Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28,
1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), but after a fast-blooming literary success in
the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and
never recovered during his lifetime.
When he died in 1891, he
was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the "Melville
Revival" in the early 20th century that his work won recognition,
especially Moby-Dick, which was hailed as one of the literary
masterpieces of both American and world literature. In 1919 the unfinished
manuscript for his novella Billy Budd was discovered by his first biographer. He
published a version in 1924 which was quickly acclaimed by notable British
critics as another masterpiece of Melville's. He was the first writer to have
his works collected and published by the Library of America.
Moby-Dick, also known as The Whale,
is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. Moby-Dick is widely considered to be a
American Novel and
a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of
the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship
Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab
seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off
his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.
In Moby-Dick, Melville
employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character's journey,
the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of
gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his
place in the universe. The book portrays insecurity that is still seen today
when it comes to non-human beings along with the belief that
these beings understand and act like humans. The story is based on the actual events around the whaleship Essex, which was attacked by a whale
while at sea and sank.
Moby-Dick has been classified as American Romanticism. It was first published by Richard Bentley in
London on October 18, 1851,
in an expurgated three-volume edition titled The Whale,
and weeks later as a single volume, by New York City publisher Harper and Brothers as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale on
November 14, 1851.