Call me Ishmael

Considered to be a classic of American Literature, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, was fiirst published as The Whale by Richard Bentley of London On 18 October 1851. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael who finds work on a whaling ship . So On a cold, gloomy night in December, he arrives at the Spouter-Inn in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and ends up sharing a room with a, a heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner named Queequeg. Over time the two become close friends and decide to sail together from Nantucket, Massachusetts, on an ill fated whaling voyage, aboard the Pequod, commanded by the illusive Captain Ahab, who is nowhere to be seen. The two friends encounter a mysterious man named Elijah on the dock after they sign their papers who hints that Ahab could be trouble. Then Ishmael spots dark figures in the mist, apparently boarding the Pequod shortly before it sets sail on Christmas Morning. The ship’s officers direct the early voyage while Ahab stays in his cabin. The chief mate is, Starbuck, a serious, sincere Quaker and fine leader; second mate is Stubb, happy-go-lucky and cheerful and always smoking his pipe; the third mate is Flask, short and stout but thoroughly reliable. Some time after sailing, Ahab finally appears on the quarter-deck one morning, an imposing, frightening figure whose haunted visage sends shivers over the narrator. One of his legs is missing from the knee down and has been replaced by a prosthesis fashioned from a sperm whale’s jawbone.

After gathering the crewmen together, with a rousing speech Ahab secures their support for his single, secret purpose for this voyage: hunting down and killing Moby Dick, an old, very large sperm whale, with a snow-white hump and mottled skin, that crippled Ahab on his last whaling voyage and destroyed Ahab’s ship, driving Ahab to take revenge. Only Starbuck shows any sign of resistance to the charismatic but monomaniacal captain. Eventually even Starbuck acquiesces to Ahab’s will, though harboring serious misgivings. Ahab meanwhile, has secretly brought along his own boat crew, including a mysterious harpooneer named Fedallah (also referred to as ‘the Parsee’), an inscrutable figure with a sinister influence over Ahab, who predicts bad things will occur during the voyage. Sure enough shortly After entering the Pacific Ocean Queequeg becomes deathly ill and requests that the ship’s carpenter build him a coffin.

Just as everyone has given up hope word is heard from other whalers of Moby Dick. The jolly Captain Boomer of the Samuel Enderby has lost an arm to the whale, and is stunned at Ahab’s burning need for revenge. Next they meet the Rachel, which has seen Moby Dick very recently and has lost many crew as a result of the encounter, but Ahab is resolute in his quest. They then meet another vessel ‘Delight” who have also had a crew member killed by Moby Dick. The next day, the Pequod encounters Moby Dick, and Ahab gives the order to clobber him. Moby Dick on the other hand is having none of it and wreaks havoc causing widespread destruction, inadvertently drowning many people in the process, and it becomes clear that while Ahab is a vengeful whale-hunter, Moby Dick, while dangerous and fearless, is not motivated to hunt humans but by self preservation. So Starbuck exhorts Ahab one last time to desist, sadly though Ahab decides to ignore the voice of reason and continue with his ill-fated chase which predictably ends in tragedy for the crew of the Pequod, most of whom meet a watery fate. Since it was first written by Melville, Moby Dick has also been adapted for screen and television numerous times, most notably starring Gregory Peck and Patrick Stewart respectively as Captain Ahab.

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