Ishmael, a fact announced in one of literatures most famous first lines, narrates the novel. He is a man of crude personal history who enlists for a whaling voyage. He does this for many reasons, many which are delineated for us in the book’s first chapter. In summary what he is hoping for, what he is looking for is some harsh relaxation, an ability to forget the madness of his land locked America. What he finds is Captain Ahab.
Most of the memorable literary protagonists desire what is impossible. Don Quixote wants the world to be something greater than what it is, and his incessant insistence on his personal truth makes him, in turn, hilariously pathetic. Ichabod Crain strives for love and money but is driven off in fear of the Headless Horseman. Rarely are literary protagonists as aggressive in their pursuits as Captain Ahab is in his. The White Whale Moby-Dick, a beast who is said to be omnipotent, took Captain Ahab’s leg. This makes it unnaturally difficult to exact any meaningful revenge. Ahab ...
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...ted by the sinking Pequod and pulled under to their deaths.
Ishmael, who was thrown from a boat at the beginning of the chase, was far enough away to escape the whirlpool, and he alone survives. He floats atop a coffin, which popped back up from the wreck, until he is picked up by the Rachel, which is still searching for the crewmen lost in her earlier encounter with Moby Dick.
Moby Dick is all that and a strong plot too. It is one of the rare complete books; a book about everything, costumed as an oppressively fixed on one thing, while staying beautifully rendered and at times bracingly bold. A warning to readers, give the first chapter a try but, if it is not to your taste, you may vary well succeed in what Ahab miserably failed, in turning back from everything overwhelming epitomized by both the great White Whale and Melville’s Moby Dick.
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