Herman Melville(1819 - 1891) was born in New York City. His formal education lasted only four years, until his father passed away and he was obligated to find work to help support the family. After clerking, school teaching and banking, he shipped out on a whaling ship at age 20. Four years later he returned, full of tales of the sea, and he was encouraged to write them down. His first two works, Typee and Omoo, were published as non-fiction and received critical acclaim. MOBY DICK, however, sold poorly. It was revived around 1919, the centennial of Melville's birth, and is now regarded as one of the greatest American novels.
MOBY DICK is an epic tale of adventure in the south seas. Ishmael and Queequeg sign on the whaling ship Pequod. While they seek other whales along the way, Captain Ahab, the ship's captain, is really on a quest to kill Moby Dick, the giant white sperm whale that cost Ahab his leg in an earlier encounter. There are warnings from other whaling ships that revenge isn't possible, and that the harpoon has not been forged that could kill Moby Dick (chap. 131). The first mate, Starbuck, tries to reason with Ahab, but no amount of reason can turn Ahab from his quest. He finally locates Moby Dick in the Indian Ocean, where the Pequod and the great white whale have their final showdown. (source)