Moby Dick Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Moby Dick

The tale of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, is seen through the eyes of Ismael, a young man aspiring to be a sailor. He meets Captain Ahab of the Pequod, a whaling boat. The purpose of their excursion is to hunt whales and profit by harvesting their oil. However, he is driven to seek revenge against Moby Dick, a great white whale who took his leg. It is apparent by the first day, when he offers a reward for whoever harpoons Moby Dick.
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His first mate, Starbuck, only wants to make money and return to his family. But, Ahab has emotionally and physically abandoned his wife and son in order to kill Moby Dick. Starbuck believes that it is wrong for Ahab to seek revenge on a dumb animal. However, in Ahab's eyes, Moby Dick is no dumb brute, but someone who has wronged him and takes great pleasure in having done so. Ahab goes about convincing his crew that he is a god and that the death of Moby Dick is all that matters.

He achieves this by forcing the men to participate in a savage blood ritual and utilizing the natural phenomenon of St. Elmo's fire to trick the crew into believing that he possesses supernatural powers. Ahab cares little for the welfare and lives of the crew. Insisting that they move forward despite apparent danger, he leads them into a forceful storm and sailing into ice. Afterwards, they encounter the Rachel, a fellow whaling boat.

The captain begs for assistance in locating his son who is lost at sea. During a typhoon, the Pequod spots Moby Dick. Harpoon boats are dispatched. As Moby Dick surfaces, Ahab jumps on top of the whale and harpoons him. He is pulled on a wild ride. The whale goes below and above the water with Ahab attached. Moby Dick jumps out of the water into a majestic leap and breaks the harpooning boats with his tail. He wreaks havoc on all of the boats, killing the people aboard. In an ironic twist, a spark alights on the Pequod and sends the ship up in flames. The sole survivor is Ishmael, the narrator of the novel.

The review of this Book prepared by Joanna

Moby Dick is a huge white whale. He was responsible for Captain Ahab losing his leg. Now Ahab is obsessed with destroying him. Despite being written during a time when whaling was acceptable in the western world Melville shows a distinct sympathy for the whales who were destroyed in their thousands by the whaling industry. The protagonist in this novel is Ishmael, an ex-schoolteacher who arrives in the coastal town favoured by whalers and signs up as a deckhand. He befriends Queeqeg, a harpooner, who helps him adapt to life aboard ship. Melville describes his subjects down to the very last detail so this book is almost as good as a text book on the whaling industry and the whales themselves. Ahab is one of those dark and brooding characters familiar in literature who is prepared to risk his ship, his crew and his life to capture his prey. Moby Dick, however, thinks differently and evades Ahab till the end.
The review of this Book prepared by Penny

What happenes throuhgout the book is that the sailors take on a great whale. Through the story natural problems occur. In the the main character Ishmael is saved by another ship.
The review of this Book prepared by Chad McElroy

Ishmael, a Manhattan schoolmaster, decides to seek adventure by signing on to the crew of the Pequod, a whaling ship out of Nantucket. The captain, Ahab, has a whale's jawbone instead of a wooden leg, and he drives his crew through the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean in search of a white whale who was responsible for the loss of his leg and is known by sailors as Moby Dick. Though a rollicking adventure story, this sprawling novel is also a philosophical epic, an education in whales and whaling, and a masterpiece of folk themes, literary references, and allegory -- the product of a mind that, according to his colleague Nathaniel Hawthorne, "could neither believe nor be comfortable in unbelief."
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

If anyone reads this book & thinks it's about a mad sailor (Ahab) chasing whales, he or she has totally missed the point. It is about man's struggle against a universe that he doesn't understand....a milieu which is bigger than he is. Perhaps all that mankind can do is put up a heroic struggle against it. This is an extraordinary book about man's condemnation to the realm of mortality and relative powerlessness.
The review of this Book prepared by David Roberts

Chapter Analysis of Moby Dick

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Struggle over    -   revenge! Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Exploring into the wild    -   Yes kind of story    -   hunting animal

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   fisherman Age:    -   20's-30's    -   60's-90's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Ice Caps/Sea?    -   Yes Where?    -   Ocean Water?    -   Yes Water:    -   drowning    -   sail boat    -   lost at sea

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Herman Melville Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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