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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel Moby Dickis set in mid-nineteenth century America. The story begins in Massachusetts in New Bedford and Nantucket Island, the chief centers of the American whaling industry. From there, the setting of the novel shifts to the whaling ship Pequod as it cruises around the globe. The chief settings of the novel become the vast and awesome Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Captain Ahab

The dark, brooding, one-legged captain of the ship, the Pequod, and the protagonist of the novel. His entire motivation in the book is to find and kill Moby Dick, the whale that has caused him to lose his leg.

Ishmael

The narrator of the novel and the only sailor to survive from the Pequod. He tells the entire story and actively participates in the drama that unfolds on Captain Ahabís whaling ship.

Queequeg

A native of the Fiji islands and an expert harpooner. Despite his religion and customs, he is able to develop a bond with Ishmael. Queequeg accompanies Ishmael on the whaling voyage to the Pacific and dies when the ship sinks.


Moby Dick

A giant and elusive white whale. He serves as Captain Ahabís antagonist in the novel. Ahabís goal in life is to kill Moby Dick for having bitten off his leg.

Minor Characters

Father Mapple

The chaplain (in New Bedford) who gives a moving sermon based on the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale in the Whalemenís chapel.

Peter Coffin

The innkeeper of the Spouter Inn at New Bedford.

Mrs.Hosea Hussey

The irate wife of the innkeeper at ĎTry Potsí, Nantucket. In the innkeeperís absence, she runs the affairs of the inn efficiently.

Captain Peleg

The co-owner of the ship Pequod. He is an imposing, short- tempered, and foul-mouthed man.

The other co-owner of the ship Pequod. He is the exact opposite of Captain Peleg; he is cool in temperament, religious, and shrewd.

Bulkington

A quiet sailor, whom Ishmael sees for the first time in the Spouter Inn. Later, Bulkington is Ishmaelís shipmate on the whaling voyage.

Starbuck

The first mate to the captain on the Pequod. He is an intelligent and brave officer who lives his life by Christian principles.

Pip

The cabin boy on the Pequod. He is a young Negro who is very nervous and quiet by temperament and loses his mind when he has been abandoned in the sea for awhile.

Fleece

The old Negro cook on the ship. Under Stubbís instructions, he preaches a sermon to the sharks hovering around the dead sperm whale, tied to the ship's side.

Radney

The wicked and unjust mate on the Town-Ho. He is punished as though by divine providence when Moby Dick kills him.

Steel Kit

The popular sailor on Town-Ho who leads a mutiny on board. He secretly plans to kill Radney, the most hated mate on the Town- Ho.

Gabriel

The self-styled prophet on the ship, Jeroboam. He believes himself to be the incarnation of the Shaker God and influences all the crewmembers on board.

Mayhew

The captain of the Jeroboam, who had sighted and chased Moby Dick. Mayhew meets Ahab and tells him how the whale had killed his mate, Macey, during the chase.

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