This is a story about a sailor named Ishmael, who is the narrator. Captain Ahab, the one-legged commander of the ship Pequod, is the main character. Ahab has sworn to kill this huge whale, Moby Dick, who took away his leg. Starbuck is the first mate of the Pequod, and Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo are the three harpooners.
This story takes place in Great Britain, all over the eastern Atlantic Ocean and in the Indian Ocean, around the early 1800s.
It begins with Ishmael becoming extremely agitated. He decides to go out to sea on a whaling ship. In the port of New Bedford, he meets and shares a room with a harpooner named Queequeg. The two of them become good friends, and agree to sail together.
The day after they arrive at Nantucket, Ishmael begins searching for a whaling ship getting ready to leave harbor. Out of three ships ready to leave, he chooses the Pequod. The owners of the ship are Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad, and they are excited to hear of Queequeg from Ishmael and glad to let him join the crew. They are told the captain of the ship is named Ahab. Peleg and Bildad say
On Christmas day, and with Ahab still in his cabin, the Pequod sets sail in the Atlantic. As the weather begins to warm up several months after leaving port, Ahab is finally seen on deck. The strangest thing about Ahab is his peg leg, it is made of ivory.
As the weeks passed by, Ahab started to become friendlier. One day, he called the crew before him. He tells them that the sole mission of the Pequod is to kill Moby Dick. Moby Dick is a gigantic whale with a crooked jaw and a deformed forehead. He has never been defeated, and has attacked and sunk many large ships. Ahab admits he hates Moby Dick for taking his leg away, and he wants revenge. The crew agrees to this challenge, and swear to kill him. The only one who is not excited about hunting for Moby Dick is Starbuck.
For many months, the Pequod sails South, through the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, and into the Indian Ocean. Along the way, they kill and drain the oil from every whale they encounter. Each time they meet another ship, Ahab begins the conversation with “Hast seen the White Whale?”.
Finally, after entering the Japanese sea, the Pequod encounters a whaling ship named the Enderby. The Enderbys captain had just recently lost his arm to Moby Dick. Ahab becomes so excited at the news that he breaks his ivory leg. The ships carpenter builds him a new one.
Once reaching the waters around the equator, the Pequod meets another whaling ship, the Rachel. They had seen Moby Dick, and had become separated from one of the whaling boats during the battle. Ahab refuses to help them look for the missing men.
At last, Ahab spots Moby Dick. In the first day of fighting, the whale is harpooned many times, but escapes after smashing Ahabs boat. On the second day, the whale is harpooned again, but still escapes. On the third day, Ahabs harpoon pierces the whale, but the rope catches him by the neck and Moby Dick drags him to the bottom of the sea. An angry Moby Dick rams and sinks the Pequod. Only Ishmael survives, and the Rachel rescues him.