Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Overview

In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is also a profound enquiry into character, faith and the nature of perception.

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Overview

In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is also a profound enquiry into character, faith and the nature of perception.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

Winner of the 2014 Type Directors Club Communication Design Award

Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

"[Penguin Drop Caps] convey a sense of nostalgia for the tactility and aesthetic power of a physical book and for a centuries-old tradition of beautiful lettering."
Fast Company

“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
—Rex Bonomelli, The New York Times

"Drool-inducing."
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"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143105954
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Series: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 207,298
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herman Melville was born on 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. Tony Millionaire is an American cartoonist, illustrator and author known for his syndicated comic strip Maakies and the Sock Monkey series of comic and picture books.

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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

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 a snow 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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Table of Contents

Introduction Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Text

Etymology Extracts

Moby Dick

Loomings The Carpet Bag The Spouter-Inn The Counterpane Breakfast The Street The Chapel The Pulpit The Sermon A Bosom Friend Nightgown Biographical Wheelbarrow Nantucket Chowder The Ship The Ramadan His Mark The Prophet All Astir Going Aboard Merry Christmas The Lee Shore The Advocate Postscript Knights and Squires Knights and Squires Ahab Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb The Pipe Queen Mab Cetology The Specksynder The Cabin Table The Mast-Head The Quarter-Deck • Ahab and all Sunset Dusk First Night-Watch Forecastle—-Midnight Moby Dick The Whiteness of the Whale Hark!
The Chart The Affidavit Surmises The Mat-Maker The First Lowering The Hyena Ahab's Boat and Crew—-Fedallah The Spirit-Spout The Pequod meets the Albatross The Gam The Town Ho's Story Monstrous Pictures of Whales Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales Of Whales in Paint, in Teeth, &c.
Brit Squid The Line Stubb kills a Whale The Dart The Crotch Stubb's Supper The Whale as a Dish The Shark Massacre Cutting In The Blanket The Funeral The Sphynx The Pequod meets the Jeroboam • Her Story The Monkey-rope Stubb & Flask kill a Right Whale The Sperm Whale's Head The Right Whale's Head The Battering-Ram The Great Heidelburgh Tun Cistern and Buckets The Prairie The Nut The Pequod meets the Virgin The Honor and Glory of Whaling Jonah Historically Regarded Pitchpoling The Fountain The Tail The Grand Armada Schools & Schoolmasters Fast Fish and Loose Fish Heads or Tails The Pequod meets the Rose Bud Ambergris The Castaway A Squeeze of the Hand The Cassock The Try-Works The Lamp Stowing Down & Clearing Up The Doubloon The Pequod meets the Samuel Enderby of London The Decanter A Bower in the Arsacides Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton The Fossil Whale Does the Whale Diminish?
Ahab's Leg The Carpenter The Deck • Ahab and the Carpenter The Cabin • Ahab and Starbuck Queequeg in his Coffin The Pacific The Blacksmith The Forge The Gilder The Pequod meets the Bachelor The Dying Whale The Whale-Watch The Quadrant The Candles The Deck Midnight, on the Forecastle Midnight, Aloft The Musket The Needle The Log and Line The Life-Buoy Ahab and the Carpenter The Pequod meets the Rachel The Cabin •Ahab and Pip The Hat The Pequod meets the Delight The Symphony The Chase • First Day The Chase • Second Day The Chase • Third Day Epilogue

List of Textual Emendations Explanatory Notes Glossary of Nautical Terms Maps and Illustrations

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    A whale of a bore!

