M o b y - D i c k
By Herman Melville
“Call me Ishmael” -Moby Dick; or, The Whale
Furious waves crash over the side of the small
boat you’re rowing in. The harsh wind from
the sea pelts your face, but you’re more
concerned with the sharks circling around your
boat. Suddenly, something enormous and
white shoots from the sea, and your heart
almost stops. In front of you is the largest and
most terrifying creature you’ve ever seen. The
sailor next to you mutters an oath and says in a
low voice, “It’s her. It’s Moby Dick.”
Moby Dick; or, The Whale
. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville uses destiny to
twist lives of his characters in a way they don’t
expect. This theme can be seen in an unlikely
friendship, the circumstances in which our
narrator begins his journey, and the prophecy
of Captain Ahab’s death.
• Aug. 1st, 1819: Birth
• 1839: Melville goes on his first sea voyage as a cabin
• 1841-1844: Melville sails on Acushnet, stays on a
Marquesas Islands, and then sails on USS United
States, all of which provides inspiration.
• 1846- late 1800’s: Most of Melville’s writing is done.
• 1850: Melville moves to Massachusetts and meets
• 1851: Moby Dick is published.
• Sept. 28th, 1891: Death
• “Ishmael”, a sailor, travels to Nantucket.
• “Ishmael” meets Queequeg, a harpooneer, and the two
find work on the Pequod, a whaling boat.
• Captain Ahab is introduced, and the crew learns that
they are hunting Moby Dick.
• Captain Ahab’s prophecy is revealed, misleading Ahab.
• Starbuck (the 1st mate) tries to keep everyone alive.
• The Pequod spots Moby Dick and begins the chase.
• First time on a whaling boat
• Only survivor at the end
• Cannibal Prince
• Very well mannered
• Still, slightly out of place in America
• Always sticks to his morals
• Excellent Harpooneer
• Becomes a friend of Ishmael
Ishmael and Queequeg’s friendship
• Afraid of each other when they first meet
• Both seem very different from one another
– Educated American
– Cannibalistic Prince
• Both become friends, and end up sailing together
on the Pequod.
• “Had not the stranger stood between me and
the door, I would have bolted out of it quicker
than ever I bolted a dinner.” –Ishmael upon seeing Queequeg (Melville 24)
• “You no speak-e, I kill-e.” -Queequeg upon seeing Ishmael in his bed (Melville
• “and said that henceforth we were married;
meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were
bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if
need should be.” -Ishmael talking about his new friendship with Queequeg (Melville 56)
Choosing the Pequod
• Makes more sense for Queequeg to choose a
boat, since he’s been a whaler
• Insists that Ishmael must choose (according to
• Seems like a supernatural force is guiding
• Shouldn’t there be a happy ending then?
“Yojo earnestly enjoined that the selection of
the ship should rest wholly with me,…and..,
had already pitched upon a vessel…and in that
vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the
present irrespective of Queequeg.”
- Ishmael referring to his conversation with Queequeg about choosing a boat. (Melville 73)
• Lost his leg to Moby Dick
• Maddened with need for revenge
• “He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab- so some
think- but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well
enough; no fear, no fear. He’s a grand, ungodly,
god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak
much; but, when he does speak, then you may
well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab’s
above the common;” -Peleg to Ishmael (Moby Dick 85)
– Fadallah’s death
– Two coffins
– Hemp can only kill him
• Captain Ahab is misled by his death prediction,
and thinks he cannot die at sea.
“Drive, drive in your nails, oh ye waves! To their
uttermost heads drive them in! ye but strike a
thing without a lid; and no coffin and no hearse
can be mine: - and hemp only can kill me! Ha!
(Moby Dick 607)
“A person often meets his destiny
on the road he chose to avoid it.”
-Jean de La Fontaine
The characters of Moby Dick had their own destinies twisted
in a way they did not expect. Examples of this can be seen in
Queequeg and Ishmael’s friendship, the start of Ishmael’s
journey on the Pequod, and Captain Ahab’s reaction to his
• Music • American Authors: 1600-1900 by Kunitz
– Enya and Haycraft. “Melville, Herman”
– Lord of the Rings • Encyclopedia of American Literature: The
– Memoirs of a Geisha Age of Romanticism and Realism: 1815-
– Pan’s Labyrinth 1914 by Paddock. Vol.11. “Melville,
– Pirates of the Caribbean Herman”
– Saw • Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman
Melville. “Publisher’s Preface”.
Moby Dick; or, The Whale • http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/melvi
Kaitlin Barton ories/section2.rhtml