Moby Dick Summary: Plot, Quotes, and FAQs


Who wrote the novel Moby Dick? Believe it or not many people do not know the answer or only know a part of the answer (e.g., first name or last name). Herman Melville, an American writer, published the book in 1851. A good Moby Dick online book can give you more information into the life of the author and describe the experiences he had that inspired the writing of this American classic.

Which character narrates the novel Moby Dick? Ishmael is the narrator and the sole survivor of the Pequod. He is a minor character in terms of plot but his role as the narrator (note-taker on the ship) makes him among the most important.

Summary of Moby Dick

This Moby Dick by Herman Melville summary briefly goes over the novel’s major parts. You’re always encouraged to read the book as it is one of the most celebrated works of literature of all time along with Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. But if you are pressed for time and need a quick overview, this Moby Dick short summary is just right for you.

Moby Dick Plot Summary

This Moby Dick book summary starts with the introduction of the story’s narrator, Ishmael, who signs up for a voyage on the whaling ship, Pequod. Onboard he learns of Captain Ahab Moby Dick’s intention of hunting down the same whale that bit his leg off. The story is cast as one of revenge. Along the way, the Pequod runs into numerous ships and Captain Ahab asks if any of their crew have seen the whale. As the search continues the Captain’s mind grows madder until, at last, he encounters the whale and chases it over several days. The ensuing battle destroys the whaling ship and all are thought to be killed.

Moby Dick Chapter 1 Summary

We focus this Moby Dick chapter summary on just the first chapter because it is the one that is most often required as a Moby Dick analysis for high school and college courses. Here we are introduced to the book’s narrator, Ishmael, who joined the Pequod to be a simple sailor. In this chapter, we are also introduced to one of the major themes of the novel – life in the sea where there are fewer rules but lives are left to fate. It is a dark foretelling of the tragedy that will befall the crewmembers who have chosen life on sea versus life on land.

Memorable Moby Dick Quotes

These 20 quotes from Moby Dick are among literature’s most recognizable and referenced in thousands of books from all over the world.

  1. “God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart forever; the vulture the very creature he creates.
  2. “There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.”
  3. “Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.”
  4. “My body is but the less of my better being.”
  5. “Book! You lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You’ll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts.”
  6. “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”
  7. “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.”
  8. “All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.”
  9. “Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.”
  10. “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”
  11. “Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.”
  12. “Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
  13. “I am past scorching; not easily can’st thou scorch a scar.”
  14. “Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form.”
  15. “Ignorance is the parent of fear.”
  16. “See how elastic our prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.”
  17. “Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth.”
  18. “I try all things, I achieve what I can.”
  19. “All mortal greatness is but disease.”
  20. “Call me Ishmael.”

Moby Dick Summary: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Moby Dick a Good Book?

    Of course, it is! Depending on what list you reference, it’s generally in the top 20 Best American Novels and received high praise from British audiences despite the book’s original pressing which did not include the epilogue.

  • What is the First Line of Moby Dick?

    Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.

  • Who is the Captain in Moby Dick?

    Captain Ahab. He is a monomaniac and in search of the title whale Moby Dick who bit off the Captain’s leg in prior whaling voyage.

  • How Many Moby Dick Chapters Are There?

    135 chapters with an Epilogue. Depending on the edition you pick up, you can expect each chapter to be around 3 – 5 pages. A reader who can cover 250 WPM will take a little less than 7 hours to complete this masterpiece.

  • Are There Any Moby Dick Films?

    Yes! The Sea Beast (silent film 1926), Moby Dick (1930), Moby Dick (1956), Moby Dick (unfinished 1971), to start and numerous other versions appearing in animation and the big screen.

  • Who are the Major Moby Dick Characters?

    Captain Ahab, Father Mapple, Captain Boomer, Ishmael, Starbuck, Elijah, Queequeg, Stubb, Yosemite Sam, and Moby Dick are widely regarded as the most important characters in the novel.

  • What is Starbuck Moby Dick?

    It’s not a what, it’s a he. Starbuck is the first mate of the Pequod and is one of the most important characters in Moby Dick.

We are glad to answer any of your questions. Our experts can provide you with a more in-depth analysis of Moby Dick so that you have no trouble tackling any assignment in this novel. Need help with other literary works? Send us a message and our customer support staff will put you in touch with one of our highly-qualified assignment experts.

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