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Moby Dick

A summary of Herman Melville's Moby Dick for purposes of a book report would describe Ahab's epic battle against the whale Moby Dick. The narrator, Ishmael, has experience as a sailor but intends to go whaling for the first time. While staying at a whaler's inn he meets Queequeg, a harpooner from the South Pacific who is adorned with tattoos. The two men eventually become friends and begin seeking work on a whaling vessel together. In Nantucket, they end up getting a job on a boat called the Pequod. The captain of the Pequod, Ahab, has recently lost a leg in a fight against a sperm whale, presumably Moby Dick.

The Pequod sets out and eventually, as the ship reaches warmer waters, Ahab makes his entrance to the rest of the crew. He announces his intention to kill Moby Dick, the great white whale that took his leg from him. Ahab sees Moby Dick as the embodiment of evil. As an incentive for the crew to help him in his quest, Ahab attaches a gold doubloon to the mast as a prize for the man who first catches sight of Moby Dick. As the crew hunts whales unsuccessfully, a group of men appear from below the ship. No one else has seen these men on the voyage thus far. Ahab admits to smuggling them on. They are a special group of experienced harpooners, led by Fedallah, who Ahab believes has prophetic powers that will help track Moby Dick.

As the Pequod comes upon other whaling vessels, Ahab demands summaries of their adventures from their captains, in hopes of garnering information on Moby Dick's whereabouts. On one of these ships is a prophet named Gabriel who foresees doom for anyone who threatens the great white whale. Because several of the men on the ship who have come upon Moby Dick have met with bad fates, the crew worries about the prophets words. Meanwhile, a harpooner, Tashtego, who is attempting to drain oil from a sperm whale's head, falls into the head which then begins sinking into the ocean. Queequeg jumps into the ocean, cuts into the head of the whale and saves Tashtego.

The crew's bad luck continues. A summary of some of the bad events includes Pip, the Pequod's cabin boy, going crazy as a result of being left behind temporarily on a whaleboat. The ship also comes upon Captain Boomer, who has lost an arm to Moby Dick. Unlike Ahab, Captain Boomer is simply happy to have survived his encounter with Moby Dick. He has no desire for vengeance. Queequeg falls ill but eventually recovers.

Fedallah has a prophecy that provides a summary of Ahab's death. In his prophecy, Ahab sees two hearses, the second one made of American wood, and that Ahab will be killed by rope made of hemp. Because of the hearses, Ahab assumes he will die on land, not at sea. After a typhoon hits the ship, the ship's first mate, Starbuck, wants to kill Ahab because he believes he is going to get them all killed. One of the sailors ends up falling from the ship and drowning.

Ahab becomes increasingly determined to find Moby Dick. As he slips into self-destruction, Pip is his only remaining companion. The Pequod comes upon two other whaling vessels, both of which have recently come into contact with Moby Dick, to fatal consequences. The Pequod comes upon Moby Dick. Fedallah is pulled overboard and dies on the second day's encounter with Moby Dick. On the third day, Moby Dick rams the Pequod, causing it to sink. Ahab gets caught in the hemp rope attached to the harpoon, and dies. Everyone else drowns when the boat sinks. Ishmael was the only survivor, having been thrown from the boat earlier, so that he didn't get caught in the whole boat being pulled under. One of the boats that were still looking for survivors from its encounter with Moby Dick sees Ishmael and saves him.

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