Member Blogs > Books Tell You WhyThe Inspiration Behind Herman Melville's Moby Dick

  • Fri, 21 Aug 2015 08:00:00    Permalink

    We often wonder at, marvel over, and debate the inspiration behind great works of literature. Is Philip Roth's work autobiographical in some cases? Was there an actual "Uncle Tom" figure who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe? And so on. In the case of Moby Dick, Herman Melville's personal whaling experiences as well as accounts of the whale, "Mocha Dick," undoubtedly played a role in the novel's composition. However, one tale in particular must have had particular resonance. After reading the story of the doomed Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket that came face-to-face with a seemingly deranged whale, Melville set out with fervor to pen his masterpiece. While Melville’s tale culminates with the attack of the long-sought Moby Dick, for the captain and crew of the Essex, their encounter with a massive, dangerous whale was only the beginning. The story of the Essex is a haunting one, and it’s bound to make even the heartiest of seafarers shudder.

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