Moby-Dick [with Biographical Introduction]

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Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Download this LitChart! Themes All Themes.

Herman Melville

Symbols All Symbols. Themes and Colors Key. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Moby-Dick , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Active Themes. Fate and Free Will. But the ship from Sag Harbor would not let Queequeg aboard, and he paddled his canoe out to a strait, one the ship would have to cross. There he threw himself out of the canoe and climbed the side-rigging of the ship. Once aboard, the captain allowed him to stay and sail back to America, but Queequeg, despite his royal blood, was kept below-decks, with the other sailors.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville REVIEW

Though Queequeg was horrified by the dissipation and drunkenness of the sailors when they reached Sag Harbor and Nantucket, he continued life as a harpooneer on whaling vessels. Queequeg does not fall into the stereotypes of the hard-drinking, hard-living whaler. He has no wife and no children; he does not drink and only smokes his ceremonial pipe; and indeed he does not seem given to having fun of any kind, although he is a warm and caring friend. So the Pequod embarks upon a three or four year whaling adventure around the globe, ostensibly in search of valuable whale oil, but in fact -- as we later learn -- to bring about Ahab's vengeance against the Marxist whale M.

Interestingly enough, as the journey goes on, Ishmael's character seems to evaporate. In other words, he gradually shifts from a compartmentalized first-person narrator to an omniscient third-person narrator. He seems almost to have rescinded his identity or he only rarely invokes it in the latter part of the novel, as if -- while we have been distracted by gloppy whale sperm and passing ships -- he morphed into the Star Child.

This transformation is, of course, intentional and creates a sense of broadening perspective throughout the novel -- of transcending the menial and specific to embrace a grand, universal tragedy.

Guide to the classics: Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

Here's the bottom line. Moby-Dick is an American classic that sounds as though it would be absolutely torturous to read. A six-hundred-page nineteenth-century novel about the pursuit of a whale? You've got to be kidding. Did I mention that there are chapters after chapters that merely detail the processes and often gory procedures of whaling?

I know. Try to control yourself before you run out to the bookstore or library, right? This novel is magnificent. It proves what I have held true ever since I started writing myself -- that any subject at all, from whittling to colonoscopies to Riverdance to bagpipe playing, can be enthralling in the hands of a competent writer -- a writer like Melville, who simultaneously locates the universal in this seemingly very particular narrative and makes even the occasionally perplexing rituals of whaling seem fascinating.

Also, it's a captivating historical document chronicling M.


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Eat tailfin, honkies! View all 18 comments. I was that precocious brat who first read the whale-esque sized Moby-Dick at the age of nine. I had my reasons, and they were twofold: 1 I was in the middle of my "I love Jacques Cousteau! In retrospect, there may have been an underlying pattern behind my childhood reading choices. From what I remember, I read this book as a sort of encyclopedia, a bunch of short articles about whaling and whale taxonomy and many ways to skin a whale and occasional interruptions from little bits of what as I now see it was the plot.

It was confusing and yet informative - like life itself is to nine-year-olds. What do I think about it now, having aged a couple of decades? Well, now I bow my head to the brilliance of it, the unexpectedly beautiful language, the captivating and apt metaphors, the strangely progressive for its time views, the occasional wistfulness interrupted by cheek. The first third of it left me spellbound, flying through the pages, eager for more.

Just look at this bit, this unbelievable prose that almost makes me weep yes, I'm a dork who can get weepy over literature. I blame it on my literature-teacher mother. So there. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.

I could finally see what my nine-year-old past self did not care about and appropriately so, in the light of literal-mindedness and straightforwardness that children possess - Melville's constant, persistent comparison of whaling to life itself , using bits and pieces of whaling beliefs and rituals to illuminate the dark nooks and crannies of human souls, to show that deep down inside, regardless of our differences, we all run on the same desires and motives and undercurrents of spirit.

When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. It's what we all pursue - the difference is how. Melville gives us one of the extremes, the views of a single-minded fanatic, of one who puts everything aside, sacrifices everything and everyone else for the sake of a dream, of a desire, of a goal; the person who is capable of leading others unified in his focused, narrow, overwhelmingly alluring vision.

We can call Ahab a madman. We can also call him a great leader, a visionary of sorts - had he only used the charisma and the drive and the single-minded obsession to reach a goal less absurd, less suicidal less selfish. Had he with this monomaniac single-mindedness led a crusade for something we think is worthwhile, would we still call him a madman, or would we wordlessly admire his never-altering determination?

Isn't the true tragedy here in Ahab focusing his will on destruction and blind revenge, leading those he's responsible for to destruction in the name of folly and pride? Is that where the madness lies? For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men. Really, the idea of a mere human considering it his right, his goal to stand up to the majestic nature force, armed with a destructive deadly weapon, and bring it to the end after a long chase in the ultimate gesture of triumph - that idea is chilling in its unremarkability.

Humans taming and conquering nature, bending it to our will and desires, the world being our oyster - all that stuff. It is not new. It is what helped drive the industrial expansion of the modern society.

The 100 best novels: No 17 – Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

It is what makes us feel that we are masters of our world, that our planet is ours to do whatever we, humans, please. But Moby-Dick, finally abandoning his run from Ahab and standing up to him with such brutal ease is a reminder of the folly of such thinking and the reminder that there are forces we need to reckon with, no matter how full of ourselves we may get.

Because the metaphors and parallels and meandering narration at times would get to be too much, because I quite often found my mind and attention easily wandering away in the last two-thirds of the book, needing a gargantuan effort to refocus. This what took of a star and a half, resulting in 3. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks.

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. View all 45 comments. I just finished it a couple of days ago and pretty much everything else pales in comparison. About three hundred pages in, it was already in my top ten favorite novels of all time, and it didn't disappoint much as I continued reading. I actually deliberately drew out getting to the ending so I could savor the last few hundred pages or so. What a doozy. What can really be said about this book which hasn't been said before?

A couple of major points that bear mentioning The language is deeply referential, complex, allusive and encyclopedic, poetic in almost an archaic way. You have to slow down a bit and reread the sentences in order to get their maximum impact. You can read it, it just means that if you really want to get the full experience, you should kick the can more slowly down the road. I'd heard about the whaling chapters getting tedious and academic, and to a good degree they are, but honestly I didn't find that form of density that bad a reading experience.

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