Moby-Dick’s narrator, Ishmael, is a drifter and former merchant seaman, who departs from Nantucket on a perilous whaling mission to the South Seas. At the helm of his ship, the Pequod, is Captain Ahab, whose soul is bent on hunting and killing the great white whale that cost him his leg in an earlier encounter. As they voyage south, Ahab’s obsession takes his crew deeper into the abyss in desperate pursuit of the great demon of the seas.
‘In that wild, beautiful romance, Melville seems to have spoken the very secret of the Sea.’
- John Masefield
Ahab’s single-minded pursuit of the whale is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, as he perverts his commercial venture into one of vengeance on a seemingly invincible foe, his crew becoming human casualties of a madman’s quest.
With its elemental simplicity of plot, its pathos and perfectly realised action scenes, Moby-Dick is not only a breathtaking adventure but also a vivid meditation on Melville’s America, taking in wider themes of nature, religion, society, war, history and civilisation.
‘Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have seen – Moby Dick – Moby Dick!’
Our edition is faithful to Melville’s text, and retains the spelling and punctuation of the original. Melville spent many years at sea and his perfectly attuned ear enabled him to reproduce the colloquial language of his characters in a wonderfully exhilarating and idiosyncratic style. The poetry of his language echoes the humour of Dickens, the richness of Shakespeare and the cadences of the Bible.
Rockwell Kent’s celebrated illustrations from the 1930 edition are a true match for Melville’s vivid descriptive power. With their beauty, simplicity and vigour, they will forever be associated with Melville’s epic sea story.