->''Call me Ishmael.''

Described by many as the [[UsefulNotes/GreatAmericanNovel greatest American novel]], ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'', written by Creator/HermanMelville in 1851, is either a story about [[AnimalNemesis the hunt of a dangerous whale by a madman]] that [[ShownTheirWork shows Melville's work]], or [[AuthorFilibuster an encyclopedia on whaling and cetology]] with a FramingDevice. [[spoiler:Or both.]] You choose.

Either way, the plot follows a man that, infatuated with the sea (apparently, it's a periodical thing), decides to go aboard a whaling ship to try out how whaling feels. He and his [[NobleSavage newly-met best friend Queequeg]] go upon the ''Pequod'' under the command of the [[{{Determinator}} monomaniac Captain Ahab]], and eventually get in the middle of his maniac hunt for Moby Dick, the eponymous "White Whale" that ate his leg. Tragedy ensues.

''Moby-Dick'' is [[RuleOfSymbolism full of symbolism]], [[EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory and much more has been added by later commentators]]. Common meanings for the whale, for instance, are: nature, fate, the ocean's fury itself, [[DaveBarry Ireland]], {{Satan}}, and {{God}} (as an [[SevenBasicConflicts invincible opponent]] who is [[ItWasHisSled never actually overcome]] at any point in the story).

This book is part of the Hollywoodian SmallReferencePools. Despite any real-life literary merits, it is convenient shorthand for "huge boring {{doorstopper}} assigned for reading by high-school teachers" in any given kids series. Whether this also implicitly states that execs think that [[ViewersAreMorons Kids Are Morons]] is debatable. Referencing the book is often a shorthand signifier that a character is cultured (and possibly WickedCultured) in Hollywood and other American stories; while it's well enough known elsewhere in the world, it doesn't have the same symbolic weight.

''Film/MobyDick'' has been adapted to screen several times, the most famous version being with GregoryPeck as Ahab. Creator/PatrickStewart was inspired to play the role following an allegorical comparison to Ahab in [[Film/StarTrekFirstContact one of his movies]]. A concept album based on Moby Dick called ''Leviathan'' was also made by prog-metal band Music/{{Mastodon}}. Also a common source of {{Homage}} or WholePlotReference stories, which are [[MobySchtick a trope of their own]].

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!!This novel provides examples of:

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* AnArmAndALeg: The source of Ahab's angst.
* AnimalNemesis: It's practically the textbook for this trope. The Whale ''is'' responsible for the loss of one of Ahab's legs.
** Or its subversion, in that Ahab's rage has since become stock metaphor for revenge-seeking rage that defies merely human attempts to control or stop it.
* AnimalsNotToScale: Moby-Dick weighs 75 tons, which is a good 20 tons more than any real sperm whale.
* AnnoyingArrows: Moby Dick's hide is covered in leftover harpoons from failed attempts to bag him.
* AntiquatedLinguistics: Even for the time. There's a lot of "thee" and "thou" in this book, since most of the main characters are Quakers, who talked like that back then.
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking:
--> ''"He's killed himself," she cried. "It's unfort'nate stiggs done over again - there goes another counterpane - god pity his poor mother! - it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor lad a sister? Where's that girl? - there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell him to paint me a sign, with - "no suicides permitted here, and no smoking in the parlor;" - might as well kill both birds at once."''
* AuthorFilibuster: Though he had reservations about killing whales ("So remorseless a havoc"), Melville had high regard for the brave whalers. In his generation, they were equivalent to cowboys and astronauts.
* BadassBoast: Ahab utters quite a bit during the book. His dying speech - see FamousLastWords - is particularly memorable.
* BadassCrew: The Pequod's crew, generally.
* BadassGrandpa: Ahab, although also a PerilousOldFool.
* BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu: Ahab's quest to destroy what he sees as the mortal form of an EldritchAbomination goes poorly for every human character involved. The whale survives, apparently unscathed.
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler:Queequeg's coffin.]]
