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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
McCaughrean largely succeeds in conveying to young readers the mood, language, story, and power of the original. For those disposed to retellings of the classics, this is a prime example of the way to do it.
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.
|Chapter 2||The Carpet-Bag||22|
|Chapter 3||The Spouter-Inn||26|
|Chapter 4||The Counterpane||41|
|Chapter 6||The Street||47|
|Chapter 7||The Chapel||50|
|Chapter 8||The Pulpit||53|
|Chapter 9||The Sermon||56|
|Chapter 10||A Bosom Friend||65|
|Chapter 16||The Ship||83|
|Chapter 17||The Ramadan||97|
|Chapter 18||His Mark||103|
|Chapter 19||The Prophet||107|
|Chapter 20||All Astir||111|
|Chapter 21||Going Aboard||113|
|Chapter 22||Merry Christmas||117|
|Chapter 23||The Lee Shore||121|
|Chapter 24||The Advocate||122|
|Chapter 26||Knights and Squires||128|
|Chapter 27||Knights and Squires||131|
|Chapter 29||Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb||139|
|Chapter 30||The Pipe||142|
|Chapter 31||Queen Mab||143|
|Chapter 33||The Specksynder||159|
|Chapter 34||The Cabin-Table||162|
|Chapter 35||The Mast-Head||168|
|Chapter 36||The Quarter-Deck, Ahab and All||174|
|Chapter 39||First Night-Watch||185|
|Chapter 40||Midnight, Forecastle||186|
|Chapter 42||The Whiteness of the Whale||203|
|Chapter 44||The Chart||213|
|Chapter 45||The Affidavit||218|
|Chapter 47||The Mat-Maker||230|
|Chapter 48||The First Lowering||233|
|Chapter 49||The Hyena||243|
|Chapter 50||Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah||245|
|Chapter 51||The Spirit-Spout||248|
|Chapter 52||The Albatross||252|
|Chapter 53||The Gam||254|
|Chapter 54||The Town-Ho's Story||259|
|Chapter 55||Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales||279|
|Chapter 56||Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, etc.||284|
|Chapter 57||Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; etc.||288|
|Chapter 60||The Line||296|
|Chapter 61||Stubb Kills a Whale||300|
|Chapter 62||The Dart||305|
|Chapter 63||The Crotch||306|
|Chapter 64||Stubb's Supper||308|
|Chapter 65||The Whale As a Dish||316|
|Chapter 66||The Shark Massacre||318|
|Chapter 67||Cutting In||320|
|Chapter 68||The Blanket||322|
|Chapter 69||The Funeral||325|
|Chapter 70||The Sphynx||327|
|Chapter 71||The Jeroboam's Story||329|
|Chapter 72||The Monkey-Rope||335|
|Chapter 73||Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale, etc.||340|
|Chapter 74||The Sperm Whale's Head-Contrasted View||345|
|Chapter 75||The Right Whale's Head-Contrasted View||350|
|Chapter 76||The Battering-Ram||353|
|Chapter 77||The Great Heidelburgh Tun||355|
|Chapter 78||Cistern and Buckets||357|
|Chapter 79||The Praire||361|
|Chapter 80||The Nut||364|
|Chapter 81||The Pequod Meets the Virgin||366|
|Chapter 82||The Honor and Glory of Whaling||378|
|Chapter 83||Jonah Historically Regarded||381|
|Chapter 85||The Fountain||385|
|Chapter 86||The Tail||391|
|Chapter 87||The Grand Armada||395|
|Chapter 88||Schools and Schoolmasters||408|
|Chapter 89||Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish||411|
|Chapter 90||Heads or Tails||415|
|Chapter 91||The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud||418|
|Chapter 93||The Castaway||428|
|Chapter 94||A Squeeze of the Hand||432|
|Chapter 95||The Cassock||436|
|Chapter 96||The Try-Works||437|
|Chapter 97||The Lamp||442|
|Chapter 98||Stowing Down and Clearing Up||443|
|Chapter 99||The Doubloon||446|
|Chapter 100||The Pequod Meets the Samuel Enderby of London||452|
|Chapter 101||The Decanter||459|
|Chapter 102||A Bower in the Arsacides||464|
|Chapter 103||Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton||468|
|Chapter 104||The Fossil Whale||471|
|Chapter 105||Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish?||475|
|Chapter 106||Ahab's Leg||479|
|Chapter 107||The Carpenter||482|
|Chapter 108||Ahab and the Carpenter||485|
|Chapter 109||Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin||489|
|Chapter 110||Queequeg in His Coffin||492|
|Chapter 111||The Pacific||498|
|Chapter 112||The Blacksmith||499|
|Chapter 113||The Forge||502|
|Chapter 114||The Gilder||505|
|Chapter 115||The Pequod Meets the Bachelor||507|
|Chapter 116||The Dying Whale||510|
|Chapter 117||The Whale Watch||512|
|Chapter 118||The Quadrant||513|
|Chapter 119||The Candles||516|
|Chapter 120||The Deck||523|
|Chapter 121||Midnight-The Forecastle Bulwarks||524|
|Chapter 122||Midnight Aloft||526|
|Chapter 123||The Musket||526|
|Chapter 124||The Needle||530|
|Chapter 125||The Log and Line||533|
|Chapter 126||The Life-Buoy||536|
|Chapter 127||The Deck||540|
|Chapter 128||The Pequod Meets the Rachel||542|
|Chapter 129||The Cabin||546|
|Chapter 130||The Hat||548|
|Chapter 131||The Pequod Meets the Delight||552|
|Chapter 132||The Symphony||554|
|Chapter 133||The Chase-First Day||558|
|Chapter 134||The Chase-Second Day||567|
|Chapter 135||The Chase-Third Day||576|
|Criticism and Context|
|Herman Melville: A Biographical Note||590|
|Moby-Dick and Its Contemporary Reviews||607|
|Moby-Dick and Its Modern Critics||619|
|from Herman Melville||619|
|"The Tragic Meaning of Moby-Dick"||645|
|from "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick"||654|
|"The Fire Symbolism in Moby-Dick"||662|
Chapter I: 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 with her 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? -- 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 make him the 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 to 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.
N o, 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 masthead. 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 tarpot, 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 scale 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 aint 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 t ake 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 AFFGHANISTAN.
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 we lcome; 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, midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster Inc.
1. What is the significance of the whale? What do you think Melville intends in developing such a vicious antagonism between Ahab and the whale?
2. How does the presence of Queequeg, particularly his status as a "savage, " inform the novel? How does Melville depict this cultural clash?
3. How does whaling as an industry function metaphorically throughout the novel? Where does man fit in in this scenario?
4. Melville explores the divide between evil and virtue, justice and vengeance throughout the novel. What, ultimately, is his conclusion? What is Ahab's?
5. What do you think of the role, if any, played by religion in the novel? Do you think religious conventions are replaced or subverted in some way? Discuss.
6. Discuss the novel's philosophical subtext. How does this contribute to the basic plot involving Ahab's search for the whale? Is this Ishmael's purpose in the novel?
7. Discuss the role of women in the novel. What does their conspicuous absence mean in the overall context of the novel?