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Moby Dick (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 5 Mar 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (5 Mar 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192833855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192833853
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.5 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,246,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Herman Melville was 31 years old when he started writing The Whale in New York during February 1850. He left the sea in 1844 to become a writer and had drawn on his experience as a seaman in many of his successful works. By 1851 the only part of his years at sea which he had not drawn on for fictional purposes was his experience on a whaling ship Acushnet in 1841-2. It is almost as if he had intuited that this area of his life would yield the richest returns only when his imagination was ready to appropriate all its possibilities and explore them to their further riches. The most important event during the seventeen months in which Melville was writing his novel was his meeting with Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. This meeting had a profound effect on Melville. Moby Dick is dedicated to Hawthorne. Melville died, in obscurity, in 1891.

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Amazon Review

Arguably Herman Melville's greatest work, and hailed as a classic American novel, Moby Dick tells the tale of one man's fatal obsession and his willingness to sacrifice his life and that of his crew to achieve his goal. The story follows the fortunes of Captain Ahab and the culturally and spiritually diverse crew of the Pequod, a 19th century whaling ship. The Pequod is on its last voyage out of New Bedford, Mass, in pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale which has been Ahab's obsessional quarry and bitter adversary for many years. Narrated by sole survivor Ishmael, the tale forms a complex fictional fusion, combining a wealth of literary symbolism, hidden meaning and philosophical debate with adventure narrative and a detailed historical account of the 19th century whaling trade. --Emily Lowson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Historically, the two great typographical edifices of West Coast printing are the Grabhorn "Leaves of Grass and the Nash "Divine Comedy. Now the Arion Press "Moby Dick takes its place beside them. . .It is the textual weft of hand composition that forms the chief glory of this work. Hoyem seems to have found the perfect measure to accommodate text to type. We turn page after page of matchless composition. . .as the magical result. I would venture the opinion that this constitutes a feat of modern craftsmanship unexcelled in modern printing." --"Fine Print --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Aug 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I would like to believe that Melville was years (maybe centuries) ahead of his time, but more than likely he was just plain nuts, apparently stalking Hawthorne and who knows what else. This shouldn't stop you from enjoying the fun though! In MD we basically have two ideas going on, with Ahab's whole monomaniac pursuit of the whale bookending hundreds of pages that essentially capture Ishmael's (sun)baked thoughts during his three years or so on board the Pequid. This middle section will either bore and repel the reader, or suck them in, resembling some post modern-ish films like Satyricon, or perhaps the writings of some lost beat author. This middle section is a detailed narrative of every thought that strikes Ishmael's mind as he is immersed in what must be a remarkably dull setting. So instead, his mind wanders, seeing analogies in every bit of rope and whale tissue to the relationship between man and God, man and nature, man in society, etc. The idea is so absurd and executed so bombastically that it works. Had the man he dedicated this book to (Nathaniel Hawthorne) wrote MD instead, it would have been awful, but Melville can write about Ahab's pipe with enthusiasm, and put that very same pipe into a mythic perspective! Of the outer story, what is there left to say? Only an American author could take the standard tragedy of man bested by the fates and turn it into man bested by the fates/decides to hunt down and kill God! An absolutely fantastic and unforgettable book, but I would have enjoyed more ramblings from Ishmael. I'm serious!!!
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Aug 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The prose is so vivid that the only comparison that comes to mind is Shakespeare. Some sentences or paragraphs are so finely wrought as to hit you between the eyes, and as such I can say that I am glad I have read it, and if life were longer I might even read it again. However, I have to concede that the book is very hard work. What story there is all takes place in the last 25 pages and is an action tour-de-force, but the previous 400 or so pages are lengthy and wordy digressions on whales, whaling and all conceivable ancillary topics, which at their worst are maddeningly garrulous. The characterisation is poor, unsurprisingly given that so little of the text is devoted to the players. Ishmael, the narrator is virtually a disembodied observer who brings little of himself to the action. Ahab is the tortured megalomaniac for whom we are given no opportunity for sympathy or empathy. All the other human characters, namely the ship's crew, are mere automata. Those of a nautical bent might get excited about the details of the ship, the Pequod, which is more lovingly written than the humans or the whales, but I'm not that way inclined.

I can see this book being truly relished by hardcore literature buffs with a love of ships and the sea, but I can't help but feel that just about anyone else would find it very heavy going.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. Morgan on 3 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback
4 stars? Nooo, a bit mean. 1? Embarrassing. 5, Certainly. This book lays claim to be that mythical beast, The Great American Novel and its scope is vast and I am not sure if Melville's reach has exceeded his grasp... but then in a way that is what the book is about: ambition. Yes, the first chapter is deliberately (?) boring as Melville imparts as much data on whales as he can. This is your 'ticket of entry.' Now one of the great first lines in all literature "Call me Ishmael" more beguiling than anything the Ancient Mariner ever managed, as well as one of the greatest final lines. Between this and Moby Dick himself you have the figure of Father Mapplethorpe delivering his Cetacean-oriented sermon in an appropriately whale 'themed' church in Nantucket, preparing the mariners for what all know is a dangerous mission; of Queequeg, a Native American actually seen as a human being; the archetypal Capt Ahab, in search of the ideal...which is A whale? God? Truth? Perfection? Desire? All of the above? Yup? Or maybe 'just' mad? It's a magnificently written book too, for all its superabundance, its longueurs and its helpless, inevitable prolixity; this man wants to cover everything, he is HUGELY ambitious - and it is a Whale Tale! The characters and richness of language may justifiably be called Shakespearian, he is chancing more than an arm on this one (and like Ahab, lost; well for 70 odd years he 'lost'). You feel here something of Melville's metaphysical Doubt as he closes on truth, feels it as just receding from us like the world from Tantalus. Forget the nay-sayers; this is a masterpiece, and no-one else has ever written a novel like this, not even Melville, Go on, try it.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Guardian of the Scales on 25 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
Now an undisputed classic of American literature, Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" was a commercial failure on first publication in 1851, one from which Melville's reputation did not recover until the 1920's, long after his death. Some link the recognition that "Moby Dick" began to receive at this point to the recently-ended First World War, as those who had witnessed such wholesale and mindless slaughter searched for a meaning behind it all, and Melville's tragic vision of the human condition started to make sense.

Apart from being an adventure story about the search for the titular white whale by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab and the crew of the ship he commands, the Pequod, the book also constitutes a handbook of technical information on whaling and related matters. Melville had himself served on a whaling ship so knew what he was talking about; that said, why he choose to interrupt the narrative so frequently with the minutiae of whaling is a mystery, as it is unquestionably difficult for the reader.

Furthermore, "Moby Dick" is a philosophical tract, a deep, troubled exploration of the human condition. Ahab's speech is almost all in the form of soliloquies, employing stately language influenced by Milton's "Paradise Lost." Here we see that Ahab defines his existence by his search for the white whale. Why?, that is the question. The fact that the answer is so hard to pin down is a great part of the book's enduring appeal. At times, the whale seems to symbolize the crushing indifference of the forces that surround us, that wreak havoc and perpetrate atrocities without consciousness, the implacable machinery of the universe. If Ahab can kill the murderous whale, he can assert himself against these forces.
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