"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, Chapters 1–9

Ishmael recounts his time sailing with Ahab, a one-legged sea captain who is willing to sacrifice everything to hunt and kill a white whale called Moby Dick.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–9, Chapters 10–21, Chapters 22–31, Chapters 32–40, Chapters 41–47, Chapters 48–54, Chapters 55–65, Chapters 66–73, Chapters 74–81, Chapters 82–92, Chapters 93–101, Chapters 102–114, Chapters 115–125, Chapters 126–132, Chapters 133–Epilogue

Here are links to our lists for other works by Herman Melville: Billy Budd,
Bartleby, the Scrivener

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definitions & notes only words
  1. spleen
    a feeling of resentful anger
    It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.
    Doctors and philosophers in Melville's time believed different parts of the body regulated different moods
  2. vain
    unproductive of success
    But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him.
  3. pedestrian
    lacking wit or imagination
    Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach?
  4. tribulation
    an annoying or frustrating or catastrophic event
    For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever.
  5. keen
    intense or sharp
    The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from the schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it.
  6. urbane
    showing a high degree of refinement
    The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven.
  7. perdition
    the place or state in which one suffers eternal punishment
    Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!
  8. portentous
    of momentous or ominous significance
    Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity.
  9. leviathan
    monstrous sea creature symbolizing evil in the Old Testament
    Where else but from Nantucket did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give chase to the Leviathan?
  10. zephyr
    a slight wind
    Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed.
  11. extant
    still in existence; not extinct or destroyed or lost
    'In judging of that tempestuous wind called Euroclydon,' says an old writer -- of whose works I possess the only copy extant -- 'it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death is the only glazier.'
  12. temperance
    the act or process of abstaining from excess
    Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.
  13. sovereign
    a nation's ruler usually by hereditary right
    One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon which Jonah mixed him a pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he swore was a sovereign cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never mind of how long standing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the weather side of an ice- island.
  14. farrago
    a motley assortment of things
    'I'll break it for him,' said I, now flying into a passion again at this unaccountable farrago of the landlord's.
  15. nonplussed
    filled with bewilderment
    Ignorance is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and confounded about the stranger, I confess I was now as much afraid of him as if it was the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at the dead of night.
  16. interminable
    tiresomely long; seemingly without end
    The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade -- owing I suppose to his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times -- this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt.
  17. expostulation
    an exclamation of protest or remonstrance or reproof
    At length, by dint of much wriggling, and loud and incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself all over like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim consciousness of knowing something about me
  18. ablution
    the act of washing oneself, as for ritual purposes
    At that time in the morning any Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to my amazement, contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his chest, arms, and hands.
  19. kindred
    similar in quality or character
    Yes, here were a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas -- entire strangers to them -- and duelled them dead without winking; and yet, here they sat at a social breakfast table -- all of the same calling, all of kindred tastes -- looking round as sheepishly at each other as though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green Mountains.
  20. eschew
    avoid and stay away from deliberately
    We will not speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here; how he eschewed coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks, done rare.
  21. stalwart
    having rugged physical strength
    They are mostly young, of stalwart frames; fellows who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch the whale-lance.
  22. patrician
    a person of refined upbringing and manners
    Yet, in spite of this, nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford.
  23. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his countenance.
  24. impregnable
    incapable of being attacked or tampered with
    For I was not prepared to see Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him impregnable in his little Quebec.
  25. cenotaph
    monument to honor those whose remains are interred elsewhere
    Between the marble cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back was adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating against a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy breakers.
  26. descry
    catch sight of
    From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt.
  27. cupidity
    extreme greed for material wealth
    'Now Jonah's Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless.
  28. presentiment
    a feeling of evil to come
    The air is close, and Jonah gasps. then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship's water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel's wards.
  29. supplicate
    ask for humbly or earnestly, as in prayer
    For when Jonah, not yet supplicating God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his deserts, -- when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him forth into the sea, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to save the ship.
  30. inexorable
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, reason
    Delight is to him -- a far, far upward, and inward delight -- who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self.

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