[[caption-width-right:350:''Illustration by Rockwell Kent'']]

->''"Call me Ishmael."''
-->-- [[SignatureLine Opening line]]

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

The plot follows a man named Ishmael, 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 newly-met best friend Queequeg go upon the ''Pequod'' under the command of the monomaniacal Captain Ahab, and eventually finds himself in the middle of Ahab's mad hunt for Moby Dick, the eponymous "White Whale" that ate his leg. Tragedy ensues.

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

This book is part of the Hollywoodian SmallReferencePools. Ignoring its 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 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 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 Creator/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, German DoomMetal band Ahab not only take their name from the book, their [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYh25wOlmj0 first album]], called "The Call of the Wretched Sea", is also based on ''Moby-Dick''. Also a common source of {{Homage}} or WholePlotReference stories, which are [[MobySchtick a trope of their own]]. ''Moby Dick'' itself was partially inspired by a real life account of a whaling vessel, [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_(1799_whaleship) The Essex]], that was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale.

!!This novel provides examples of:

%% YMMV tropes go on the YMMV tab -- site policy. Please do not return them to Main.
* AmbiguousSituation: Given the sperm whale's aggressive nature it is left ambiguous whether Moby Dick is attacking ships out of self-preservation or just for no reason at all.
* 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.
* 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.
* AnArmAndALeg: The source of Ahab's angst. He comes across another ship whose captain lost an arm while chasing Moby Dick and has decided not to mess with him anymore.
* 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 is particularly memorable.
--> '''Ahab:''' From hell's heart I stab at thee. For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!!!
* BadassCrew: The ''Pequod'''s crew, generally.
* BigBad: Captain Ahab causes the whole mess by obsessively trying to seek revenge on an animal who is either trying to defend itself or attacking ships at random due to a naturally aggressive nature.
* 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.
** Deconstructed with Ahab, whose insanity makes him completely unfit to command a vessel and results in the death of himself and all his crew save Ishmael.
** Stubb and Ahab are interesting aversions, as both men are regarded as highly competent by their peers and the vessel owners, and their eccentricities (particularly in Starbuck’s case) as largely the sort of thing which is only to be expected of them.
* 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?"
* CurbStompBattle: How every encounter against Moby Dick goes, whether in tales from other ships or for all three attempts by the crew of the ''Pequod''.
* {{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]]. What makes it tragic is that Ahab is fully self-aware of his quality but cannot really change:
--> '''Captain Ahab''': "What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare?"
* DespairSpeech: Ahab makes such speeches almost constantly.
* DissonantSerenity: Stubb is described as having a perpetually irreverent even when killing whales.
* {{Doorstopper}}: It's over 15 chapters before Ishmael even ''gets on the ship.'' Takes ''Chapter 22'' for the ship to finally set sail.
* TheDreaded: Half of chapter 41 is spent establishing Moby Dick (and to a lesser extent, all sperm whales) as this.
* DyingDeclarationOfHate: Captain Ahab says: "To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."
* EitherOrTitle: ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale''
* EldritchAbomination: The White Whale is 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?"
* EvilCripple: Captain Ahab, who isn't really ''evil'', but is nonetheless an utter lunatic who recklessly endangers his crew in order to kill the whale that bit off his leg. Amputated leg aside, he's perfectly capable as a captain (the ''Pequod'' can even rig up a way to get him onto the mast) - he's just obsessed with "dismembering his dismemberer."
* 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: Captain Ahab's obsession with revenge against the title whale costs him his life, his ship, and his crew.
* 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.
* {{Foil}}: Captain Boomer to Captain Ahab. Boomer lost his arm to Moby Dick whereas Ahab lost his leg, but has decided that fighting the white whale once was enough, while Ahab is absolutely obsessed with him.
* 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: Starbuck as Ego; Ahab as Superego; Stubb as Id.
* FunetikAksent: Fleece's form of speech.
--> '''Fellow-critters:''' I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de lips! Massa Stubb say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you must stop dat dam racket!
* 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 (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 -- some members of the crew believe it marks him "from sole to crown", but this is never shown.
* HaveAGayOldTime:
** A book about the hunt of a ''sperm'' whale named Moby ''Dick''.
** "The Town-Ho's Story" has nothing to do with TheOldestProfession. The probably-deliberate homoerotica between Ishmael and Queequeg doesn't help any.
** "The Crotch" is about harpoon shafts, not sexual.
* 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.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Captain Ahab, while not exactly evil, seeks to kill a whale that (probably?) acted out of instinct.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: [[spoiler:Ahab is dragged underwater and killed after the rope attached to his harpoon wraps around his neck.]]
* HopeSpot: Two, in fact:
** Chapter 123 has Starbuck think about shooting Ahab with a musket before his RevengeBeforeReason gets the whole ship killed. Sadly, Starbuck can't bring himself to do it.
** Chapter 132 has Ahab consider Starbuck's idea to turn back home to Nantucket. He doesn't go through with it.
* 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.)
** Captain Ahab apparently has the habit of working out sextant sights on a specially-prepared area on his peg leg
* IgnoredEpiphany: Ahab briefly reconsiders chasing Moby Dick. Briefly.
* IHaveAFamily: Ahab and Starbuck both have a wife and son. Chapter 132 has the two discuss it.
* 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.
* ItCanThink: Moby Dick has moments where it seems to show genuine tactical thinking.
