I first read Moby-Dick about ten years ago to show myself I still had the attention span to read things besides comics and erotica. The details that have stuck with me for a decade are the same things that many of we book nerds could recite by heart: Captain Ahab goes on a maniacal hunt for the great white whale, and P. In other words, I loved it. Sure, Ahab is a monomaniac and whale skulls are really huge. As the pair waits around in Nantucket to board the Pequod, they share a bed at the crowded Spouter-Inn. See how sweet they are?
The novel begins with the famous statement by the book's narrator: "Call me Ishmael. He does so because he may be paid and because it affords him wholesome exercise and pure sea air. The novel Moby Dick is one of the most ambitious in American literature, one which encompasses several genres and styles of writing. It is a travelogue, a character study and an allegory. Linking each of the episodes of the novel and bridging these various genres is the character Ishmael, the narrator of the novel and the lens from which the reader views the action of Melville's work.
In a work of literature, a theme is a recurring, unifying subject or idea, a motif that helps us understand a work of art better. With a novel as richly ambiguous as Moby-Dick , we look at themes as guides, but it is important to be flexible while we do so. A good deal is left to individual interpretation so that one reader might disagree with another without necessarily being "wrong" or "right" about what the novel is saying.
Arielle has worked worked with elementary, middle, and secondary students in American and Japan. She has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in Education. Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Log in or Sign up.