* CloudCuckooLander: Stubb comes across as one at times, to Starbuck's dislike.
** Poor little Pip, who is never quite right again after he is left adrift in the ocean by himself for hours before his rescue.
* CosmicHorrorStory: A simple story of whalers on a mission to hunt a single specific whale in the middle of the ocean gradually takes on aspects of this:
--> ''"And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — every stately or lovely emblazoning — the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge — pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?"''
* CrazySane: Captain Ahab is a pretty competent [[TheCaptain captain]], and seems perfectly normal until he talks about his AnimalNemesis. Pip [[GoMadFromTheRevelation goes mad]] after almost drowning twice and becomes a TalkativeLoon. After a chapter tell us about [[TheBlacksmith Perth’s]] tragic life, Ahab himself asks why Perth averts this trope:
--> ''Well, well; no more. Thy shrunk voice sounds too calmly, sanely woeful to me. In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?''
* {{Determinator}}: Captain Ahab. And ''not'' in a good way. He's '''the''' TropeCodifier of all self-destructive forms. Being accused of being Captain Ahab means that unless a character changes their chosen course, and ''quickly'', they ''will'' destroy themselves... and probably [[TakingYouWithMe take everyone under their command with them]].
* {{Doorstopper}}: It's over 15 chapters before Ishmael even ''gets on the ship.''
* DyingDeclarationOfHate: Ahab's is the page quote.
* EitherOrTitle: ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale''
* EldritchAbomination: The White Whale is presented as this, a large albino that has resisted several attempts to harpoon it(it is still covered with harpoons from the last people who tried) and when it finally turns up, [[spoiler:it destroys and crushes the Pequod leaving only one survivor]]. The RuleOfSymbolism implies that in fighting the Whale, Ahab is essentially fighting life, nature or God.
* EverythingsSquishierWithCephalopods / GiantSquid: The crew of the ''Pequod'' once gets to spot a giant squid, and find it even scarier than Moby-Dick himself. Of course, they haven't met Moby-Dick by this point.
-->''Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.''
-->''As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice exclaimed -- "Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!"''
* EvilAlbino: The famous chapter "The Whiteness of the Whale" goes in great deal explaining how the albinism of the whale was strangely upsetting.
--> ''"Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows — a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?"''
* FamousLastWords: From Ahab himself.
--> '''Ahab:''' From hell's heart I stab at thee. For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!!!
* FatalFlaw: Well, {{Pride}} and {{Wrath}} for Ahab.
* FirstPersonPeripheralNarrator: Ishmael tells the story, and at first appears to be the main character, but as the story goes on he becomes more and more peripheral to the story to the point that he almost disappears while Captain Ahab and the eponymous whale take center stage as the main characters.
* FoodPorn: Chapter 15 is about eating… chowder. Will they have clam chowder or cod chowder? [[spoiler: [[TakeAThirdOption Or maybe BOTH]]?]]
* {{Foreshadowing}}: Chapter 40, "The Line".
* FreudianTrio: Ahab as Ego; Starbuck as Superego; Stubb as Id.
* FunetikAksent: Fleece's form of speech.
* FunWithForeignLanguages: Stubb's conversation with the captain of the ''Rosebud''.
* GentleGiant: Queequeg. He's a brawny cannibal prince from the South Sea islands who's covered in tribal tattoos, has his teeth filed to look like fangs, and is deadly accurate with his harpoon ([[{{Badass}} which doubles as a razor for shaving]]). So what's his favorite pastime besides peddling shrunken heads in the street? Snuggling up with his best buddy Ishmael. [[CutenessOverload D'awwwwwwww.]]
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: nearly drowning twice as a result of his own cowardice and stupidity does ''wonders'' for Pip's sanity. The poor kid frequently rants and chastises himself. Ahab sees him as a kindred spirit, probably because Pip is the only person on the ship as mad as he is.
* GoodScarsEvilScars: In addition to his peg-leg, Ahab also has a livid scar extending from his hairline and disappearing into his collar, the extent of which is unclear - although some members of the crew believe it marks him "from sole to crown", this is never made clear.
