Moby Dick Summary

Moby-Dick is a novel by Herman Melville in which Ishmael tells the story of Captain Ahab and the white whale, Moby Dick. Ahab searches for Moby Dick in a single-minded pursuit.

  • Ishmael joins the crew of the Pequod, a whaling ship helmed by Captain Ahab. There, he befriends a fellow shipmate named Queequeg.

  • Captain Ahab reveals that the white whale, Moby Dick, bit off his leg. As the Pequod traverses the whaling grounds, Ahab continuously seeks information from other boats about Moby Dick.

  • In a deadly confrontation with Moby Dick, the entire crew of the Pequod is killed, except for Ishmael.


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Last Updated July 10, 2023.

Moby Dick is a novel written by Herman Melville and first published in 1851. Melville drew inspiration from his own experiences at sea, as well as historical accounts of whaling and maritime adventures. The novel is a complex work that explores themes of obsession, fate, the nature of evil, and humanity's relationship with the natural world. Melville's writing reflects both the literary traditions of his time and his own unique narrative style.

Ishmael, the storyteller, reveals that he turns to the sea as a remedy for his sadness. When he arrives at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford, he shares a room with Queequeg, who has tattoos and carries a tomahawk, and has been selling shrunken heads. At first, Ishmael is scared of him, but as time goes on, Queequeg becomes his close and trusted friend.

Ishmael goes to the Whaleman's Chapel, where Father Mapple delivers a sermon about Jonah and the whale. Afterward, Ishmael and Queequeg embark on a journey to Nantucket and sign up for work on a whaling ship. During the ferry ride to the island, a young man taunts Queequeg, but later he falls overboard and is rescued by Queequeg.

During Queequeg's observance of Ramadan in his room at the Try Pots, Ishmael enlists as a crew member on the Pequod, a whaling ship owned by Quaker captains named Bildad and Peleg. However, before Queequeg, who is not a follower of the Quaker faith, is allowed to join the crew as a harpooner, he must demonstrate his proficiency in that role.

Before boarding the Pequod, the two friends encounter Elijah, a disturbed individual who issues unclear cautions regarding Ahab and the trip. Through the fog, they observe several indistinct shapes boarding the vessel. On Christmas day, the ship departs, and Starbuck, the chief mate, selects Queequeg as his harpooneer, while Stubb, the second mate, picks the Indian, Tashtego, and Flask, the third mate, chooses the African, Daggoo.

After a few days of the ship being at sea, Ahab emerges on the deck, which makes Ishmael feel a bit uneasy. A white scar can be seen on Ahab's face, stretching from his hairline to his neck and covered by his clothes. Additionally, Ahab is standing on a man-made leg crafted from the bones of a whale.

Ahab calls all men on deck. He nails a gold doubloon to the mast and tells the men that the first person to spot Moby Dick, the white whale, will win the coin. Ahab says that Moby Dick was the one who cut off his leg.

When the first whale is seen, and the boats are lowered, the sailors are surprised to see Ahab in his own boat with a mysterious crew that had been hiding below deck. His harpooner is the strange Fedallah. During the chase, a storm comes up. The Pequod almost hits Ishmael's boat after it flips over.

After going around the Cape of Good Hope, the ship has its first of many gams, or meetings with other ships. Ahab only talks to these ships to find out what's going on with Moby Dick. Men have died on more than one ship because of the whale. Moby Dick was just chased by the Rachel, and now it is looking for a lost boat. The captain's young son is on that boat, but Ahab won't help look for him. Starbuck goes up to Ahab and tries to get him to give up his plan to get back at Moby Dick.

The first whale to be killed was by Stubb's boat. The cook, Fleece, gives a sermon...

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to the sharks while Stubb eats his whale steak. During the cleaning of another whale, Tashtego falls into the whale's tun, which is the forehead where the spermaceti live. When the ship's head breaks off and falls into the water, Queegueg saves Tashtego. During another whale chase, Pip, the shy black boy, is left alone in the sea, which drives him crazy. Queequeg has a fever and thinks he is going to die soon, so he has the ship's carpenter build him a coffin.

Ahab tells the blacksmith to make a special harpoon out of the blood of the harpooners from the other tribes. Ahab holds the harpoon above his head during a storm, and lightning strikes it. Later, Ahab has a dream, and Fedallah tells him what it means. The Parsee says that he will die before Ahab, that hemp is the only thing that can kill Ahab, and that Ahab will see two funeral hearses on the sea before he dies.

Moby Dick is finally seen by Ahab. Three days pass during the chase. Fedallah dies because he is tied to the body of the big beast with tangled lines. Ahab throws his harpoon at Moby Dick, but the line gets tangled and wraps around Moby Dick's neck. Moby Dick is pulled down into the water. The bow of the Pequod is hit by Moby Dick, and Queequeg's coffin shoots out of the whirlpool made by the sinking ship. Ishmael is the only person to survive, and he holds on to this strange life buoy until he is saved.


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