Moby Dick by Herman Melville


“All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.”

Ishmael wants to find adventure on a whaling ship. Having gone on many fishing trips, he wants to experience the thrills that killing a whale could bring, even if the commitment is three years. While looking for a ship to join, he meets Queequeg, a “heathen” who prays several times a day. They both join a ship but don’t meet Captain Ahab until they are well underway.

I want to work my way through classics that I haven’t read yet, so I chose to listen to Moby Dick through my Overdrive app. I didn’t know beforehand how long the book was. I had to renew it twice as it was about 17 hours worth of audio.

Upon meeting Captain Ahab, the shipmates discover he has an unnatural fixation on capturing a white whale he has named Moby Dick. The whale cost him his leg when they tried to capture it. People who know him suggest the whale will be his undoing. They manage to find the white whale after facing many obstacles on the sea. Even after being reminded of his wife and son back home, Ahab still insists upon trying to capture the whale – again and again.

The book is heavy on description and explanations. A whole chapter is devoted to a sermon Ishmael hears before boarding the whaling ship. There is a lot of the book devoted to explaining whaling, life aboard a ship and types of whales. I sometimes got lost while listening to the audio, so I read a children’s abridged version when I was done to make sure I didn’t miss any major plot events (I didn’t).

The storyline and lessons in the book are great, but I don’t think the original version would keep the attention of most children or middle-schoolers. They could read an abridged version and high-schoolers and adults could enjoy the full story. I would suggest reading the book over listening to the audio if it’s the full novel.

Buy the book here (affiliate link).

About Sarah Anne Carter

Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Family life keeps her busy, but any spare moment is spent reading, writing or thinking about plots for novels.