Moby Dick Notes

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Moby Dick Notes & Analysis

The free Moby Dick notes include comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. These free notes consist of about 84 pages (25,074 words) and contain the following sections:

These free notes also contain Quotes and Themes & Topics on Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Moby Dick Plot Summary

The story begins with Ishmael heading out to find a whaling vessel to join. On his way to Nantucket, the first American City of whaling, he meets a harpooning savage named Queequeg, and the two become quick friends. They find their ship, the Pequod, and despite ominous warnings, and absence of the captain, they board with the rest.

However, things are not what they seem, because when the head of the boat, Captain Ahab, make his first appearance, there is something troubling about him. Things become even more clearly wrong when Ahab gives voice to his desire: he wishes to hunt down the White Whale, Moby Dick, the whale that took his leg, and kill him. All other desires in him are second to that, and nothing can prevent him from achieving his goal. The majority of his crew is all for the adventure, although one man, the chief mate Starbuck, is worried about its eventual end.

The Pequod sails over foreign seas, in order to reach the equator, a known hangout of Moby Dick, at the right season. They meet various crafts, and some ships have stories to tell of the White Whale; their stories describe only death and destruction; Moby Dick is unable to be killed by human hands, an immortal creature. Moby Dick takes on mythical overtones, as an avenging angel, and even possibly God himself. The ship goes about the regular business of whaling, and in between chapters of the story, Ishmael takes up instructing his reader on the process of killing whales and processing it for oil, the persistence of whales in our culture, and even biology lessons on their physical natures.

Finally they approach their intended destination. With each ship they pass, they come closer and closer to finding Moby Dick, and Ahab is driven further into madness. He creates a weapon out of steel, blessed by harpooner's blood, for the specific purpose of killing the whale, and he ignores the pleas of help from another ship, trying to find it's lost men.

Moby Dick is seen at last. The hunt spans over three days, and after it is done, the entire crew of the Pequod, save one, has been killed. The ship is sunk, the whale-boats destroyed, and Ahab himself is yanked to his death by the very iron he himself forged. Only Ishmael survives, to be picked up by another vessel; only he is left to tell the tale.

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