** LightningCanDoAnything: Ahab certainly believes so, and his scar is likened by the author to a tree split down the grain by /lightning. He uses the "power" imbued in him by the bolt to bless the mates' lances.
* HaveAGayOldTime: A book about the hunt of a ''sperm'' whale name Moby ''Dick''. Also, "The Town-Ho's Story" has nothing to do with TheOldestProfession. The probably-deliberate homoerotica between Ishmael and Queequeg doesn't help any.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Captain Ahab, while not exactly evil, seeks to kill a whale that (probably?) acted out of instinct.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Ishmael and Queequeg's relationship is either this or HoYay. Given the latter's claim that "now we are married" after they bunk together (with Queequeg [[DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything clutching his harpoon]] throughout the night), it's probably the latter.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: [[spoiler:Ahab is dragged underwater and killed after the rope attached to his harpoon wraps around his neck.]]
* HumanNotepad: In Chapter 102 ("A Bower in the Arsacides"), Ishmael mentions recording the dimensions of a whale skeleton on his arm, "as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics." (He omits the inches, as he was saving room for a poem.)
* IgnoredEpiphany: Ahab briefly reconsiders chasing Moby Dick. Briefly.
* ImprobableAimingSkills: Queequeg manages to harpoon an oil slick.
* TheInsomniac: Ahab is Type B, forgoing sleep for as long as possible to stay focused on his mission.
--> '''Ahab:''' ''Sleep? That bed is a coffin and those are winding sheets. I do not sleep, I die.''
* KarmicDeath: [[spoiler:Ahab]] drowns when he is pulled underwater by Moby Dick.
* KillEmAll: Everyone except [[spoiler:Ishmael. And perhaps Moby-Dick]]
--> ''"Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."''
* LightIsNotGood: Discussed, as in the "paradox" of the creepiness of [[EvilAlbino albinos]] in spite of the positive symbolism of white. It should be noted that the whale is not an albino however; he's merely white because he's covered in scars.
* LouisCypher: Fedallah, possibly. Stubb certainly thinks so. Though that might be prejudice to him being a lascar Parsee sailor.
* LudicrousPrecision: The question of whether the whale's spout is water or vapour has lasted from the beginning of history down to "this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter minutes past one o'clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1851)"
* ManlyMenCanHunt
* MeaningfulName: All of them Biblically-derived.
** His parents named him Ahab, after the Old Testament king who is prophecised to die in battle.
** When Ishmael is warned about Ahab's madness by a man named Elijah (which was also the name of the guy in the Bible who predicted Ahab's death), the symbolism is not lost on him.
** Assuming that Ishmael is, indeed, the narrator's name, then he's an example of this as well, being eternally cast out and alone.
** The ''Rachel'', a ship encountered late in the book, is searching for the lost son of the captain, and eventually saves Ishmael - also a lost son, after a fashion - when the ''Pequod'' is wrecked. In the Old Testament, Rachel is the devoted mother of Joseph, whom she loses when he is sold to slavers.
* MediumBlending: Owing to the obvious Shakespearean influence on the novel, some of the chapters are written as a play script.
* TheMutiny: In Chapter 54, "The Town-Ho's Story". It's also a theme, Starbuck is constantly tempted to usurp Ahab but his conscience restrains him from doing so.
* NoManOfWomanBorn: Courtesy of Fedallah.
* NoNameGiven: An intriguing variation: Ishmael does give a name at the beginning of the book, but only instructs the reader to "Call me Ishmael", as opposed to saying "My name is Ishmael". This is often cited as strong evidence that Ishmael is an unreliable narrator. If you can't even be sure that he told the truth about his name, then you can't be sure that he told the truth about anything. See MeaningfulName for why he'd tell you to call him Ishmael if that isn't his real name.
* NonindicativeName: Why was the whale given the name "Moby Dick"? Nobody knows.
