- Author – Herman Melville
- Genre – Adventure novel, Epic, Sea story
- Date – October 18, 1851
Moby Dick, or The Whale was written by American writer Herman Melville, and is an epic sea story with Capt. Ahab setting off on a voyage in pursuit of a sperm whale that he calls Moby Dick. When it was published it was a complete and utter commercial failure and went out of print by the time the author had died in 1891, but then it’s reputation began to rise during the 20th century with greats like D.H. Lawrence calling it the greatest book of the sea ever written. And now today it is considered one of the great American novels, with the opening line “call me Ishmael” being one of the most recognizable opening lines in Western literature.
Melville proposed the English publication in a letter in June 1852 Richard Bentley but since this was an English book with it being set in type and published in England and there was uncertainty over the legal status of the English copyright for an American work the new book was finished and published almost a year later than Melville had announced.
After Melville had given the proof sheets for Bentley to his brother Alan continued to make alterations in them, he made a very important alteration: he changed the title.
After the opening line, Ishmael proceeds to net eight the entire story of the voyage of the Whale ship Pequod, which was commanded by Capt. Ahab. The one and only purpose of Capt. Ahab was revenge on Moby Dick, who was a ferocious, enigmatic white whale. While on a previous voyage the whale had destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. The entire novel gives you a detailed and very realistic description of the whale hunting process along with the process of extracting whale oil. It also shows you glimpses of life aboard the ship living in the myths of a culturally diverse group with mixed classes and social statuses, mixed outlooks of good and evil, and the existence of God.
The author Herman Melville uses a very wide range of styles to write this novel uses lists and catalogs, Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies and asides. And it resulted in a very epic book that will be forever remembered in American literature.