Moby-Dick Character Biography

Moby-Dick is the fictional whale in Herman Melville's novel by the same name. Learn about this famous whale and the book by reading this character biography.
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Fiction (803)

Novels (148)


Fictional Whale

Born: 1851
Birthplace: Fiction
Best known as: The great white whale of American literature
Moby-Dick is the enormous white whale who torments Captain Ahab in the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick (1851). Ahab is obsessed with finding and killing Moby-Dick, having lost a leg in a previous encounter with the whale, and Ahab's burning desire for revenge is the center of the tale. At novel's end, Ahab finds and attacks Moby-Dick, but the terrible whale takes Ahab, his ship Pequod, and nearly all its crew down to a watery grave with him. Melville based his tale, in part, on the sinking of the real-life whaling ship Essex in 1820.
Extra credit: Yes, it's true: the first mate Starbuck in Moby-Dick was the inspiration for the name of the Starbucks coffee chain... The musician Moby is a descendant of Melville -- hence his wry nickname... Moby-Dick's first line is famously short: "Call me Ishmael." Ishmael is the book's narrator and the only survivor of the Pequod's encounter with Moby-Dick... Moby-Dick has been filmed several times, including in 1938 (with John Barrymore as Ahab), in 1956 (with Gregory Peck as Ahab) and in 1998 (with Star Trek star Patrick Stewart as Ahab).

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