raising the specter of slavery: "a whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama". The next time a whale is sighted, Pip again jumps overboard and is left stranded in the "awful lonesomeness" of the sea while Stubb's and the others' boats are dragged along by their harpooned whales. By the time he is rescued, he has become (at least to the other sailors) "an idiot", "mad". Ishmael, however, thought Pip had a mystical experience: "So man's insanity is heaven's sense." Pip and his experience are crucial because they serve as foreshadowing, in Ishmael's words "providing the sometimes madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever accompanying prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her own." Pip's madness is full of poetry and eloquence; he is reminiscent of Tom in King Lear.[19] Ahab later sympathizes with Pip and takes the young boy under his wing.

Dough-boy is the pale, nervous steward of the ship. The Cook (Fleece), Blacksmith (Perth) and Carpenter of the ship are each highlighted in at least one chapter near the end of the book. Fleece, a very old African-American with bad knees, is presented in the chapter "Stubb Kills a Whale" at some length in a dialogue where Stubb good-humoredly takes him to task over how to prepare a variety of dishes from the whale's carcass.

The crew as a whole is exceedingly international, having constituents from both the United States and the world. Chapter 40, "Midnight, Forecastle," highlights, in its stage-play manner (in Shakespearean style), the striking variety in the sailors' origins. A partial list of the speakers includes sailors from the Isle of Man, France, Iceland, Holland, the Azores, Sicily and Malta, China, Denmark, Portugal, India, England, Spain, Chile and Ireland.

Critical reception

Melville's expectations

In a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne written within days of Moby-Dick's American publication, Melville made a number of revealing comments:

... for not one man in five cycles, who is wise, will expect appreciative recognition from his fellows, or any one of them. Appreciation! Recognition! Is Jove appreciated? Why, ever since Adam, who has got to the meaning of his great allegory—the world? Then we pigmies must be content to have our paper allegories but ill comprehended. I say your appreciation is my glorious gratuity.[20]

A sense of unspeakable security is in me this moment, on account of your understanding the book. I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable sociabilities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon. It is a strange feeling—no hopefulness is in it, no despair. Content—that is it; and irresponsibility; but without licentious inclination. I speak now of my profoundest sense of being, not of an incidental feeling.[21]

You did not care a penny for the book. But, now and then as you read, you understood the pervading thought that impelled the book—and that you praised. Was it not so? You were archangel enough to despise the imperfect body, and embrace the soul.[22]

Contemporary

Moby-Dick received decidedly mixed reviews from critics at the time it was published. Since the book first appeared in England, the American literary establishment took note of what the English critics said, especially when these critics were attached to the more prestigious journals. Although many critics praised it for its unique style, interesting characters and poetic language,[23] others agreed with a critic for the highly regarded London Athenaeum, who described it as: "[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."[23]

One problem was that publisher Peter Bentley botched the English edition, most significantly in omitting the (somewhat perfunctory[citation needed]) epilogue. For this reason, many of the critics faulted the book on what little they could grasp of it, namely on purely formal grounds, e.g., how the tale could have been told if no one survived to tell it. The generally bad reviews from across the ocean made American readers skittish about picking up the tome. Still, a handful of American critics saw much more in it than most of their U.S. and English colleagues. Hawthorne said of the book: "What a book Melville has written! It gives me an idea of much greater power than his preceding ones".[24] Perhaps the most perceptive review came from the pen of Evert Augustus Duyckinck, a friend of Melville who was able to introduce Melville to Hawthorne.

Underground

Within a year after Melville's death, Moby-Dick, along with Typee, Omoo and Mardi, was reprinted by Harper & Brothers, giving it a chance to be rediscovered. However, only New York's literary underground seemed to take much interest, just enough to keep Melville's name circulating for the next 25 years in the capital of American publishing. During this time, a few critics were willing to devote time, space, and a modicum of praise to Melville and his works, or at least those that could still be fairly easily obtained or remembered. Other works, especially the poetry, went largely forgotten.[25]

Then came World War I and its consequences, particularly the shaking or destruction of faith in so many aspects of Western civilization, all of which caused people concerned with culture and its potential redemptive value to experiment with new aesthetic techniques. The stage was set for Melville to find his place.

