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Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick (1851)

by Herman Melville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
23,86137045 (3.82)6 / 1330
  1. 140
    The Sea Wolf by Jack London (wvlibrarydude)
  2. 130
    In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex tells the true story that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick.
  3. 90
    Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (_eskarina)
  4. 60
    Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Jr. Dana (knownever)
    knownever: A more enjoyable, shorter, and less allegorical story of sailing life, although there aren't any whales. The author of this one kind of looks down on whalers. All together a more jaunty sea tale.
  5. 50
    The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare (chrisharpe, John_Vaughan)
  6. 50
    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (caflores)
  7. 40
    The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (caflores)
  8. 41
    Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (John_Vaughan)
  9. 31
    Genoa: A Telling of Wonders by Paul Metcalf (alaskayo)
    alaskayo: Melville's heir struggles to close his relationship to his preceding literary genius. Click the link above, read what you can, and get yourself hooked on one of the most critically-adored yet criminally-underread novels written in a century defined by self-analysis and experimentation.… (more)
  10. 31
    Railsea by China Miéville (Longshanks)
    Longshanks: An imaginative, affectionate pastiche of the novel's themes, imagery, and characters.
  11. 20
    The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex by Owen Chase (meggyweg)
  12. 32
    Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (ateolf)
  13. 43
    Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (ecleirs24, AriadneAranea)
    ecleirs24: Cause this novel is based upon a passage from Mobi Dick......
  14. 22
    The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (GaryPatella)
    GaryPatella: Compared to Moby Dick, The Confidence Man is a much lighter read. But after ploughing through Moby Dick, this may be a welcome change. It is not as profound, but you also don't have to struggle through any of it. This is worth reading.
  15. 44
    Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (caflores)
    caflores: Para amantes del lenguaje náutico y de las descripciones detalladas.
  16. 11
    The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky (John_Vaughan)
  17. 11
    The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Ronoc)
  18. 11
    Oil! by Upton Sinclair (edwinbcn)
  19. 33
    The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays by Albert Camus (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: Camus was greatly influenced by Melville and in The Myth of Sisyphus mentions Moby-Dick as a truly absurd work. Reading Moby-Dick with Camus' absurd in mind gives a deeper, and very different insight than provided by the usual emphasis on Ahab's quest for revenge.… (more)
  20. 45
    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (JGKC)

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English (333)  Dutch (9)  Spanish (6)  German (6)  Italian (4)  Catalan (2)  Norwegian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  All (1)  Hungarian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All (369)
Showing 1-5 of 333 (next | show all)
This was my second reading of Moby-Dick and I still do not love the book! So much has been written about it since it regularly features in lists of the top 50 best books ever written and top ten lists of American novels. Moby-Dick has not always been a critical success and received mixed reviews when published in 1851. It was only with the advent of modernism some 70 years later, that it's perceived difficulties were seen as strengths and forerunners to the modernist movement. D H Lawrence was amongst the first of the British critics to acclaim it as a work of the first order. The difficulties that were apparent in that first publication are still there in the book today and although the modern reader will have absorbed many of them, for example; fragmentation of plot, use of intertextuality and themes of loss and madness, they still give the feel of a novel pushing the boundaries, almost experimental in its conception.

A major theme of the novel is the collection and use of knowledge as exemplified by many chapters on the anatomy, nature, habitat and man's use of the living and dead whale. There are chapters too on the workings of a whale ship and details of the hazards in chasing their prey in the small whale boats. These chapters are interspersed with the narrative of Ahab's obsession with killing Moby-Dick and so there is a juxtaposition between the hunt for the white whale and a quest for knowledge. The information chapters then feed into the narrative and are themselves driven by it; the quest and the hunt. Rarely are the information/knowledge chapters less than fascinating reading. The narrator Ishmael/Melville's kleptomaniac use of metaphors, the richness of the prose and engrossing facts about whales and whaling should hold many readers attention while waiting for the story to continue. Some of Melville's best writing can be found in these chapters, for example "The Whiteness of the Whale"

"Bethink thee of the albatross: whence come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in the imagination? Not Coleridge first threw that spell: but God';s great, unflattering laureate, Nature
Most famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is that of the White Steed of the Prairies; a magnificent milk-white charger, large-eyed, small-headed, bluff-chested, and with the dignity of a thousand monarchs in his lofty, overscorning carriage. He was the elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those days were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies......."

This quest for knowledge allows Melville to display his own knowledge of literature, of which he takes full advantage. However engrossing these chapters may be they do interrupt the narrative flow and this has been perceived as one of the difficulties in reading Moby-Dick. Melville's syntax also presents some difficulties: all those commas. When reading I naturally pause when I come to a comma, but there are so many in patches of Melville's prose that it makes some sentences seem disjointed and ungainly.

