“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.”
This story is famous for its opening paragraph. I have reread it several times, and came down to its meaning. The narrator’s name is Ishamel, and he is talking an incident that happened a few years ago, not telling us the details of how long. When there is nothing that could interest him on the shore, he thinks it is time to see the sea to help his mind.
Ishmael, who experienced in merchant marine, decides to go whaling. On a December night, he arrives at a gloomy inn at Bedford Massachusetts and reluctantly agrees to share a bed with a complete stranger who is absent until Midnight. When a heavily tattooed man arrives to find Ishmael under his covers, both men are alarmed, but soon they have a very close friendship. Then they decide to sail together from Nantucket, for their whaling voyage.
“I peered and pryed about the Devil Dam; from her hopped over to the Tit bit, and finally, going aboard the Pequod, looked around her for a moment, and decided this was the very ship for us.”
Queequeq, who is now Ishmael’s best friend, tells Ishmael that his wooden God Yojo said that Ishamel must choose the ship they would board. Ishamel agree. After finding out that there are three boats available for a whaling voyage, the Devil Dam, Tit Bit and the Pequod, Ishmael decides that the Pequod was the right boat for him to board.
On the day of boarding, which is on Christmas, Ishamel is sure that he see figures moving towards the boat but after peering more closely, he then becomes sure that he sees nothing. As they leave the port, Ishmael observes that Captain Ahab is nowhere to be seen on the deck. Some time after sailing he appeares on the quarter deck, one morning, an imposing figure to Ishmael.
He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them, or taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness.. Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded.
Ahab tells his crew with a speech, that he wants revenge on Moby Dick, a gigantic legendary white whale which has taken off one of his legs down to the knee, in a previous whaling voyage. Starbuck, the first mate, is the only one who does not agree with Ahab. He declares that it is madness to want revenge over an animal which lacks reason. But he could not persuade the crew to oppose Ahab, who is maddened by revenge. Ahab demonstrates erratic behavior from the very beginning and his eccentricities magnifies as the voyage progresses.
Moby Dick symbolizes a lot of things, starting from God, the Ocean, nature, fate, and the very Universe itself. Moby Dick is an epic saga of the Pequod, searching for the white whale, sailing around the world, and meeting other vessels to ask whether they have seen the white whale. Moby Dick is truly unlike anything written before or since. It’s gripping and wise, one of the best epic novels. A whaling expedition from Nantucket – something experienced by the young Melville himself – becomes the story of an obsession, an investigation into the meaning of life.
Moby Dick, 683-pages-book, is one of my mother’s favorite novels. My younger sister (8 year old) has currently read Moby Dick rewritten for little kids. She even named her stuffed pinky animal by Moby Dick.
Herman Melville was an American Novelist, poet, and writer of short stories. He was born in the year 1819, August 1 and died in the year 1891 on September 28. His contributions to the Western Canon are the whaling novel Moby Dick, the short work Bartleby, the Scrivener, a slave ship narrative Banito Careno and Billy Budd, Sail.