The Melville Revival

With the burgeoning of Modernist aesthetics (see Modernism and American modernism) and the war that tore everything apart still so fresh in memory, Moby-Dick began to seem increasingly relevant. Many of Melville's techniques echo those of Modernism: kaleidoscopic, hybrid in genre and tone, monumentally ambitious in trying to unite so many disparate elements and loose ends. His new readers also found in him an almost too-profound exploration of violence, hunger for power, and quixotic goals. Although many critics of this time still considered Moby-Dick extremely difficult to come to grips with, they largely saw this lack of easy understanding as an asset rather than a liability.[citation needed]

In 1917, American author Carl Van Doren became the first of this period to proselytize about Melville's value.[citation needed]

In the 1920s, British literary critics began to take notice. In his idiosyncratic but landmark Studies in Classic American Literature, novelist, poet, and short story writer D. H. Lawrence directed Americans' attention to the great originality and value of many American authors, among them Melville. Perhaps most surprising is that Lawrence saw Moby-Dick as a work of the first order despite his using the original English edition.[25]

In his 1921 study, The American Novel, Carl Van Doren returns to Melville with much more depth. Here he calls Moby-Dick a pinnacle of American Romanticism.[25]

Post-revival

The next great wave of Moby-Dick appraisal came with the publication of F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman.[26] Published in 1941, the book proposed that Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville were the most prominent figures of a flowering of conflicted (and mostly pre-Civil War) literature important for its promulgation of democracy and the exploration of its possibilities, successes, and failures. Since Matthiessen's book came out shortly before the entry of the U.S. into World War II, the end of which found the U.S. in possession of the atomic bomb and thus a superpower, critic Nick Selby argues that

Moby-Dick was now read as a text that reflected the power struggles of a world concerned to uphold democracy, and of a country seeking an identity for itself within that world.[27]


On October 9, 2008, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill naming Moby-Dick Massachusetts' official “epic novel.”[28]

Adaptations

Editions

  • Melville, H. The Whale. London: Richard Bentley, 1851 3 vols. (viii, 312; iv, 303; iv, 328 pp.) Published October 18, 1851.
  • Melville, H., Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1851. xxiii, 635 pages. Published probably on November 14, 1851.
  • Melville, H. Moby-Dick, or The Whale. Northwestern-Newberry Edition of the Writings of Herman Melville 6. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern U. Press, 1988. A scholarly edition with full textual apparatus. This text has been reprinted in other editions.
  • Melville, H. Moby-Dick, or The Whale Arion Press, San Francisco, 1979, illustrated with 100 wood engravings by Barry Moser. Edition of 265, of which 250 were for sale. One of the most noted fine book editions of 20th century America, recognized by the Grolier Club as one of the 100 most beautiful books of the century.[29]
  • Melville, H., Moby Dick; or The Whale. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1981. A reduced version of the Arion Press Edition with 100 illustrations by Barry Moser.
  • Melville, H., Moby-Dick The Folio Society 2009. A Limited Edition with 281 illustrations by Rockwell Kent.

See also

References

  1. ^ Beaver, Harold. "On the Composition of Moby-Dick" (1972), 17, in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, ed. Harold Beaver. New York: Penguin (1972; reprint 1986), 17. ISBN 0-14-43082-2.
  2. ^ Beaver, 17.
  3. ^ Mary K. Bercaw, "A Fine, Boisterous Something": Nantucket in Moby-Dick, Historic Nantucket, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Fall 1991); Philip Armstrong, What animals mean in the fiction of modernity, Routledge, 2008, p.132
  4. ^ Reynolds, J. N. "Mocha Dick, or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal" (May, 1839), in Appendix to Moby-Dick, ed. Harold Beaver (op cit.). pp. 991-1,011.
  5. ^ Delbanco, Andrew. Melville, His World and Work. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005: 167–168. ISBN 0-375-40314-0
  6. ^ Reynolds, J. N., 1,000.
  7. ^ Whipple, ibid, p66
  8. ^ Whipple, ibid, p72
  9. ^ ABC Whipple, Yankee Whalers in the South Seas, Doubleday, 1954, pp 66-72
  10. ^ ibid, p79
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ ABC Whipple, Yankee Whalers in the South Seas, Doubleday, 1954
  14. ^ Herman Melville, from Norton Critical Edition (2002), 532.
  15. ^ http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/moby/moby_071.html
  16. ^ Page 96 of Moby-Dick at Google Books
  17. ^ "Chapter xvi — THE SHIP". Princeton.edu. http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/moby/moby_016.html. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  18. ^ Dagovitz, Alan. "Moby Dick's Hidden Philosopher: A Second Look at Stubb" in Philosophy and Literature Oct 2008
  19. ^ a b All quotes are taken from Chapter 93, "The Castaway".
  20. ^ Melville, Herman. Correspondence, ed. by Lynn Horth. Evanston, IL and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library (1993), 212. Paperback ISBN 0-8101-0995-6. Horth tentatively dates the letter November 17, 1851.
  21. ^ Correspondence, 212.
  22. ^ Correspondence, 212-213.
  23. ^ a b "A page from The Life and Works of Herman Melville"
  24. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991: 354. ISBN 0877453322.
  25. ^ a b c "Chapter 3. Romances of Adventure. Section 2. Herman Melville. Van Doren, Carl. 1921. The American Novel". Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/187/5.html. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  26. ^ Selby, Nick, author and editor. Herman Melville's, Moby-Dick (Columbia Critical Guides series). New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. pp. 51-52. ISBN 0-231-11538-5.
  27. ^ Selby, 53.
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ Bromer Booksellers - Highlights from Catalogue 127: An Extraordinary Gathering

External links

  • Music
    • Ahab - Song by MC Lars based on Moby Dick

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851) is a novel by Herman Melville, in which the sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby-Dick.

Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?

Contents

Loomings (1)

Meditation and water are wedded for ever...
We ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
  • Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.
  • Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.
  • Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
  • The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us.

The Carpet-Bag (2)

  • As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as well be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing.
  • It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the preacher's text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out, Wretched entertainment at the sign of 'The Trap!'

The Spouter-Inn (3)

  • Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

The Sermon (9)

Delight is to him — a far, far upward, and inward delight — who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self.
  • But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the kelson is low? Delight is to him — a far, far upward, and inward delight — who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self.
I have no objection to any person’s religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don’t believe it also.
  • And eternal delight and deliciousness will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final breath — O Father! — chiefly known to me by Thy rod — mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world’s, or mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

A Bosom Friend (10)

  • How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg — a cosy, loving pair.

Nightgown (11)

  • The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.

Nantucket (14)

  • With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.

The Ramadan (17)

  • I have no objection to any person’s religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when a man’s religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.
  • In one word, Queequeg, said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.
  • I do not think that my remarks about religion made much impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered from his own point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more than one third understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true religion than I did. He looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and compassion, as though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible young man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.

The Advocate (24)

A whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.
  • And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small but high hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors, find any precious MSS. in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling; for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

Knights and Squires (26)

  • Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commoners; bear me out in it, O God!

Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb (29)

  • Damn me, it's worth a fellow's while to be born into the world, if only to fall right asleep. And now that I think of it, that's about the first thing babies do, and that's a sort of queer, too. Damn me, but all things are queer, come to think of 'em. But that's against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth — So here goes again.
    • Stubb, to himself after being cursed at by Ahab.
  • Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.

The Specksynder (33)

  • This it is, that for ever keeps God’s true princes of the Empire from the world’s hustings; and leaves the highest honors that this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.

The Mast-Head (35)

  • Let me make a clean breast of it here, and frankly admit that I kept but sorry guard. With the problem of the universe revolving in me, how could I - being left completely to myself at such a thought-engendering altitude, - how could I but lightly hold my obligations to observe all whale-ships' standing orders, "Keep your weather eye open, and sing out every time."
  • There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

The Quarter-Deck (36)

  • "But what's this long face about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt thou not chase the white whale! art not game for Moby Dick?"

    "I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market."

    "Nantucket market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck; thou requirest a little lower layer. If money's to be the measurer, man, and the accountants have computed their great counting-house the globe, by girdling it with guineas, one to every three parts of an inch; then, let me tell thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium here!"

    "He smites his chest," whispered Stubb, "what's that for? methinks it rings most vast, but hollow."

    • Colloquy between Ahab and Starbuck, with commentary by Stubb
Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me.
  • All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth hath no confines.
    • Ahab to Starbuck
  • "Aye, aye! It was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!" Then tossing both arms, with measureless imprecations he shouted out: "Aye, aye! and I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out."
    • Ahab

Sunset (37)

  • Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents' beds, unerringly I rush! Naught's an obstacle, naught's an angle to the iron way!

Moby-Dick (41)

All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick.
  • All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.

The Whiteness of The Whale (42)

The mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself...
  • What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he was to me, as yet remains unsaid.
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way?
  • Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — every stately or lovely emblazoning — the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge — pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

Surmises (46)

  • To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order.

Brit (58)

  • Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!

The Whale as a Dish (65)

  • No doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras.

The Blanket (68)

  • It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own. But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections, how few are domed like St. Peter's! of creatures, how few vast as the whale!

The Sphynx (70)

O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.
  • O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.
  • "Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed — while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!

The Try-Works (96)

  • Opposite the mouth of the works, on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the windlass. This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forking upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into the blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander's soul.
  • So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true — not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe.
  • Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

The Doubloon (99)

  • Look you, Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter; and now I'll read it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack! To begin: there's Aries, or the Ram — lecherous dog, he begets us; then, Taurus, or the Bull — he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the Twins — that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path — he gives a few fierce bites and surly dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin! that's our first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes Libra, or the Scales — happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or the Scorpion, stings us in rear; we are curing the wound, when whang come the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside; here's the battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep. There's a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive and hearty.

