Moby Dick is a novel about whaling at sea. Ahab, captain of a whaling ship leads his crew to hunt a sperm whale called Moby Dick. Ahab is intelligent and arrogant; he has been at sea for forty years and is very experienced in sailing and whaling. During a whale hunt, Ahab is bitten off a leg by Moby Dick, and from then on he decides to kill it. Moby Dick is a symbol of the unpredictable power of nature. Unlike other whales that have regular routines, Moby Dick is clueless and unknown. The presence of this whale brings fatalistic fear and sorrow to the people who hunt it. Captain Ahab and Moby Dick become rivals with each other and engage in a fight to the death.
It took Herman Melville 17 months to complete the book. However, until Melville's death in 1891, Moby Dick brought him neither wealth nor literary fame. In the 20th century, its popularity skyrocketed. Along with Faulkner's The Bear and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick is known as one of the three great animal epics in American literature. The novel has been adapted or represented in art, film, books, cartoons, television shows, and more than a dozen versions in comic-book format.
The English writer D. H. Lawrence called Moby Dick "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world”. American songwriter Bob Dylan, when accepting the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2017, credited Moby-Dick as one of the three books that influenced him most. "That theme, and all that it implies, would work its way into more than a few of my songs."
Herman Melville (1819-1891) was born into a prestigious family in New York City, well-educated. When he was twelve years old, his father became ill due to bankruptcy and died soon after. Melville had to leave school to work and help support the family. He worked as a bank clerk, farm worker, leather store boy, and rural teacher. At the age of nineteen, Melville went to work on a cargo ship bound for England. The voyage broadened Melville's horizons and played an important role in the formation of his democratic, egalitarian and humanitarian ideas.
Based on his voyage around the islands of the South Pacific, Melville wrote two travelogue novels, Typee and Omoo, which became instant bestsellers. His next novel, Mardi, was a romance adventure but did not achieve the expected success. He did not give up expressing his thoughts through writing, which prepared him well for his full-length and powerful novel Moby Dick.