Moby-Dick; or, The Whale


A picture for the book Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Moby-Dick, written in 1851, recounts the adventures of the narrator Ishmael as he sails on the whaling ship Pequod under the command of Captain Ahab.

Ishmael believes he has signed onto a routine commission aboard a normal whaling vessel, but he soon learns that Captain Ahab is not guiding the Pequod in the simple pursuit of commerce but is seeking one specific whale, Moby-Dick, a great while whale infamous for his giant proportions and his ability to destroy the whalers that seek him. Captain Ahab's wooden leg is the result of his first encounter with the whale, when he lost both leg and ship. But Captain Ahab is bent on revenge and he intends to get Moby-Dick.

Ahab demonstrates erratic behavior from the very beginning and his eccentricities magnify as the voyage progresses. As the novel draws to a conclusion, the Pequod encounters the whaling ship Rachel. The Rachel's captain asks Ahab to help him in a search and rescue effort for his whaling-crew that went missing the day before - and the captain's son is among the missing. But when Ahab learns that the crew disappeared while tangling with Moby-Dick he refuses the call to aid in the rescue so that he may hunt Moby-Dick instead.

The encounter with Moby-Dick brings a tragic end to the affair. Ishmael alone survives, using his friend Queequeg's coffin as a flotation device until he is ironically rescued by the Rachel, which has continued to search for its missing crew.

Readers, teachers and students should also take note of a peculiar historical curiosity. After enjoying some success in the 1840s, the publication of Moby-Dick marked Melville's decline as a popular writer. He was unable to support himself as a writer and accepted a job at the New York Customs House. He continued to write, even as he faded into obscurity, turning to poetry in his later years. He published his poems but they were ignored and went unread. Like his novel about the great white whale, his poems are also esteemed by modern critics and scholars.

It was only in the early 1900s that Moby-Dick gained attention and acclaim. The novel is not only a great American classic, but is also heralded as one of greatest novels in the English language.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Teachers and students looking for further summary and analysis might wish to read D. H. Lawrence's chapter on Moby-Dick from his book Studies in Classic American Literature.


ETYMOLOGY

Chapter 1 - Loomings

Chapter 2 - The Carpet-Bag

Chapter 3 - The Spouter Inn

Chapter 4 - The Counterpane

Chapter 5 - Breakfast

Chapter 6 - The Street

Chapter 7 - The Chapel

Chapter 8 - The Pulpit

Chapter 9 - The Sermon

Chapter 10 - A Bosom Friend

Chapter 11 - Nightgown

Chapter 12 - Biographical

Chapter 13 - Wheelbarrow

Chapter 14 - Nantucket

Chapter 15 - Chowder

Chapter 16 - The Ship

Chapter 17 - The Ramadan

Chapter 18 - His Mark

Chapter 19 - The Prophet

Chapter 20 - All Astir

Chapter 21 - Going Aboard

Chapter 22 - Merry Christmas

Chapter 23 - The Lee Shore

Chapter 24 - The Advocate

Chapter 25 - Postscript

Chapter 26 - Knights and Squires

Chapter 27 - Knights and Squires

Chapter 28 - Ahab

Chapter 29 - Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb

Chapter 30 - The Pipe

Chapter 31 - Queen Mab

Chapter 32 - Cetology

Chapter 33 - The Specksynder

Chapter 34 - The Cabin-Table

Chapter 35 - The Mast-Head

Chapter 36 - The Quarter-Deck

Chapter 37 - Sunset

Chapter 38 - Dusk

Chapter 39 - First Night-Watch

Chapter 40 - Midnight, Forecastle

Chapter 41 - Moby Dick

Chapter 42 - The Whiteness of The Whale

Chapter 43 - Hark!

Chapter 44 - The Chart

Chapter 45 - The Affidavit

Chapter 46 - Surmises

Chapter 47 - The Mat-Maker

Chapter 48 - The First Lowering

Chapter 49 - The Hyena

Chapter 50 - Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah

Chapter 51 - The Spirit-Spout

Chapter 52 - The Albatross

Chapter 53 - The Gam

Chapter 54 - The Town-Ho's Story

Chapter 55 - Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

Chapter 56 - Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes

Chapter 57 - Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars

Chapter 58 - Brit

Chapter 59 - Squid

Chapter 60 - The Line

Chapter 61 - Stubb Kills a Whale

Chapter 62 - The Dart

Chapter 63 - The Crotch

Chapter 64 - Stubb's Supper

Chapter 65 - The Whale as a Dish

Chapter 66 - The Shark Massacre

Chapter 67 - Cutting In

Chapter 68 - The Blanket

Chapter 69 - The Funeral

Chapter 70 - The Sphynx

Chapter 71 - The Jeroboam's Story

Chapter 72 - The Monkey-Rope

Chapter 73 - Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale and Then Have a Talk Over Him

Chapter 74 - The Sperm Whale's Head - Contrasted View

Chapter 75 - The Right Whale's Head - Contrasted View

Chapter 76 - The Battering-Ram

Chapter 77 - The Great Heidelburgh Tun

Chapter 78 - Cistern and Buckets

Chapter 79 - The Prairie

Chapter 80 - The Nut

Chapter 81 - The Pequod Meets The Virgin

Chapter 82 - The Honor and Glory of Whaling

Chapter 83 - Jonah Historically Regarded

Chapter 84 - Pitchpoling

Chapter 85 - The Fountain

Chapter 86 - The Tail

Chapter 87 - The Grand Armada

Chapter 88 - Schools and Schoolmasters

Chapter 89 - Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish

Chapter 90 - Heads or Tails

Chapter 91 - The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud

Chapter 92 - Ambergris

Chapter 93 - The Castaway

Chapter 94 - A Squeeze of the Hand

Chapter 95 - The Cassock

Chapter 96 - The Try-Works

Chapter 97 - The Lamp

Chapter 98 - Stowing Down and Clearing Up

Chapter 99 - The Doubloon

Chapter 100 - Leg and Arm. The Pequod of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London

Chapter 101 - The Decanter

Chapter 102 - A Bower in the Arsacides

Chapter 103 - Measurement of The Whale's Skeleton

Chapter 104 - The Fossil Whale

Chapter 105 - Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish? - Will He Perish?

Chapter 106 - Ahab's Leg

Chapter 107 - The Carpenter

Chapter 108 - Ahab and the Carpenter

Chapter 109 - Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin

Chapter 110 - Queequeg in His Coffin

Chapter 111 - The Pacific

Chapter 112 - The Blacksmith

Chapter 113 - The Forge

Chapter 114 - The Gilder

Chapter 115 - The Pequod Meets The Bachelor

Chapter 116 - The Dying Whale

Chapter 117 - The Whale Watch

Chapter 118 - The Quadrant

Chapter 119 - The Candles

Chapter 120 - The Deck Toward the End of the First Night Watch

Chapter 121 - Midnight - The Forecastle Bulwarks

Chapter 122 - Midnight Aloft.- Thunder and Lightning

Chapter 123 - The Musket

Chapter 124 - The Needle

Chapter 125 - The Log and Line

Chapter 126 - The Life-Buoy

Chapter 127 - The Deck

Chapter 128 - The Pequod Meets The Rachel

Chapter 129 - The Cabin

Chapter 130 - The Hat

Chapter 131 - The Pequod Meets The Delight

Chapter 132 - The Symphony

Chapter 133 - The Chase - First Day

Chapter 134 - The Chase - Second Day

Chapter 135 - The Chase - Third Day

Epilogue

Return to Herman Melville's library.