* JoinTheArmyTheySaid: An aversion. The narrator tells Captain Peleg that he wants to go whaling "to see the world". Peleg tells him to look out from the ship's side over the open ocean. When he says he sees "nothing but water", Peleg tells him most of the world looks a lot like that.
* 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."
* KnowWhenToFoldEm: Captain Boomer lost his arm to Moby Dick, but unlike Ahab is smart enough to realize going for round two isn't a good idea and just moved on.
* LightIsNotGood: Discussed, as in the "paradox" of the creepiness of [[EvilAlbino albinos]] in spite of the positive symbolism of white.
* 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.
* 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
* ManlyTears: Starbuck gives us a classic example.
-->'''Starbuck''': Oh my Captain! My Captain! Noble heart go not-- go not, see its brave man that weeps; how great the agony of the persuasion then!
* MeaningfulName: All of them [[Literature/TheBible Biblically]]-derived.
** His parents named him Ahab, after the Old Testament king who is prophesied 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.
** Starbuck's name [[TheLastOfTheseIsNotLikeTheOthers is not biblical]], but it is no less meaningful. As the ship's navigator, he [[ShapedLikeItself guides the ship by the stars]].
* MediumBlending: Owing to the obvious Shakespearean influence on the novel, some of the chapters are written as a play script.
* MotiveRant: Ishmael does this sometimes regarding his seeming need to go to sea, and Ahab does this ''constantly''.
* MultinationalTeam: The crew of the Pequod consists of sailors from all over the world, including Italians, Africans, Brits, Danes and Americans of all ethnicities.
* TheMutiny: In Chapter 54, "The Town-Ho's Story". It's also a theme, as Starbuck is constantly tempted to usurp Ahab but his conscience restrains him from doing so.
* NarrativeProfanityFilter: Ishmael mentions that he has censored out a lot of Ahab's dialogue because nobody "living under the light of the Evangelical land" needs to hear that.
* NoManOfWomanBorn: Fedallah tells Ahab that he only be killed by hemp; and even then, Fedallah will go before him. Ahab thinks this means he can only die by being hung. [[spoiler: Fedallah is killed on the second day of the three-day chase, and Ahab is killed on the last when the harpoon line wraps around his neck.]]
* 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
* 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 is the only one to speak out against Ahab's vendetta.
-->'''Starbuck:''' I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance.
* OralFixation: Stubb is never seen without his pipe in his mouth.
%%* PetTheDog: Ahab and Pip in Chapter 125, "The Log and Line".
* ThePhilosopher: Ahab, who can't seem to speak more than two sentences before dissolving into a rant about existentialism.
* 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.
* ProfaneLastWords: Captain Ahab's last words:
-->"from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."
* 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/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'' 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 [[ScavengedPunk a sperm whale's jawbone]].
%%* {{Revenge}}
* 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.
* RiverOfInsanity: Despite being set on the high seas, the story gradually becomes this as everything seems to conspire against them, which only makes Ahab more determined to push on.
* 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.
* RuleOfThree: Lampshaded. On the third day of the chase, Ahab cheers the crew by telling them all drowning beings come up twice before sinking for the final time, vowing to kill Moby Dick. [[spoiler: He's forgotten that he himself went overboard both days.]]
* 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."
* SeadogPegLeg: Captain Ahab is one of the {{Trope Codifier}}s (to the point that some examples on this page are [[{{Expy}} Expies]] of either him or Long John Silver, the other TropeCodifier). Captain Ahab lost a leg during a previous whaling voyage while hunting the white whale and now has a grudge against it. In fact, his missing leg is the main force that drives his revenge plot against the titular whale. Notably, Ahab's peg leg was apparently made with ''whalebone''.
** in fact neither character has this trope, as usually portrayed - Silver’s leg is missing from the hip, and he moves about on a crutch; Ahab apparently has a mid-thigh amputation, judging by the scene in which he works out sextant shots on a specially-shaped area of his prosthesis.
* 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'']].
* SpareAMessenger: Ishmael the mariner ponders being the sole survivor of the doomed whaler ''Pequod'', and concludes that he was spared by the vengeful behemoth precisely to pen the tale as a warning to all others that would think to pursue the Great White Whale.
* 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".
* TheStarscream: Subverted; Starbuck can't bring himself to kill Ahab, even as the captain's mad quest endangers them all.
* 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:
** Ahab makes his last attempt to kill the whale once his ship begins to sink and all is lost. The whale reverses things on him when trailing rope catches Ahab around the neck and drags him under.
** The sinking ship does this to all the crew except Ishmael; one of the doomed crewmen does this to a sea-hawk in his final seconds, causing it to go under as well. The narrative attributes the bird's death to the malice of the ship.
--->[And] so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.
* 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.
* ThinkingOutLoud: Nearly every character with dialogue makes at least one such speech.
* TitleDropChapter: When Moby Dick, the legendary whale, finally appears on chapter 41 of the eponymous book after much anticipation, the chapter pays service to this fact by bearing the title "Moby-Dick".
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* WhoNamesTheirKidDude: Lampshaded. When Ishmael hears the capatain's name for the first time, he asks why anyone would name their kid Ahab. The crewman notes that Ahab's mother was a religious type whose sanity was questionable.
%%* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Starbuck wrestles with this.
%%* 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 ''Literature/TheOdyssey'' 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 Moby Dick 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.
* YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm: The White Whale is deliberately portrayed in the narrative as enigmatic, its symbolism is not wasted on Captain Ahab. Ishmael describes the whale's forehead as having wrinkles and scars on it that look like ''hieroglyphics'', implying its some kind of ancient forgotten deity. He muses on the difficulty of understanding what he saw. The mystical, yet ineffable nature of the beast, haunts him for the rest of his life.