The Fossil Whale (104)

One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan?
  • One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.
  • The skeleton of the whale furnishes but little clue to the shape of his fully invested body.

The Carpenter (107)

  • Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.

Queequeg in His Coffin (110)

  • With a wild whimsiness, he now used his coffin for a sea-chest; and emptying into it his canvas bag of clothes, set them in order there. Many spare hours he spent, in carving the lid with all manner of grotesque figures and drawings; and it seemed that hereby he was striving, in his rude way, to copy parts of the twisted tattooing on his body. And this tattooing had been the work of a departed prophet and seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth; so that Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in one volume; but whose mysteries not even himself could read, though his own live heart beat against them; and these mysteries were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last.
  • Of all mortals, some dying men are the most tyrannical; and certainly, since they will shortly trouble us so little for evermore, the poor fellows ought to be indulged.

The Pacific (111)

Here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.
  • There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seems to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

The Forge (113)

  • "Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!," deliriously howled Ahab, as the malignant iron scorchingly devoured the baptismal blood.

The Gilder (114)

  • There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: — through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.

The Candles (119)

No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral mastery in me. In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.
  • I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and I now know that thy right worship is defiance. To neither love nor reverence wilt thou be kind; and e'en for hate thou canst but kill; and all are killed. No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral mastery in me. In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here. Though but a point at best; whencesoe'er I came; wheresoe'er I go; yet while I earthly live, the queenly personality lives in me, and feels her royal rights. But war is pain, and hate is woe. Come in thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at thy highest, come as mere supernal power; and though thou launchest navies of full-freighted worlds, there's that in here that still remains indifferent. Oh, thou clear spirit, of thy fire thou madest me, and like a true child of fire, I breathe it back to thee.
  • The lightning flashes through my skull; mine eye-balls ache and ache; my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground. Oh, oh! Yet blindfold, yet will I talk to thee. Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darkness leaping out of light, leaping out of thee!
  • Oh, thou magnanimous! now I do glory in my genealogy. But thou art but my fiery father; my sweet mother, I know not. Oh, cruel! what hast thou done with her? There lies my puzzle; but thine is greater. Thou knowest not how came ye, hence callest thyself unbegotten; certainly knowest not thy beginning, hence callest thyself unbegun. I know that of me, which thou knowest not of thyself, oh, thou omnipotent. There is some unsuffusing thing beyond thee, thou clear spirit, to whom all thy eternity is but time, all thy creativeness mechanical. Through thee, thy flaming self, my scorched eyes do dimly see it. Oh, thou foundling fire, thou hermit immemorial, thou too hast thy incommunicable riddle, thy unparticipated grief. Here again with haughty agony, I read my sire. Leap! leap up, and lick the sky! I leap with thee; I burn with thee; would fain be welded with thee; defyingly I worship thee!

The Symphony (132)

Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?
  • What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea!
  • Who’s to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar?
  • It is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the airs smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay.

The Chase - Third Day (135)

The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth? — Because one did survive the wreck...
  • An old, old sight, and yet somehow so young; aye, and not changed a wink since I first saw it, a boy, from the sand-hills of Nantucket! The same — the same! — the same to Noah as to me. There’s a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely leewardings! They must lead somewhere — to something else than common land, more palmy than the palms.
  • Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
  • A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that ethereal thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it. Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

Epilogue

  • The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth? — Because one did survive the wreck.
  • On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.

External links

  • Moby-Dick quotes analyzed; study guide, themes, character analysis, teacher resources
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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Moby-Dick
by Herman Melville
Information about this edition
Moby-Dick is an 1851 novel by Herman Melville. It describes the ill-fated voyage of the whaling ship Pequod to find and destroy the eponymous white whale, driven by the obsessive Captain Ahab. The language is highly symbolic and many themes run throughout the work. The narrator's reflections, along with complex descriptions of the grueling work of whaling and personalities of his shipmates, are woven into a profound meditation on hubris, providence, nature, society, and the human struggle for meaning, happiness and salvation. Moby-Dick is often considered the epitome of American Romanticism.
— Excerpted from Moby-Dick on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.


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Contents

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Alternative spellings

Proper noun

Moby-Dick

  1. A work originally titled The Whale in 1851 by Herman Melville, a highly symbolic story about a whaling ship led by Captain Ahab, which begins “Call me Ishmael.”
  2. The elusive white whale hunted in this novel.

Simple English

Moby Dick is a novel by Herman Melville, first published in 1851. It is the story of a trip the wandering sailor Ishmael takes on the whaling ship Pequod, which is led by Captain Ahab. Ahab is seeking revenge on Moby Dick, a great white whale (believed to be a Sperm Whale) which has bitten his leg off. It is often regarded as the great American novel.









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