It was a hard life on board a whaleship with voyages lasting three or four years as the search for whales to fill the casks with oil became more difficult, it was an environment where death was not unusual. It should be no surprise then that Melville; a whale man himself should not populate the Pequod with sympathetic characters. Only Starbuck and Queequeg are allowed to show much humanity; the narrator Ishmael of the famous first line becomes almost a non character when the Pequod leaves harbour. There is no love, no female characters and very little sense of finer feelings. This is indeed a man's world.

"You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps" was a popular slogan pinned to many work notice boards in the 1970's. It would certainly apply to the Pequod. Ahab the monomaniacal captain afflicted with his "fatal pride" is almost totally insane, his harpooneer Fedallah the "Dark Shadow" could be the devil incarnate. Pip the cabin boy loses his sanity completely and shacks up with Ahab and Stubb...........well he is blissfully unaware of how crazy he is. A conversation with Flask the third mate goes like this:

"Why don't you be sensible Flask? It's easy to be sensible; why don't ye, then? any man with half an eye can be sensible".
"I don't know that, Stubb. You sometimes find it rather hard."
(I don't think I have missed any of Melville's commas)

Melville's characters do not develop as such; they just get crazier and this craziness turns to madness as the mood gets darker the nearer they get to Moby-Dick. Melville leaves us in no doubt with his stage like portentions, hints and omens that the Pequod is heading towards it's doom. I felt no pity for them; my sympathies had a long time ago transferred to the white whale; that wondrous creature of nature so lovingly descibed by Ishmael.

It is good to be aware of Melvilles sense of humour and how he uses this to great effect in Moby Dick. The humour is there right at the start with Ishmael's discomfort about his sleeping arrangements with the cannibal. They become the best of friends in bed and Ishmael is driven to breaking down the door when Queequeg doesn't answer him, only to find in this instance that Queequeg has fallen into a meditative trance in front of a heathen idol and is oblivious of anything around him. Yes it is funny but it is also tinged with the theme of homo-eroticism that surfaces again later in the book. Melville skillfully uses humour to reflect more weighty themes and like all good humorists there is always some uncertainty about whether some incidents are meant to be funny. I found much to laugh at and in Stubb, Melville has created one of the great comic characters in literature

This is an American novel that reeks of the pioneer spirit. A melting pot of influences that spill out in Melville's prose. A new country bursting at the seams with new ideas and practical know-how and a thirst for knowledge. Old Europe appears dead in the water as the Pequod meets German, French and English whaleships on the open seas and none of them are spared the satire that comes from Melville's pen. They are redundant in the face of the new spirit of the Americans. This is also reflected in Melville's drive to produce a mighty book; one where he has the freedom to break from the confines of the European novel:

"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" (chapter 104: The Fossil Whale)

There is however a darker side to this relentless pushing ahead this unfettered freedom to achieve certain goals and maybe this is recognised by Melville. From my vantage point in the 21st century I can see a correlation between the whale hunts and the slaughter of the native Indians as land grabbing on the American continent was in full flow. The better equipped American soldiers were able to kill and plunder from the native Indians almost at will and it was only when they suffered a reverse that the Indians were named and branded as evil before being hunted down. The Indian wars were a feature of American life at the time Melville was writing and near the start of the novel there was that curious wigwam on board the Pequod.

Melville was a voracious reader of books and his extensive knowledge of them is evident throughout Moby-Dick. Shakespeare and the Bible were major reference points and and his re-interpretation of Jonah and the Whale in Father Mapple's sermon is a tour de force. There are many similar highlights throughout the novel and so many layers of meaning to be uncovered. I read the Penguin English Library Edition which has a commentary of notes stretching to 300 pages; enough to keep the amateur scholar busy through many a long night.

Moby-Dick is a thoroughly original novel, years ahead of its time. It bears re-reading as many times as you may wish to do so. It will continue to reveal new ideas, new meanings, new pleasures and new patches of wonderful writing that you may be amazed that you had not noticed before. It is a treasure-trove but alas I fear it is a novel that I will never love. Perhaps if I was an American................

. ( )
6 vote baswood | Dec 31, 2017 |
Plot? Who needs a plot in a novel the size of Moby Dick? Wouldn't anyone rather read many, many chapters about whale phrenology and fragmented streams of semi-random factoids, rumors and musings on whales, whalers and the 'noble' work of killing whales? There is a story embedded in this book, but it is as if Melville is doing everything he can to circumlocute around the story, only accidentally hinting at the action of the voyage to hunt Moby Dick, growing even more vague as Ahab finds the whale. I'm sure this is a classic only because so many people suffered through it and have to justify this unpleasant, unnecessary rite of passage by forcing it on younger readers. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
Definitely a classic. Some passages are wonderfully written. However, some of it can be a tough read for the modern audience. I found myself extremely interested in whales heading in, but less so after being bludgeoned with information on the minutiae of the industry. ( )
  Trotsky731 | Nov 22, 2017 |
With a lengthy commentary and photo section
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |
"Biblioteca Universal de Clásicos Juveniles"
  IICANA | Nov 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 333 (next | show all)
Forfatter: Herman Melville

