Monday 3 June 2019

Melville, Herman "Moby Dick or The Whale"

Melville, Herman "Moby Dick or The Whale" - 1851

Moby Dick, an epic tale, "Call me Ishmael", one of the most famous first lines ever. So, I just had to read it one day.

Was it everything I thought it might be? Probably not though it is quite interesting. The story itself is a good one, the mad captain who is looking for the whale who is responsible for him losing his leg, the crew that is out for money, the encounters with wales or other ships. That alone might have made a good novel.

But Herman Melville had to add more, I was reminded of lessons at school where all I wanted was that this class would be over and the next, more interesting one, would begin. If I want to know all about wales, maybe I should better buy an illustrated book about them. Or what about fishing? Ships? How to dissect a whale? Various other seafood? I think after reading this most people know enough to go whaling themselves. Only - do they want to?

Anyway, one of the lesser classic tales, in my opinion.

From the back cover:

"On a previous voyage, a mysterious white whale had ripped off the leg of a sea captain named Ahab. Now the crew of the Pequod, on a pursuit that features constant adventure and horrendous mishaps, must follow the mad Ahab into the abyss to satisfy his unslakeable thirst for vengeance. Narrated by the cunningly observant crew member Ishmael, Moby-Dick is the tale of the hunt for the elusive, omnipotent, and ultimately mystifying white whale - Moby Dick.

On its surface, Moby-Dick is a vivid documentary of life aboard a nineteenth-century whaler, a virtual encyclopedia of whales and whaling, replete with facts, legends, and trivia that Melville had gleaned from personal experience and scores of sources. But as the quest for the whale becomes increasingly perilous, the tale works on allegorical levels, likening the whale to human greed, moral consequence, good, evil, and life itself. Who is good? The great white whale who, like Nature, asks nothing but to be left in peace? Or the bold Ahab who, like scientists, explorers, and philosophers, fearlessly probes the mysteries of the universe? Who is evil? The ferocious, man-killing sea monster? Or the revenge-obsessed madman who ignores his own better nature in his quest to kill the beast?

Scorned by critics upon its publication, Moby-Dick was publicly derided during its author’s lifetime. Yet Melville’s masterpiece has outlived its initial misunderstanding to become an American classic of unquestionably epic proportions. "


  1. This is one I have not yet attempted. Not sure I ever will but maybe. Kudos to you for getting through it.

    1. I think I only persevered because I always wanted to read it. LOL