Moby Dick

Moby Dick

3.9 317
by Herman Melville
     
 

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One of the most widely-read and respected books in all American literature, Moby Dick is the saga of Captain Ahab and his unrelenting pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale who maimed him during their last encounter. A novel blending high-seas romantic adventure, symbolic allegory, and the conflicting ideals of heroic determination and undying hatred, Moby…  See more details below

Overview

One of the most widely-read and respected books in all American literature, Moby Dick is the saga of Captain Ahab and his unrelenting pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale who maimed him during their last encounter. A novel blending high-seas romantic adventure, symbolic allegory, and the conflicting ideals of heroic determination and undying hatred, Moby Dick is also revered for its historical accounts of the whaling industry of the 1800's.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
Can an abridged version of one of literature's great masterpieces do the original justice? Can such an attempt make a dense and sometimes rambling original more accessible to today's technology-inspired readers? The editor himself asks questions along these lines in his author's notes and it is this reviewer's humble opinion that he has quite successfully succeeded. Taking the best of Melville's original text, Needle injects historical references and invaluable observations on the life and times of the day to tell the story of Ahab, Ishmael, and the infamous whale. In doing so, Needle provides today's reader with a greater understanding of the shades of meaning inherent in Melville's lyrical original. A glossary and meticulously detailed drawing of a typical whaling ship provide the reader with even greater context. Raising the bar are Patrick Benson's amazing full-color illustrations and black-and-white sketches, managing quite magnificently to bring Melville's words and Needle's interjections to life. Somewhere between the pleasure (and pain) of the original and the ease of the movie lies this masterful abridged version.
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6

Rod Espinosa's creative graphic depiction (Magic Wagon, 2007) of Herman Melville's Moby Dick is a great way to introduce elementary age children to the classic as well as a terrific learning tool for middle school ESL students and exceptional children who struggle with reading. This interactive program allows students to read and listen to the book at their own pace. Narration can be turned on or off. When the text is read, dialogue panels are highlighted and enlarged. Sound effects and music enhance the text, and the graphics are excellent. Well organized with a table of contents, glossary, and brief multiple-choice quiz, this graphic novel ibook can be navigated easily by the youngest students.-Beverly S. Almond, Moore Square Museums Magnet Middle School, Raleigh, NC

From the Publisher
"The greatest American novel."  —William Faulkner

"The infinite novel. Page after page the text grows in immensity, until it encompasses the whole cosmos."  —Jorge Luis Borges

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780877207108
Publisher:
AMSCO School Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
06/01/2004

Read an Excerpt

Call me Ishmael. This resonant opening of Moby-Dick, the greatest novel in American literature, announces the narrator, Herman Melville, as he with a measure of slyness thought of himself. In the Scriptures Ishmael, a wild man sired by the overwhelming patriarch Abraham, was nevertheless the bastard son of a serving girl Hagar. The author himself was the offspring of two distinguished American families, the Melvilles of Boston and the Gansevoorts of Albany.

Melville's father cast something of a blight on the family escutcheon by his tendency to bankruptcy which passed down to his son. Dollars damn me, the son was to say over and over. When he sat down in the green landscape of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to compose Moby-Dick he was in debt, the father of one son, and another to be born a few days after the publication of the novel in England.

Melville had published five novels previous to Moby-Dick; the first two did well, and then with the capriciousness of the public the subsequent novels failed to please. He was a known literary figure with a fading reputation. How he came upon the courage to undertake the challenging creation of the epical battle between a sea creature, a white whale called Moby Dick, and an old captain from Nantucket by the name of Ahab is one of literature's triumphant mysteries. Add to that, as one reads, that he was only thirty-two years old.

Ten years before, in 1841, he had signed up as a common seaman on the whaling vessel Acushnet bound for the South Seas. Young Ishmael was drawn by the lure of the sea and by the wonder of the whale itself, the Leviathan, the monarch of the deep, "one grand hooded phantom, like asnow hill in the air." Until the discovery of petroleum oil in 1859 and Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp in 1879, whaling was a major commercial occupation in New England. Fortunes were made, grand houses were built, often with a "widow's walk" on the roof that testified to the great dangers of the enterprise. For the crew, service on a whaler was a drastic life of unremitting labor; foul, crowded quarters; bad food in scanty servings; contractual terms for years at miserable wages; brutalized companions picked up from all the ports of the world; tyrannical captains practicing a "sultanism" which Melville abhorred. A ship afloat is after all a prison. Melville was on three whalers in his four years at sea and from each, as we read in Typee and Omoo, the struggle is to escape, as he did when the boats anchored near exotic islands. He wrote about the misery of the whaling life, but not about whaling itself until he came to Moby-Dick. His imaginary whaler, the Pequod, death bound as it is, would be called, for an ordinary seaman, an agreeable berth. Ahab has no interest left beyond his internal struggle with one whale.