Moby Dick I
«Kall meg Ismael. For noen år siden - akkurat når det var, er likegyldig - bestemte jeg meg for å gå til sjøs og lære verdenshavene å kjenne. Jeg hadde lite eller ingenting å leve av, og ikke noe særlig som interesserte meg på land. Gå til sjøs - på den måten har jeg ofte drevet tungsinn på flukt og regulert blodomløpet.»
Slik begynner verdens kanskje mest kjente roman, romanen som stiller de vanskeligste og viktigste spørsmål; om det ondes og godes natur og om viljens mulighet til å trosse skjebnen.

Moby Dick II
Historien om kaptein Akabs glødende hat til den hvite hvalen fortsetter:
«Riggen levde. Mastetoppene var som høye palmer, var vidt behengt med armer og ben. Enkelte av sjøfolkene klynget seg til spirene med den ene hånden, mens de utålmodig viftet med den andre. Noen satt ytterst ute på de gyngende rærne og skjermet øynene mot det skarpe solskinnet. Hele riggen var full av dødelige mennesker, rede og modne til å ta imot sin skjebne. Å, hvor de stirret ut gjennom det uendelige blå, for å oppdage det vesen som kanskje skulle ødelegge dem!»

Herman Melville
Herman Melville (1819-1891), amerikansk forfatter, essayist og poet. Melville blir ansett å være blant de fremste amerikanske forfattere gjennom tidene, og hans hovedverk Moby Dick (1851) regnes som en av verdenslitteraturens største romaner. Samtidens forfattere hadde gått på de «riktige» skolene, mens Melvilles bakgrunn var annerledes. Han ble født inn i en rikmannsfamilie, men måtte tidlig greie seg selv. Som ung gutt gikk han til sjøs og sa senere; «havet ble mitt universitet». Melville hadde store reiser og merkelig eventyr bak seg da Moby Dick kom ut. Han hadde seilt i over fire år, var to ganger rundt Kapp Horn og hadde levd blant kannibaler etter at han deserterte på Marquesas-øyene. Melville kjente virkelig til det livet han beskriver i boken, et farefullt liv i jakten på havets gull, spermasetthvalens verdifulle olje.
added by KystbiblioteketOslo | editFlyt Forlag, Anne Nygren

» Add other authors (165 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Melville, Hermanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, Mortimer J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beaver, Harold LowtherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buhlert, KlausDirectorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Agostino, NemiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delbanco, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fadiman, CliftonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hewgill, JodyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jendis, MatthiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kent, RockwellIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meynell, ViolaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, BarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mummendey, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmer, GarrickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pavese, CesareTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quirk, TomCommentarysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rathjen, FriedhelmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, BoardmanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaeffer, MeadIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutcliffe, DenhamAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walcutt, Charles ChildEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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There Leviathan, Hugest of living creatures, in the deep
Stretch'd like a promontory sleeps or swims,
And seems a moving land; and at his gills
Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.
In token

of my admiration for his genius,

This Book is Inscribed


Nathaniel Hawthorne.
First words
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.
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. ...from Chapter 1 : Loomings
"If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with 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 put 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.
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine adaptations or abridged editions of Moby Dick with unabridged versions. Versions aimed at children are normally abridged editions and should not be combined here. Also, books ABOUT Moby Dick (such as study guides) should not be combined with the unabridged nor the abridged novel. Please keep such books as an independent work.
The ISBN 9025463312 is shared with a different work.
The Penguin Classics 150th Anniversary Ed (ISBN 0142000086) is not abridged, although that word has appeared in some user's data.
Norton Critical editions, Longman Critical editions and other scholarly editions should not be combined with the unabridged novel. The scholarly-type editions contain much additional material so they should be considered as separate works.
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Haiku summary
Call me Ishmael.
Score: Whale 1, Ahab 0.
I alone returned.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142437247, Paperback)

Over a century and a half after its publication, Moby-Dick still stands as an indisputable literary classic. It 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 encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting, mesmerizing, and important social commentary populated with several of the most unforgettable and enduring characters in literature. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is a profound and timeless inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

@greatwhitetale Call me Ishmael. You could call me something else if you want, but since that’s my name, it would make sense to call me Ishmael.

Captain obsessed with finding a whale called Moby Dick. Sounds like the meanest VD ever, if you ask me. Sorry. Old joke. Couldn’t resist.

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:32 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Looking for adventure and a new life, Ishmael, the story's narrator, decides to find work on a whaling boat. On arriving at the Massachusetts harbour to begin his search, the only bed available is already half occupied by a "cannibal" named Queequeg. Although Queequeg has limited English, a friendship forms and the two men sign up for work together aboard the Pequod under the infamous Captain Ahab.… (more)

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