Moby Dick was published in 1851, one year after the publication of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne. The two writers were neighbors in the Bershires and becaome close friends just as Melville was writing his first draft of Moby Dick. Melville spent a year revising the novel; he worked longer on Moby Dick than he had worked on any of his other novels.
The story is told from the point of view of Ishmael, an inexperienced sailor who is the only survivor of the tragedy. Ishamel desribes not only the events aboard the Puquod but also his reactions to the ship, the crew, and the sea. He describes in detail various kinds of whales and gives a great deal of information about the whaling industry. The novel contains an interesting variety of languages: the sailors' colloquial language, which includes nautical and whailing jargon; poetic and philosophic language, as in some of Ahab's speeches; and dialects of various kinds.
On the surfave, Moby Dick is an exciting sea adventure. The novel, however, has serveral layers of meaning beneath the surfaceof this complex work. Ahab, the self-reliant idealist, believes himself to be equal to any power in the universe. Refusing to accept human limitations, he is so obsessed with his pursuit of absolute truth that he endangers and eventually sacrifices the crew to his quest. To Ahab, Moby Dick symoblizes the mysteries of the universe that he cannot understand. Like the Transcendentalists, Ahab seeks "spiritual realities," answers to ultimate questions about existence and in nature. Melivilles implies that absolute truths do not exist.