Moby Dick (Modern Library Series)

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Overview

"As a revelation of human destiny it is too deep even for sorrow", was how D.H. Lawrence characterized MOBY-DICK. Published in the same five-year span as The Scarlet Letter, Walden, and Leaves of Grass, this great adventure of the sea and the life of the soul is the ultimate achievement of that stunning period in American letters.

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Moby Dick

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Overview

"As a revelation of human destiny it is too deep even for sorrow", was how D.H. Lawrence characterized MOBY-DICK. Published in the same five-year span as The Scarlet Letter, Walden, and Leaves of Grass, this great adventure of the sea and the life of the soul is the ultimate achievement of that stunning period in American letters.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679600107
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1992
  • Series: Modern Library Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 864
  • Sales rank: 290,719
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville
Herman Melville's legend is as mammoth and elusive as the whale that established it. The author's Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale stands as one of literature's greatest epics, a story of mythological proportions that was grounded in real life and a new way of storytelling. Melville's work, underappreciated in its time, remains as much subject to debate and interpretation as it was when he first caught the public eye with his South Seas adventure, Typee, in 1846.

Biography

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.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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

Read an Excerpt

Moby Dick

Or the Whale
By Herman Melville

Modern Library

Copyright © 1992 Herman Melville
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0679600108

Chapter One



LOOMINGS

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago-never mind how long precisely-having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. 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 is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs-commerce surrounds it withher surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?-Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster-tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand-miles of them-leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues-north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?

Once more. Say, you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absentminded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries-stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies-what is the one charm wanting?-Water-there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick-grow quarrelsome-don't sleep of nights-do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing;-no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook,-though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board-yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls;-though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.

No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head. True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time.

What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain't a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about-however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way-either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.

Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid,-what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the forecastle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way-he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:



"grand contested election for the presidency of the united states.

"whaling voyage by one ishmael.

"bloody battle in afghanistan."



Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces-though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.

Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it-would they let me-since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.

By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.



CHAPTER 2



THE CARPET-BAG



I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good city of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was on a Saturday night in December. Much was I disappointed upon learning that the little packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching that place would offer, till the following Monday.

As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as well be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing the business of whaling, and though in this matter poor old Nantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her great original-the Tyre of this Carthage;-the place where the first dead American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give chase to the Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket, too, did that first adventurous little sloop put forth, partly laden with imported cobble-stones-so goes the story-to throw at the whales, in order to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit?

Now having a night, a day, and still another night following before me in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port, it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver,-So, wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of a dreary street shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards the north with the darkness towards the south-wherever in your wisdom you may conclude to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the price, and don't be too particular.

Continues...


Excerpted from Moby Dick by Herman Melville Copyright © 1992 by Herman Melville. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 124 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(79)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 124 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2004

    One of the best-I'll miss reading it

    After reading the previous reader reveiws, I'll be brief and to the point. This book should not be read by eighth graders or other persons who are not at the top of their game with regard to their ability to read dificult text. I am over 50 years old and chose to read it for myself, although I found it very intimidating to start. The importance of the detail is when one considers Moby as God or nature the details are an attempt to understand the whale aka God and it can't be done. Now do you get it? Nobody can understand God and consequently nobody can understand the symbol of God as portrayed in this miraculous novel. I will indeed miss reading it.

    19 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2003

    A Classic, but mostly frivolous

    We have all heard the story of the infamous encounter between Captain Ahab and his nemesis Moby-Dick. I understood it to be a classic and began to read it even though I already saw the movie. The first few chapters had that ominous feeling (Melvilles' brilliant foreshadowing) and purported to promise better things to come. Well, they didn't. Instead Melville drolls on frivolous topics for countless chapters; he literally fills 3/4 of the book with chapters the reader can skip over and still not lose any of the story plot. It took me months to get through his book and it was not until the last three chapters that I realized why this book was a classic. The ending had such a profound impact on me that I have decided to reread Moby-Dick...though not for a long while.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2003

    CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?

    O.K. I READ THE FIRST COUPLE PAGES AND MY THOUGHTS SUMMED UP; 'WHAT DID THIS GUY JUST SAY.' I MAY BE ONLY A TEENAGER, BUT WHAT'S GOOD IS GOOD SO FAR THIS IS BORING. IN ALL FAIRNESS I DIDN'T READ ALL OF IT YET SO IT MIGHT TURN AROUND(I HOPE IT DOES)SO I GAVE IT 3.5 STARS NOT 4 LIKE IT SAYS AT THE TOP.

