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A novel by Herman Melville

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Captivation and literary beauty, and lots of it

  • Jun 28, 2010
Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or The Whale is like a treasure hiding in plain sight from modern readers who are too intimidated by its artistic and physical magnitude to venture in and discover its awe-inspiring imaginativeness.  I doubt there has ever been a fictional world more complete than Melville’s massive world of whaling.
            The immensity of Moby-Dick is part of its charm and Melville’s brilliance.  It’s an allegorical fantasy in the guise of a historical study; complete with measurements and reviews of previous artistic works concerning whaling!
            This could not be achieved so successfully if the writing was not so engaging and the story so captivating.  The first chapter, reflecting on the mystical lure of water, acts as a lure itself by luring the reader into the vast sea that is Moby-Dick.  Once engaged by the story and writing the vastness of the book works to make it so that all you feel and experience is Melville’s whaling world; it’s mesmerizing.  The first time I read it I could not pull myself out of it.  From that first chapter I was hooked and I  blazed through the first four hundred pages oblivious to anything else.
            Even through the chapters that seem to detour from the purposeful plot (I must emphasize that it only seems that way) the language and imagery flows in such beauty they shrink the pages.  The characterization and personification of the ocean entertain throughout ranging from a peaceful and serene friend to a violent and raging fiend which “No mercy, no power but its own controls it.  Panting and snorting like a mad battle steed that has lost its rider, the masterless ocean overruns the globe.”  I also love Melville’s elegant and sophisticated alliterations such as: “It is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.”
            Then there is Ahab. The “monomaniac” Captain Ahab, whose blind rage for vengeance drives his Pequod and Ishmael (the narrator) through peril and violence in an unbending effort to find and fight the unstoppable force of a nearly mythical beast who maimed him.  As Ahab vows; “I’d strike the Sun if it insulted me!”
            Captain Ahab turns Moby-Dick into a character study of hatred and hatred’s violent toll.  Ahab alone would make Moby-Dick worthy reading, but so much more is offered and all of it is massive and magnificent.  In spite of its physical size I find myself reading it almost yearly, never growing bored.  It is at different times hilarious, thrilling and touching but always wonderful.

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August 26, 2010
I think it was Charles Olson who called Moby Dick, "the first 20th century novel." The other thing about it is that a whaling ship was a factory, a very expensive factory, and it was egregious capitalism. Just the way the shares are laid out makes a case for capital trumping labor - same as it ever was. I'm sure there's an economic allegory in there along with everything else.
More Moby-Dick reviews
review by . June 16, 2010
I don't really care whether or not something counts as literature. Whatever the merits of reading a work, nothing seems to take the fun out of it like being told how seriously to take it. I'm not interested in a work's importance but its power, so I approached Moby Dick not as "The Great American Novel" (whatever that means) but as a story of a madman chasing a monster across the vast abyss of the open ocean. (Before Jaws, before Cthulhu, there was Dick!) And it's a brilliant …
Quick Tip by . October 07, 2010
Want to read the Bible, read the Bible. Want to read about whaling trips ... um ... why would you want to do that?
Quick Tip by . August 26, 2010
It's epic, it's grand; and it's thematic import of good and evil are etched indelibly, but it's overlong to be sure.
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
I am about a third of the way through after having avoided this novel for awhile. I never realized how amusing Melville could be until I delved into his character descriptions.
Quick Tip by . July 08, 2010
Hard to believe the writer of this American classic died unheralded.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
I think Melville is pretty awesome, and Ahab is an intriguing figure, and there are lots of interesting things in this book. But there's too much about whaling for my tastes.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
Good read
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Epic story, but can be a bit slow at times.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
who hasnt read this?!
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
Sea adventures make me sea sick.
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Moby-Dick, also known as The Whale, is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. Moby-Dick is often referred to as a Great American Novel and is considered one of the treasures of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship  Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character's journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator's reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor's life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides.

Often classified as American Romanticism, Moby-Dick was first published by Richard Bentley in London on October 18, 1851 in an expurgated three-volume edition titled The Whale, and weeks later as a single volume, by New York City publisher Harper and Brothers as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale on November 14, 1851. Although the book initially received ...
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ISBN-10: 0553213113
ISBN-13: 978-0553213119
Author: Herman Melville
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Bantam Classics
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1984 (British first edition)

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