The Great American . . . well, it's more than a novel. It's a living, breathing, swirling world filled with tragedy and comedy. If you've never gotten past the famous first sentence, reading just a little further will reveal Melville's wicked sense of humor: "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." This deadpan delivery permeates this thoroughly American book: both a philosophical discourse and a practical guide to every conceivable facet of whales and whaling. One needs only get to the end of that first chapter, to read Ishmael's reverie of newspaper headlines -- "Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States" / "Whaling Voyage By One Ishmael" / "Bloody Battle in Affghanistan" -- to realize that Moby-Dick is still an eternal book, one that should be read in our time now more than ever. — Northshire Staff
The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is an epic tale of the voyage of the whaling ship the Pequod and its captain, Ahab, who relentlessly pursues the great Sperm Whale (the title character) during a journey around the world. The narrator of the novel is Ishmael, a sailor on the Pequod who undertakes the journey out of his affection for the sea. Moby Dick begins with Ishmael's arrival in New Bedford as he travels toward Nantucket. He rests at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford, where he meets Queequeg, a harpooner from New Zealand who will also sail on the Pequod. Although Queequeg appears dangerous, he and Ishmael must share a bed together and the narrator quickly grows fond of the somewhat uncivilized harpooner. Queequeg is actually the son of a High Chief who left New Zealand because of his desire to learn among Christians. The next day, Ishmael attends a church service and listens to a sermon by Father Mapple, a renowned preacher who delivers a sermon considering Jonah and the whale that concludes that the tale is a lesson to preacher Truth in the face of Falsehood. On a schooner to Nantucket, Ishmael and Queequeg come across a local bumpkin who mocks Queequeg. However, when this bumpkin is swept overboard, Queequeg saves him. In Nantucket, Queequeg and Ishmael choose between three ships for a year journey, and decide upon the Pequod. The Captain of the Pequod, Peleg, is now retired, and merely owns the boat with another Quaker, Bildad. Peleg tells them of the new captain, Ahab, and immediately describes him as a grand and ungodly man. Before leaving for their voyage, Ishmael and Queequeg come across a stranger named Elijah who predicts disaster on their journey. Before leaving on the Pequod, Elijah again predicts disaster.