    7 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    As Profound and Dark as the Sea

    The greatest novel in American literature, Moby Dick is as massive and inscrutable as the White Whale of the title. This is a book with the primal logic of a dream and the timelessness of myth. The characters themselves have become legend; the restless sailor Ishmael, the noble savage Queegueg, stalwart first mate Starbuck, and Captain Ahab, a man of fearful determination and charisma. Ahab stands as one of the great tragic heroes and he is characterized with the emotional grandeur and raw force of Hamlet or Lucifer. I will note that no one says or does anything that remotely resembles what a normal person would do or say. The dialogue and narrative is instead presented in complex, stately, refined, and operatic terms. It is clear that Melville intended this to be an epic. The characters are appropriately larger than life.
    I will say that this book is not for everyone, and many complain that it is boring and ponderous. Be forewarned that Herman Melville spends half the chapters describing the minutiae of life on a 19th century whaling ship. Yet even these plot-less chapters on such topics as rendering blubber to oil contain philosophical depth and striking grace. Have patience and you will be rewarded. It seems Melville sought to encompass everything in his novel; all of humanity can be found on board the Pequod. We drift through our days and nights on the immense unknowable sea of life, driven forth by those in power, hunting elusive goals for reasons we cannot define, all of us doomed men.
    It should be noted that this review covers the Modern Library hardcover edition of this book. I cannot praise it enough. It is simply and handsomely presented, sturdy, and contains all of Rockwell Kent's striking and detailed 1930 line drawn illustrations. This book is a fine edition to any personal library.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    Too Descriptive

    Oh my goodness! I cannot belive how descriptive this Heman Melville is. Moby Dick was critiqued as two big thumbs down when it was originally released. It wasn't until after his death some description madman read it and promoted it to The first American Novel Genius. It should have stayed in the gutters. The story itself is interesting but way too many side streets. I'm on page 433 and they still haven't seen the dang whale. Way too long, way too descriptive. Im going to the library to get the sound recording, just so I can say I finished it. One thing I can say is this book will defintley improve your vocabulary. I needed a dictionary by my side. If you are going to tackle this monster (Pun intended) I recommend the soundrecording, too keep your sanity.

    6 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    Great Past

    This book is so up to past that I couldn't take my eyes off the page.I just whanted to keep on reading.This is a great book for a person looking for a sea adventure.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Summer Reading

    I have to read this book for summer reading and I hate it. I have not yet finished, but I am struggling through every page! I came up with a schedule on how many chapters I have to read, otherwise I would never be able to finish! One of the worse books I have ever read.

    3 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2005

    An Epic Masterpiece

    This book is perhaps one of the best I have ever read. If for sheer style alone this book is awe inspiring. The narative talent of Melville is like that of Hugo, supurfluous yet strikingly beautiful. An emotionally compelling read there is so much depth to be found within these pages and so much to learn of human nature, and put so eloquently. Melville truely does have a silver pen!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Great book

    I can't put it down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2012

    Best ever!!!!!"!!"!"!!""!!!!""""""

    Goooood

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    this book is the reason why i love books about ocean creatures

    this book is full of detail and i love how it was written my favorite charecter in this book is captain ahab once you read the book from start to finish you will see why i love and cherish this book that is a great work of art

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2010

    It's Moby Dick what can you say

    I haven't actually ready this particular copy, edition or what have you. It was one I grabbed for the cover for my e-library. I read Moby Dick awhile back in hard cover form from the local library. I never read it in school and always prided myself for getting out of reading book assignments.(so many regrets) Moby Dick is a great book. It is a bit long, and I always joke you could take 200 pages out and still have a good story. It is a famous classic that will live on forever. There are some great quotes in the book. Two of my favorate have even made it into Star Trek shows and movies. Gene Roddenberry was a fan of the book and references to Moby Dick are found thoughout the Star Trek universe. If you've never read it, read it. If you haven't got time or patients read an abridged version. Melville can be a bit wordy but then with out words books would be just blank paper. The characters are good and there has been much discussion about some of the scenes and what if any thing Mevlille was implying.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2014

    Read this!

    READ IT ITS A CLASSIC!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2013

    Seems silly to comment on a classic, but it's nostalgic to re-re

    Seems silly to comment on a classic, but it's nostalgic to re-read something like this and see how great writing remains great.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Allyssa to guys

    I want to have nook s e x

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2003

    wonderful

    this book was expertly writen and i loved it it pulls you in with details of the ocean and the people and how the air smelled and the whaling adventures are extrodinary!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2000

    the awe that is moby.

    Ah, yes, MOBY....I personally loved the book. Sure, there were lots digressions on the procedures of whaling and other little irrevelent stuff, but what people don't realize is that all the extremely abstruse messages in MOBY need to be hidden. If you strip away all the other stuff, the themes will just be too straight-forward and the reader probably will get a philosophical overload. Plus, is it just me or does anybody else find this book humorous too? I mean, come on, how can one NOT laugh at some of the language that Melville chooses to use? Brilliant! Brilliant! And another thing for people who are reading this as an assignment: read MOBY to read and understand it. DO NOT read it just to say in the end that you've read one of the greatest novels in Ame. history. B/c if you go about it in a more accepting manner, you'll find yourself comprehending it a lot better. If you accomplish this, you will also discover that MOBY is everything you'll EVER need on exam essays. It encompasses so many things: meaning of life, democracy, societal influences, human emotion & spirit, realization of truth--just to name a few. So go! Go read this book. Dance a little jig after you're done.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Mistyfoot to all urgent

    I need people to rp some kits at poppy result 7 please.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Coralpelt to all

    I'm back!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!! (Message to all at attention res one.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

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