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Moby-Dick

or, The Whale

Herman Melville - Author

Andrew Delbanco - Introduction by

Tom Quirk - Commentaries by

Paperback | $15.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780142437247 | 720 pages | 31 Dec 2002 | Penguin Classics | 5.07 x 7.79in | 18 - AND UP
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Summary of Moby-Dick Summary of Moby-Dick Reviews for Moby-Dick An Excerpt from Moby-Dick

One of the greatest works of imagination in literary history

Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself.

Introduction by Andrew Delbanco
Explanatory Commentary by Tom Quirk

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.

Introduction
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text

Etymology
Extracts

Moby Dick

Loomings
The Carpet Bag
The Spouter-Inn
The Counterpane
Breakfast
The Street
The Chapel
The Pulpit
The Sermon
A Bosom Friend
Nightgown
Biographical
Wheelbarrow
Nantucket
Chowder
The Ship
The Ramadan
His Mark
The Prophet
All Astir
Going Aboard
Merry Christmas
The Lee Shore
The Advocate
Postscript
Knights and Squires
Knights and Squires
Ahab
Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb
The Pipe
Queen Mab
Cetology
The Specksynder
The Cabin Table
The Mast-Head
The Quarter-Deck • Ahab and all
Sunset
Dusk
First Night-Watch
Forecastle---Midnight
Moby Dick
The Whiteness of the Whale
Hark!
The Chart
The Affidavit
Surmises
The Mat-Maker
The First Lowering
The Hyena
Ahab's Boat and Crew---Fedallah
The Spirit-Spout
The Pequod meets the Albatross
The Gam
The Town Ho's Story
Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales
Of Whales in Paint, in Teeth, &c.
Brit
Squid
The Line
Stubb kills a Whale
The Dart
The Crotch
Stubb's Supper
The Whale as a Dish
The Shark Massacre
Cutting In
The Blanket
The Funeral
The Sphynx
The Pequod meets the Jeroboam • Her Story
The Monkey-rope
Stubb & Flask kill a Right Whale
The Sperm Whale's Head
The Right Whale's Head
The Battering-Ram
The Great Heidelburgh Tun
Cistern and Buckets
The Prairie
The Nut
The Pequod meets the Virgin
The Honor and Glory of Whaling
Jonah Historically Regarded
Pitchpoling
The Fountain
The Tail
The Grand Armada
Schools & Schoolmasters
Fast Fish and Loose Fish
Heads or Tails
The Pequod meets the Rose Bud
Ambergris
The Castaway
A Squeeze of the Hand
The Cassock
The Try-Works
The Lamp
Stowing Down & Clearing Up
The Doubloon
The Pequod meets the Samuel Enderby of London
The Decanter
A Bower in the Arsacides
Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton
The Fossil Whale
Does the Whale Diminish?
Ahab's Leg
The Carpenter
The Deck • Ahab and the Carpenter
The Cabin • Ahab and Starbuck
Queequeg in his Coffin
The Pacific
The Blacksmith
The Forge
The Gilder
The Pequod meets the Bachelor
The Dying Whale
The Whale-Watch
The Quadrant
The Candles
The Deck
Midnight, on the Forecastle
Midnight, Aloft
The Musket
The Needle
The Log and Line
The Life-Buoy
Ahab and the Carpenter
The Pequod meets the Rachel
The Cabin •Ahab and Pip
The Hat
The Pequod meets the Delight
The Symphony
The Chase • First Day
The Chase • Second Day
The Chase • Third Day
Epilogue

List of Textual Emendations
Explanatory Notes
Glossary of Nautical Terms
Maps and Illustrations

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