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Moby Dick

Herman Melville

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Penguin Classics

Published : 2007, 1851

Copyright : Penguin Classics 2007

ISBN-10 : PB 0-14-062062-1
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-14-062062-7

Publisher's Write-Up

It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it; So Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

About the Author:
Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbour of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby Dick. Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Shannon (050910) Rating (8/10)

Review by Shannon
Rating 8/10
The pursuit of vengeance can drive a person mad – literally. Ask anyone aboard the Pequod, a whaling ship captained by the unorthodox Captain Ahab. Ahab, haunted by the legendary 'White Whale' is in constant pursuit of him. From his strong declarations of hate for Moby Dick, the name given to the whale, to the deeply human moment when he is contemplating his place in the universe, Ahab is a strangely captivating character. Like an onion, layers of his personality are continually peeled back, exposing the rawest emotions of human nature.

Ishmael, on the other hand, is a stark contrast to Ahab. He is much more level-headed, with a tendency to think more than he speaks or does. Ishmael is ruled by his head, while Ahab follows his heart. Consequently, little information is readily offered about Ishmael. He easily explains the world of whaling to us, but we learn very few facts about his past. Put these two, along with three sceptical mates, three eager harpooners, a group of sailors who’ve been hidden away, and the rest of a whaling crew on a ship together and something’s bound to happen.

Yet nothing does during the beginning of the four-year voyage. The crew doesn’t even see their Captain until they have been out at sea for a while. He makes his debut with a rather serious speech. He introduces the ship to the purpose that the voyage has in his mind: to find and kill the White Whale. The harpooners are some of the few that have heard this name before. Moby Dick is the most feared whale in the world, yet the muse of many whaling captains. Not only would killing the whale bring glory, but the crew would be credited with removing a menace from the waters. These are not Captain Ahab’s motives though; he is haunted by the ghost of the whale that stole his leg years ago.

His obsession with the death of Moby Dick leads to many things aboard the ship, including the gift of a doubloon to the first one who spots the whale. When the white hump is finally seen, the crew has the chance to experience the wrath of the White Whale, and the tragedy that his harpoon-covered body can cause.

Moby Dick is a classic tale of the search for revenge, and the insane things humans will do to feel at peace.
Shannon (5th September 2010)

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