Still, there is whaling, the presumption of it. When a whale is sighted small boats are detached from the main vessel and the men engage in a deadly battle to try to match, with flying harpoons, the whale's immense strength and desperation. If the great thing is captured, the deck of the main ship becomes an abattoir of blood and guts. The thick blubber is to be stripped, the huge head to be drained of its oils for soothing ambergris, for candles; the bones of the carcass make their way into corsets and umbrellas and scrimshaw trinkets. Moby-Dick is a history of cetology, an encylopedic telling of the qualities of the fin-back, the right whale, the hyena whale, the sperm whale, the killer whale, classified by size in mock academic form as folio, octavo, and so on.

Information about a vanished world is one thing, but, above all else, this astonishing book is a human tragedy of almost supernatural suspensiveness, written in a rushing flow of imaginative language, poetical intensity, metaphor and adjective of consuming beauty. It begins on the cobbled streets of New Bedford, where Ishmael is to spend a few days before boarding the Pequod in Nantucket. The opening pages have a boyish charm as he is brought to share a bed with a fellow sailor, the harpooner Queequeg, an outrageously tattoed "primitive" who will be his companion throughout the narrative. Great ships under sail gave the old ports a rich heritage of myth, gossip, exaggeration, and rhetorical flights. Ishmael, on a Sunday, visits a whaleman's chapel to hear the incomparable sermon by Father Mapple on Jonah and the whale, a majestic interlude, one of many in this torrential outburst of fictional genius.

As Ishmael and Queequeg proceed to Nantucket, the shadows of the plot begin to fall upon the pages. The recruits are interviewed by two retired sailors who will struggle to express the complicated nature of Captain Ahab. We learn that he has lost a leg, chewed off by a whale, and thus the fated voyage of the Pequod begins. Ahab has lost his leg to a white whale Moby Dick and is consumed with a passion for retribution. He will hunt the singular whale as a private destiny in the manner of ancient kings in a legendary world. However, Ahab is real and in command. The chief mate, Starbuck, understands the folly of the quest, the danger of it, and, as a thoughtful man longing to return to his wife and children, he will speak again and again the language of reason. "Vengeance on a dumb beast that simply smote thee from the blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."

The necessity of Starbuck's human distance from the implacable imperative of Ahab's quest illustrates the brilliant formation of this harrowing tale. But it is Ahab's story, his destiny, and, if on the one hand, he is a shabby, sea-worn sailor long mesmerized by mercurial oceans, he too has a wife at home and a child of his old age. We learn, as the story proceeds, that on a time ashore after his terrible wounding, he had fallen and by way of his whalebone leg been unmanned. He has suffered an incapacity not to be peacefully borne by one who in forty years had spent only three on land. Ahab knows the wild unsuitability of his nature, his remove from the common life.

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What People are saying about this

S. Mattheson
Responsible to misshapen forces of his age as only men of passionate imagination are, even Melville hardly be aware of how symbolic an American hero he'd fashioned in Captain Ahab...he is the embodiment of his author's most profound response to the problem of the free individual will in extremis.

Meet the Author

Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

Edward W. Said is University Professor at Columbia, where he has taught English and Comparative Literature since 1963. His books include Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography; Beginnings; Intention and Method; The Question of Palestine; Literature and Society; The World, the Text and the Critic; Covering Islam; Orientalism; After the Last Sky; Blaming the Victim; Musical Elaborations; Culture and Imperialism; Representations of the Intellectual; Out of Place: A Memoir; The End of the Peace Process; Oslo and After and Peace and Its Dicontents: Gaza to Jericho 1993-1995.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
August 1, 1819
Date of Death:
September 28, 1891
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Place of Death:
New York, New York
Education:
Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

