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What kind of whale is Moby Dick?

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lisasimpson2012 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 7, 2012 at 9:03 PM via web

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What kind of whale is Moby Dick?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 7, 2012 at 9:40 PM (Answer #1)

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Moby Dick is, first of all, a fictional or ficticious whale, invented by Melville as part of his novel, as an antagonist to Captain Ahab.  He is also a symbolic whale, standing for all kinds of things depending on the reader’s interpretation, from Ahab’s ego to Ahab’s pride to Ahab’s search for meaning, to Ahab’s sin against God, etc.  But given Melville’s background and sources for his story (especially his own experiences aboard the whaler Acushnet), Moby Dick is probably a combination of several whales culled from the innumerable whale-hunting stories told in the whaling communities of New England and Canada.  Nautically, he is probably modeled after the Great White Whale, a biological species whose habitat includes the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America, a favorite whaling destination.  This species of whale was a special prize for whalers because of it size (and therefore value), and was considered a particularly difficult, dangerous, and elusive catch, not only because of its size but also because of its feeding, mating, and breeching habits.

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