Moby Dick

MobyDickReviewed by Celine

Suffer from a leg loss and determined vengeance drives a hateful captain to relentlessly seek out “Moby Dick” in the fantastic 1851 classic novel bearing the same name. Moby Dick is an intricately written story by Herman Melville set in Nantucket during 1800s. The infamous opening line “Call me Ishmael” instantly whisk you back in time to the whaling days. Melville speaks thru as Ishmael ready to unfold the epic. This highly adventurous book is packed with details and events devoted to the reasons behind the massive whale hunting industry of the time in order to supply necessities and luxury goods.

Before Captain Ahab appears, you are greeted with portrayals of a series of characters who are eventually to be associated with the Pequod, the whaling ship. It’s hard to miss Ishmael’s habit in going into long descriptions for pretty much everything. Yet you will find logic in his descriptions of the town, of the people, of the whalers, of the tavern patrons, of religious beliefs, of how much he should be compensated, right down to the emotion he experiences at each turn. Ishmael quickly forged a great relationship with Queequeg, a standout in this novel. When the inn owner returned the strongest defense of this would-be roommate to Ishmael’s protest that he may be dangerous –“He pays regular”. Queequeg is definitely someone modern financial institutions and businesses will like. After getting a glimpse to Queequeg’s great credit record, Ishmael’s dramatic imagination and fear of the possibly cannibalistic Queequeg brought somewhat of a comic relief to what the story has in store later. Ishmael signed contract to sail with the Pequod and introduced Queequeg to join after overcoming ship owners concerns about Queequeg. Ishmael went on to describe all the days and preparations up to the time when Pequod set sail.

After sailing with Ahab, Ishmael revealed what he learned about Ahab and Moby Dick. Ahab suffered his loss when the whale destroyed his boat. (Can you blame the whale for that when it’s being hunted for its fat and ambergris?) Pain and agony is obviously greatly suffered by Ahab as the ship needs time to get back to Nantucket to reach sensible medical care. Ahab had the entire journey’s time to make the whole thing personal, and his torment formed the basis of the chase for Moby. As with Ishmael’s nature, you are loaded with tremendous detail of the whaling sea life, the ship crew including the ghostly Fedallah, and encounters of other ship with elusive Moby Dick sightings. Along the way as special bonus for faithful readers, you get heapings of “Encyclopedia Ishmaelica” devoted to cetology–all about whales for any aspiring cetologists.

If you happen to like combat battles between the forces of man versus the forces of Mother Nature’s beasts, this novel is the perfect time-eating and enjoyable story ready to blast away your mind. The story expressed the power of Mother Nature, and the ways it foreshadows a significant and huge showdown is treasure trove for detail hunters. Small but dramatic events such as the whaling boat being constantly followed by schools of fish and the sudden appearance of a giant squid marks the foreshadowing of the final encounter and battle against Moby Dick. Although it was clear the Pequod is steering toward its demise with Ishmael surviving to tell the tale, having the story told in first person makes it easy for Melville to craft a sense of mystery. This story is a must for history enthusiasts due to its fine delicate details of Nantucket, whaling industry, and whaling life. Ishmael shares his observations and thoughts of the time. I give the book 4.5 stars, because the awesome details in the book can at times distract from the main action. If you prefer more tightly packed actions, you may wish to pick up the abridged version but risk missing the wonderfully elaborate original version. All in all, Moby Dick is definitely not to be missed.

Check out Moby Dick at the Newport Beach Public Library.

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