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Moby-Dick 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 317 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If there were ever a seeming 'complete companion' to the understanding and appreciation of Herman Melville's 'master work' /Moby-Dick/ then this Second Edition of the Norton Critical Edition, edited by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford (pub. 2002) must surely be it. Not only does the volume contain the text of the novel (actually a 'romance' as defined by Hawthorne), but it also includes sections titled: 'Melville's Reading and /Moby-Dick/: An Overview and Bibliograpy', a glossary of nautical terms, a pictorial account (with drawings) of the parts of a whaleship, the mast parts, a typical whaleboat, the harpoon and lance, a drawing depicting a large slice of blubber being hauled onto a ship, contemporary engravings of whaling, articles about Melville's works written in his own time about his novels (romances)before /Moby-Dick/, reviews and letters written by Melville (including his famous paean to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 'Hawthorne and His Mosses'), analogues and sources, reviews of /Moby-Dick/ from his own time and from the modern era (1893-1897), and 'A Handful of Critical Challenges' (a selection from insightful and provocative essays which analyze the novel and its possible meanings). The text of the novel (romance) itself has been well foot-noted with helpful information about Melville's textual citations and allusions (example: from text -- '...a terrible prestige of perilousness about such a whale as there did about Rinaldo Rinaldini' [note -- 'Knight in Italian Renaissance epics -Orlando Furioso- (1532) by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1535) and -Rinaldo- (1562) by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)'). This novel has been endlessly analyzed and sliced up, picked apart, minced, boiled, strained, reflected upon, peered into, introverted, controverted, inverted, subverted, psychoanalyzed, Marxized, Freudianized, mythologized, anthroplogized, sociologized, mythopoeticized, Biblecized, homoeroticized, and even read for enjoyment. More gain comes from chopping down wood by the acre than whittling by the stick, so the analyzers seem to think. The novel can be read as satire, as allegory (like Spenser's moralistic warning allegories), as love-token (to Nathaniel Hawthorne) with Melville capering about trying to impress his beloved as much as he capered about on those rocks on the top of Monument Mountain back in August 1850 when they first met, and as revelation of Melville's inner self -- actually selves. The ship may be taken as the allegorical symbol of the individual psyche, and thus each of the characters aboard the -Pequod- becomes one of the multiple aspects of Melville's own awarenesses and inclinations. As for the chapters on whales and whaling, the reader will need to absorb those as atmosphere and Melville's ego-intellect wanting to show off. Read them closely for irony and humor and self-jesting at his own predilections for omnivorous reading and extract gathering, as well as an 'outsider's' jibes at academic fussiness and lexicographical loquaciousness. Take your time with this novel...you will learn much the more you think about it and the deeper you plumb its depths. And when you go a-whalin', mind them mouths and jaws, lined with sharpy teeth -- lest you lose a leg and founder in the deep.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I HAVE JUST STARTED READING THIS BOOK AND SO FAR IT IS VERY GOOD.IF YOU LIKE TO READ THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ BOOK.IT MAY TAKE YOU A WHILE TO READ.SEEING THAT THERE ARE 135 CHAPTERS MAY MAKE YOU WONDER IF IT IS WORTH IT,BUT DON'T WORRY THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 601 PAGES IN THE WHOLE BOOK.ANYWAY LIKE I SAID,IT IS WORTHWHILE TO READ THIS BOOK,AND IF YOU LIKE TO READ GET A COPY TODAY.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this the whole book?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, Moby Dick is a classic, but having picked it up for the second time (the first time, about 30 years ago, I fell asleep after only 6 pages) I managed to work my way through it. I found it a good story, but Melville is a very wordy author. His storyline, I found, meandered to and fro so much I found it hard to keep up. It's no wonder that the book has over 1000 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it and i am in 5 th grade. Aawesome. I love mobi dick.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Hey. I do rp for somthing else, but never mind that. Im making a new chat room, so please cooperate! Can you spread the word to active posting books and tell them to go to "momo meets the" res one? Thanks, see you there!
Anonymous 6 months ago
Fur color: grey Eyes:Ice blue Wing color: black Age: just turned 6 moons Needs memtor
Anonymous 6 months ago
There is a darkness that is unavoidable and you cannot escape coming to you now! (Flew off)
Anonymous 6 months ago
GREAT CLAN?????EVERYONE IS IGNORING !! Breezepaw
Anonymous 7 months ago
At yul results
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How depressing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awsome book im lucky my science teacher told me about the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She pads in. May I join?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is just stuped. There is no reson for any one to like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its stupid and boring why is it so popular
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A pair of eyes peek out from behind a tree.
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