* NoodleIncident: "That deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa."
* NotWhatISignedOnFor: Starbuck is on the ''Pequod'' to hunt whales for business, not assist his captain in his mad obsession for one specific whale that obviously wants to be left alone. He certainly thinks this, and in some adaptations voices this very phrase. Only his [[HonorBeforeReason sense of duty]] keeps him from mutinying.
* OnlySaneMan: Starbuck.
* PetTheDog: Ahab and Pip in Chapter 125, "The Log and Line".
* PlagueOfGoodFortune: A subtle example of type 4: Once Ahab has decided to destroy Moby Dick, a lot of good things (for a superior spirit, of course) happened to him: he discovers the beauty of nature, he appreciates the loyalty of his crew, he rediscovers love and charity again when he befriends Pip, Starbuck reminds him of his wife and son, the captain of the ''Rachel'' begs him to save his son... It’s like the whole universe conspires to save Ahab from his self imposed doom, to convince to abandon his philosophy of RageAgainstTheHeavens. He only can blame himself.
* PowerBornOfMadness: "If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object."--Chapter 33.
* RageAgainstTheHeavens: Ahab. The author directly states that Ahab has come to project all of the evil in the world onto Moby Dick, as if the white whale is the living personification of evil and bad fortune. Ahab himself acknowledges that he hates the whale that crippled him not so much as a mere whale, but for what it represents: bad luck, fate, the harsh nature of a post-Eden fallen world, whatever you want to call it. Ahab's anger, as the author put it, is the sum total of all of the anger of humanity going back to when Adam was kicked out of the Garden of Eden, anger at an imperfect world in which bad things can happen. Ahab sees the white whale as the living personification of all of this, and thus, something in the flesh which he can actually fight and kill.
* RecycledInSpace: A French comic book reuses the story in, well, space. The whalers are AsteroidMiners, the harpoons are ''nuclear warheads'', the kraken is a dwarf star, and Moby Dick is a (possibly) sentient comet. ''Film/StarkTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'' also uses Ahab's obsession with the white whale as a metaphor for Khan's self-destructive appetite for revenge.
* RedRightHand: Ahab's iconic peg-leg, made of [[ScavengerPunk a white whale tooth]].
* {{Revenge}}: Again, practically the textbook example.
** RevengeBeforeReason: Quoth Starbuck -- "Vengeance on a dumb brute! That simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: The whale was based off of a similarly destructive albino sperm whale named Mocha Dick that plagued Bermuda.
** The events depicted in ''The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex'' were another major inspiration.
* RousingSpeech: Several, but the most notable and dramatic happens with the St. Elmo's Fire scene, where the crew swears loyalty to their captain after seeing how [[NervesOfSteel fearless]] he is.
* ScavengedPunk: crossed with CreepyAwesome. Ahab asks the ship's blacksmith to build him a harpoon with a shaft forged from a bunch of horse-shoe nails used in races and the cutting edge from straight-razor blades, which he quenches in ''blood''.
** The ''Pequod'' itself, to an extent. Large parts of the mast are made from the bones of whales.
-->"A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies."
* SchoolStudyMedia
* ShoutOut: To ''Theatre/TheTempest'', when the sailors are discussing whether they will drown sooner or later, or live long enough to get hanged.
* ShownTheirWork: Cetology and all aspects of whale fishing; ''All'', I say. But they're interesting.
** Remove the even-numbered chapters, and you've got an encyclopedia of whaling. Remove the odd-numbered chapters, and you've got an adventure story. And that story still has a bit of the encyclopedia.
* ShrunkenHead: The innkeeper tells Ishmael that Queequeg is off selling his shrunken heads, but Ishmael doesn't get it and freaks out when Queequeg shows up in the shared bedroom with one.
* SoleSurvivor: [[spoiler:Ishmael is the only survivor of the sinking of the ''Pequod'']].
* SpellMyNameWithAnS: ''Incredibly'' pedantic example, but for whatever reason the whale's name is hyphenated only in the book's title, while in the actual text it's always spaced out as "Moby Dick".
