Melville & Moby Dick

moby rockwell kent b

Illustration by Rockwell Kent

Moby Dick
An angry Captain Ahab, seeking revenge, pursues the whale that bit off his leg years earlier. He ignores the sensible advice of his crew, who urge him to take caution. There are many  layers to the story, and some of it is sheer adventure!

How Old Do You Have to Be to Read Moby Dick?

Moby Dick is commonly assigned for college English classes, but can be enjoyed by motivated younger readers. One person reports that her kindergarten teacher read it to them! There are also abridged versions, and adaptations such as by Classic Comic Books. Our own Mighty Moby captures the adventure for the picture book crowd.

Reading Moby Dick—The Ultimate Chapter Book!

No one will deny that Moby Dick is a challenging read. It is “long” (214, 889 words), it is “old” (165 years), it is “wordy” (16,872 unique words), has lots of chapters (135), and has many  specialized subjects  (whales, whaling, ships, and sailing).

But reading Moby Dick is its own adventure, to be savored—the perfect book to take with you on a long voyage!

Moby Dick seems surprisingly modern in its topics and how it is written. You’ll learn about American history, natural resources, whales, sailing and whaling, exploration and adventure, the early oil industry, and global trade. Moby Dick is beautifully written and quite experimental in it is written. Melville uses many kinds of structure and style (first-person narrative, third-person, Biblical voice, Shakespearean soliloquies, poetry, sermons, pedagogy), and a wide range of genres (adventure, drama, tragedy, biology,  travel, musings, philosophy, humor,  spirituality, coming of age, metaphysics). Melville weaves all this together to create a powerful and engaging story.

herman melville

Herman Melville
Melville Society
Resources, information, journal, and more.

Museum: Herman Melville’s  Arrowhead (Pittsfield, Mass.). Melville’s residence in the Berkshires while writing Moby Dick.


moby nortonMoby Dick (1851)
Numerous editions available:

Moby Dick
Norton Critical Edition, New York: Norton. Second edition, 2002. Includes annotations, glossary, diagrams, reviews, excerpts from Reynold’s Mocha Dick and Chase’s Essex Wrecked by a Whale, and more. Highly recommended.


moby rockwell kentMoby Dick
Modern Library edition, illustrated by Rockwell Kent, 1930. These famous pen-and-ink illustrations nicely capture the drama of novel.


Moby Dick; or The Whale
Free public domain ebook available at Project Gutenberg.

Moby Dick, The Big Read
Famous actors and others join together to provide this audio version of Moby Dick, housed at Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University.

About Moby Dick
moby philbrick
Why Read Moby Dick?
by Nathaniel Philbrick
A wonderful, thoughtful set of essays. Highly recommended.




Moby-Dick, the opera,  music by Jake Heggie, Libretto by Gene Scheer, (2012). PBS Great Performances. DVD of San Francisco Opera performance.


Moby Dick, the movie, directed by John Huston, starring Gregory Peck, screenplay by Ray Bradbury (1956).