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About the book
  • Published: 21 February 2003
  • ISBN: 9780142437247
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 720
  • RRP: $26.99

Moby Dick Or, The Whale-Cla


Formats & editions


The original 'Great American Novel', Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is a masterful study of obsession. This Penguin Classics edition contains an introduction by Andrew Delblanco, with explanatory commentary by Tom Quirk.

'Call me Ishmael.'

So begins Herman Melville's masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. As Ishmael is drawn into Captain Ahab's obsessive quest to slay the white whale Moby-Dick, he finds himself engaged in a metaphysical struggle between good and evil. More than just a novel of adventure, more than an paean to whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting social commentary, populated by some of the most enduring characters in literature; the crew of the Pequod, from stern, Quaker First Mate Starbuck, to the tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, are a vision of the world in microcosm, the pinnacle of Melville's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is a profound, poetic inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

Based on the Northwestern University Press edition, this Penguin Classics edition includes a critical introduction by Andrew Delbanco, as well as valuable explanatory notes, maps, illustrations and a glossary of nautical terms.

Herman Melville is now regarded as one of America's greatest novelists. Much of the material for his novels was drawn from his own experience as a seaman aboard whaling ships. He wrote his masterpiece Moby-Dick in 1851, and died in 1891.

If you enjoyed Moby-Dick, you may like Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, also available in Penguin Classics.

  • Pub date: 21 February 2003
  • ISBN: 9780142437247
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 720
  • RRP: $26.99

About the Author

Herman Melville

Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

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