* SuddenlyEthnicity: Toyed with. Ishmael is shocked to discover that "the harpooner" is a South Seas native, but accepts it just as easily.
* SuperPersistentPredator: Captain Ahab. A human version.
* TakingYouWithMe: [[spoiler: In most film versions, the whale takes Ahab with him. Or is that the other way round? (In the book, the critical consensus is that Moby Dick survives. The actual act if killing a whale with a harpoon in described in considerable detail earlier in the book, and the events of the final chase make it clear that Ahab doesn't reach the point of striking the fatal blow)]]
* TalkLikeAPirate: {{Justified|Trope}}. "Avast" is an actual period nautical command, and it (and a few others) are used correctly in the story. There is no "Arr", though, because that's a Bristol accent and these guys are mostly American.
* TruthInTelevision: Believe it or not, this book was based very heavily on a true story. Although, the story of ''Moby-Dick'' is quite a "softened" version of the actual events -- the ''real'' tale is far more gruesome and chilling. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_%28whaleship%29 Read for yourself]]. Also, it should be noted the angry ship-sinking cetacean was actually a sperm whale.
** Chapter XLV of the novel itself cites the real-life story as evidence that a sperm whale can indeed sink a ship.
* TragicHero: Ahab really doesn't seem to be a bad captain, certainly better than the captain in the [[ShowWithinAShow story within the story]] who could have ended a mutiny merely by promising to not abuse his men any more but refuses out of pride. He simply suffers from a FatalFlaw of becoming [[RevengeBeforeReason obsessed with vengeance]].
** Ahab even has a wife and son at home, though he mentions them only once, so everyone else who's ever read the book (except Sena Naslund, author of the novel ''Ahab's Wife'') might be forgiven for forgetting that.
* UndyingLoyalty:
** The entire crew to Ahab.
** Starbuck, who at one point considers killing Ahab once he realizes he's gone completely insane, refrains out of loyalty to the post he has been entrusted with.
* UnreliableNarrator: A particular problem for critics is that Ishmael is a mere sailor on Pequod, quite distant from Stubb, Starbuck and Ahab, certainly not on FirstNameBasis with them, but somehow he relates actions and incidents where he could not possibly have been present and gone acknowledged. The shift in style is also part of it. This blending of narration is one reason why the book is a perennial favorite especially for people interested in {{Deconstruction}} and PostModernism.
* ViewersAreMorons: Why Ishmael goes into all the technical aspects of whaling and ships; it's assumed (rightly or wrongly) that most readers don't know about that stuff. Though it might also be because Ishmael finds that information of interest in itself since it was part of his daily work and life experience.
* WhatDidYouExpectWhenYouNamedIt: The ''Pequod'' is named after the Pequot indians, who at the time of the story were "now extinct as the ancient Medes".
* WhatYouAreInTheDark: Starbuck, the lone dissenting voice, has a moment where he's looking at the loaded muskets outside Ahab's cabin. He very seriously considers shooting Ahab in order to put an end to what he sees as a fool's quest. However, his loyalty to his captain (and presumably his Quaker faith as well) stops him.
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Starbuck wrestles with this. See above.
* WildSamoan: Largely subverted with Queequeg.
* WoodenShipsAndIronMen: Complete with cries of "Avast!"
* WorkingClassHero: The crew of the Pequod are placed in an epic tradition that goes back to ''The Odyssey'' and Jason and the Argonauts but all of them are simply whalers and fishermen, as the endless technical description of whaling bring forth. Captain Ahab is often described as the first working-class TragicHero in the epic tradition of Achilles, Hamlet and Milton's Satan.
--> ''"Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commoners; bear me out in it, O God!"''
* YouCantFightFate: Played with in all sorts of ways. Ahab's quest to MobyDick could have been forgone several times, and Ahab himself could have been mutinied or stopped anytime, but despite these temptations and brief moments of reason, they press on to the doomed quest against the Whale.
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