    'Call me Tomás. Some days ago -never mind how long precisely- having little or no schoolwork to do, and nothing particular to interest me on TV, I thought I would read a little and see the literary part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.' The novel I am currently reviewing starts in quite a similar fashion as this, and while this may be the only interesting part of my review, in the same manner the start of Moby-Dick is the only part of the book that enjoys the very desirable of characteristic of not putting you to sleep. Granted. Melville writes well. The elaborate construction of his sentences and the use of figurative language are excellent. No question about that. Admitted. Moby-Dick has to be the most detailed account ever, and the situations in it are narrated quite vividly. I do not argue it. But, oh, fair reader, for crying out loud! This has to be the most dreadfully boring book ever written. Honestly, do you care THAT MUCH about whales and whaling, so as to read hundreds of pages on every single aspect of them. For, it is quite necessary to make that clear, only a small portion of Moby-Dick is a real novel, that is, a fictional narration. The rest is a bunch of essays on everything that you always wanted to know about whaling. Well written, yes, but absolutely painful! What kind of a person has the patience to endure all that! I mean, the book does start in quite an interesting fashion, but after a while... 'the length of that particular bone of a whale ranges between' 'the best way of tying the knot on such and such part of a whaling boat' 'so-and-so's picture of a whale was inaccurate because'...And he went on and on and on, forever! OK, whales are big, whales are formidable. I don't care! Get on with the story, please. How I managed to get to the end of it, I don't know. Of course, Moby-Dick has to be one of the most anti-ecological books ever written and Melville commits the huge biological blunder of considering whales to be fish, but I will not make any complaints in that sense, considering the time at which the book was written. But, seriously, I don't remember ever reading a book as boring as this one, and am quite astonished at the fact that there are people who honestly say they like it. Well, the fact that the book is so techically well written is the only reason I am not giving it just one star.

    8 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2004

    Terribly overrated

    This is literally the most boring book I have read in my life. The writer goes on for entire chapters describing things like the colour green, and spewing similar drivel. Do not read this book unless you are some academic madman bent on sadism.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2002

    Requiem for Great Works of American Lit

    As a fine purveyor of Victorian and neo-classical texts of American literature over the last four years of high school and some semesters of college, it is evidence from Melville's philosophical commentary and theological references for which makes his characters existential nothingness and Solopism much more facscinating. As a matter of fact, I did not read Moby Dick just because some educator told me it was a requesitional reading for all Seniors; alternatively, I did by subjective choice and infatuation with the principles of existentialism and psychology. Moby Dick is a commensurate text for those who are wanting to become heard core insomniacs or for those people who just cannot resist the temptation of introspective reading. I myself periodically, have stayed up reading it until the early hours of the morning(with no puns intended). However, for those of you who don't like have to spend multitudes of hours reading, I would recommend not reading it.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2014

    When Will B&N Learn?

    At Amazon, you have to have purchased a product before you can review it. Look at these 'reviews' and you can see that that's a good idea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    ߔ

    Dun dun dun dn dun DUN...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2014

    Kenya

    Back for a couple minutes.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    There are quite a few editions of Moby Dick being published, and I've seen most of them, but this edition is one of the best: the illustrations are simple yet beautifully arty; the typeset is kool; and it has a neat cover! Well, I dont know about most book collectors, but I judge books by their covers!

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Excellent reading

    Should have read this years ago. The book itself was not in as good condition as stated, but still an excellent book to read.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the best American novels ever written

    Moby Dick is one of those rare novels that captures a particular historical moment while, at the same time, remaining timeless. Gripping drama, tense action, compelling characters and a setting so rarely glimpsed in history - the period in America between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. It was a time when America was discovering itself as the characters are discovering themselves. And it was the height of an industry of which, like slavery, we are all still a little ashamed. Whaling was a profitable, dangerous, and engaging occupation for a young man in those days. But when the Captain of your ship is obsessed with taking vengeance on his tormentor it would be an experience you could never forget. Assuming, of course, that you survived. Complicated, compelling, beautifully written, and always a classic, Moby-Dick is a must-read for any American lover of literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2005

