Moby Dick

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Julie K. Coleman

October 28th, 2010

Moby Dick

Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville, was published in 1851 during a productive time in American Literature. Written during the same time as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick has been classified as American Romanticism. Melville’s two previous novels, Typee and Omoo, were very well received and won him fans in the USA and elsewhere. Moby Dick was criticized for being too long and some of the characters as being unrealistic. Now the novel is considered ahead of its time and it was not until after Melville’s death that the book began to receive recognition for its brilliance. Moby Dick is now considered an epic tale.

The novel is told from the point of view of Ishmael. Ishmael is a wandering sailor that has experience in the merchant marine but has decided to join the crew of a whaling ship. He arrives in New Bedford, Massachusetts and agrees to share a bed with a stranger who isn’t present yet. His bunkmate turns out to be Queequeg. Queequeg is a heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner with whom Ishmael quickly becomes close friends with. Together, they sail together from Nantucket, Massachusetts on a whaling voyage. Ishmael and Queequeg sign up to be part of the crew of the Peqoud whaling ship. While the captain, Ahab, of the ship is nowhere to be seen, Ishmael and Queequeg are told of him – a “grand, ungodly, godlike man,” who has “been in colleges as well as ‘mong the cannibals.”

While Ahab stays in his cabin during the early part of the voyage, the ship’s officers direct the Peqoud. The two friends become familiar with the chief mate - Starbuck, second mate – Stubb, and third mate - Flask. All three mates are sincere and reliable leaders. Ahab finally appears one morning and is seen as an imposing, frightening figure whose appearance sends shivers over Ishmael. Ishmael compares Ahab to “a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the...
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