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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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THE STORY

ETYMOLOGY AND EXTRACTS

Before the story Moby-Dick begins, you're introduced to the subject of whales and whaling in a section called "Etymology" (the study of word origins) and a section of "Extracts" (selections from longer works). "Etymology" lists the word for whale in thirteen languages. "Extracts" provides 80 discussions of whales from sources that range from the Bible to Roman historians like Pliny, great English authors like Shakespeare and Milton, and statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, plus letters and newspaper accounts. Why such an enormous accumulation of information? Melville is anxious to make his story of a whale hunt seem as important as possible, an epic like The Odyssey, a great tragedy like Shakespeare's King Lear. Perhaps by showing you the long history of whales and whaling he hopes to convince you of his subject's importance. You'll see, too, that this love for gathering knowledge is a trait also possessed by the character who narrates Moby-Dick.

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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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