    ohmygosh

    Who am I to criticize Melville? But after reading, and chuckling, over some of my peer reader's reviews, I'm compelled to balance stars. I'm neither a critic nor literary scholar. I'm just someone who loves good literature, classic or not. Granted, Moby is long and detailed, but I contend it's all necessary and part of the story's framework. The themes are skillfully packaged in abstruse metaphors. And I agree that I had to use lexical aids to get through some of the dated vernacular. I even put down my cheap paperback for a Norton critical edition, but it was worth it. The language is beautiful and artistic. Read a benign chapter to a child and watch their expressions change as their imagination takes over their visage. Moby provides insight into today's archetypes found in pop-culture's 'Spongebob' or 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. Perhaps Moby isn't for everyone. Those who aren't interested in ages long past, historically accurate depictions of bloody exploitation, or ocular criticism of social hypocrisy, should probably stick to the bestseller lists. Entertain your brain. Every chapter is a piece of Melville's puzzle. When taken holistically, it all fits. Slow your monkey mind. Mindfully read. Open your eyes. Moby is still relevant today, especially to you good folks who think you live on that fabled 'City on the Hill'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2003

    Well written but...

    The story Moby Dick was well written and I would suggest to anyone who likes long and very detailed books. If thats you then read it. You may very well enjoy it! As for myself it was too long of a book and too much detail. I was not impressed with the general idea of the story. It pretty much bored me. But don't take my word on it. If you're thinking about reading it then I encourage you to because you may like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2003

    The Anatomy Of A Whale

    WAY to long in descriptions. If Ol Herm was alive today he'd own a whale watching business out Provincetown. Otherwise a great book. Took a long time to get through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2003

    The Famous White Whale

    Moey Dick is a fasinating story about the famous White Whale who took the leg of a revengous captian Ahab. The captian is certain that he willl hunt down the whale and kill him as revenge. This stroy tells the tale of alife frok the eyes of school teacher who decides to go off on this adventure for fun but little does he know this fun vaction will turn into a dangerous fight over a whale.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2003

    As the first great American novel, it falls below expectations

    Okay, I realize that this is a very old book, and that the language of the book was written to speak to people of that time period, but it is way too lengthy and repetitive to be enjoyable. I can't critique the book any further beyond the segment entitled " The Whiteness of the Whale, " so I will just end my review by saying that after ten pages and countless analogies, I quite understood that the blooming whale was white! I had to take two headache pills just to get through what I read, which after the first few chapters wasn't much. Melville goes overboard with description, and it detracts greatly from your interest in the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    Hunting down 'the great American novel'

    I read this work for an upper-division survey course in American Literature. I consider myself VERY well (and widely) read in the 'classics' of the Western and Post-Colonialist world but if Melville was hunting down 'the great American novel,' I would have to say he failed, and so did the critics upon publication. In fact, Moby Dick didn't become the 'great American novel' that it is until the 1930s, sparked by scholarship. If you don't like Dickens' descriptiveness, you will HATE this book. I understood Moby Dick perfectly (in fact, wrote a really nice 'A' paper on it which was a Marxist reading of the text) but the immense detail puts Ayn Rand's thirty-page description of a train station to shame. Aside from the detail, the problem with the book is that in being such an ambitious work, it tries to do EVERYTHING--it is one part didactic, one part treatise on the whaling industry, one part American King Lear (comparing and contrasting Ahab and Lear or his daughters, Goneril and Regan, makes a FABULOUS essay topic) and one part metaphysics. So what works? Plot and characterization. What doesn't work? Pacing and structure. A LONG and TEDIOUS read but worth it in the end. Hawthorne was a much better novelist, IMHO.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2001

    A whale of a tale (lol)

    This is such a great book. Like most books you have to read a few chapters before it gets juicy. I started to read it and I was just hooked.It is filled with adventure, comedy and suspense. A really good read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2000

    Good and Bad

    I liked and disliked this book. I liked it because it was full of action and you were always wondering what would happen next. The characters were also pretty interesting. What I disliked about the book was that it was too descriptive, and it was a bit too long.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2000

    a whale of a tale

    While the frequent tangents away from the main story and into the history of whaling were distracting (for me, anyway), I still found Moby Dick a fascinating book. I especially liked the Captain's right-hand-man, Starbuck; caught between obedience to his Captain and obedience to his conscience, Starbuck shows exceptional fortitude- and character- in a difficult situation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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