Moby Dick

Moby Dick

3.8 38
by Herman Melville
     
 

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Moby Dick is the story of Captain Ahab's quest to avenge the whale that 'reaped' his leg. The quest is an obsession and the novel is a diabolical study of how a man becomes a fanatic. But it is also a hymn to democracy. Bent as the crew is on Ahab's appalling crusade, it is equally the image of a co-operative community at work: all hands dependent on all hands,

Overview

Moby Dick is the story of Captain Ahab's quest to avenge the whale that 'reaped' his leg. The quest is an obsession and the novel is a diabolical study of how a man becomes a fanatic. But it is also a hymn to democracy. Bent as the crew is on Ahab's appalling crusade, it is equally the image of a co-operative community at work: all hands dependent on all hands, each individual responsible for the security of each.

Among the crew is Ishmael, the novel's narrator, ordinary sailor, and extraordinary reader. Digressive, allusive, vulgar, transcendent, the story Ishmael tells is above all an education: in the practice of whaling, in the art of writing.

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 Taking the best of Melville's original text, Needle injects historical references and invaluable observations on the life and times of the day to tell the story of Ahab, Ishmael, and the infamous whale.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
"Prose filled with rich, vivid, precise language shapes this retelling of Herman Melville's classic adventure of obsession. Without sacrificing the quality of the original, McCaughrean has created a shortened version of the tale that's filled with intriguing, finely drawn characters and the excitement of a dangerous quest on the high sea.... This is a beautifully cohesive volume that makes a classic tale accessible without diminishing it."—School Library Journal (starred review)

"The lush prose rockets the story along like a square rigger under full sail, with all the beauty that entails. Ambrus's ample illustrations are full of character.... For those disposed to retellings of the classics, this is a prime example of the way to do it."—Kirkus Reviews

"Melville's story loses none of its punch through McCaughrean's retelling."—Children's Bookwatch

"Melville would be satisfied."—The Denver Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781848703926
Publisher:
Wordsworth Editions, Limited
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Series:
Wordsworth Classics
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
File size:
1 MB

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.

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 (Nueva York, 1819-1891) ha sido considerado por los estudiosos y la crítica como uno de los autores más importantes de la literatura universal. Escritor de fino instinto y sorpresas constantes en cada página, su capacidad narratica y la profundidad psicológica de sus personajes hacen de él un escritor imprescindible, un clásico que, pese al paso del tiempo, sigue manteniendo la frescura, la lucidez y la calidad literaria que han seducido a generaciones de lectores.

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 or The Whale 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
PixieChild More than 1 year ago
Should have read this years ago. The book itself was not in as good condition as stated, but still an excellent book to read.
E_Caine More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
ShawnM More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.