Moby Dick is the name of the famous "great white whale" in Herman Melville's classic 1851 novel of the same name. The book is widely considered to be one of the classic works of American literary fiction, and deals with overarching themes including solitude and the human attempt to attain salvation.
The book's first line, "Call me Ishmael," is well-known and widely quoted. Ishmael is the book's narrator, and works as one of the crew on the ship, the Pequod, where the story unfolds. The ship's captain, Ahab, has only one leg, and seems to be mentally deranged. He is obsessed with the pursuit of a white whale that is known as Moby Dick, which is revealed to have taken Ahab's leg. Ishmael soon discovers that the purpose of the ship's journey is to capture and kill the giant whale, Moby Dick, even if they the crew members themselves are killed in their pursuit.
At the end of the book, after much searching, the crew members finally come upon Moby Dick. They battle with the whale for three days, and Moby Dick eventually charges into the ship and destroys the Pequod. Captain Ahab and all of the other crew members are killed; only the narrator, Ishmael, survives the disastrous voyage.
Steven Spielberg's classic film, Jaws, features a character called Quint that is strongly based on Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. Like Ahab, Quint is obsessed with hunting and killing the animal that took his leg — in this case, a Great White shark.
In the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, the New England Whaling Museum holds an annual Moby Dick Marathon reading, in which volunteer readers each read the novel aloud for ten minutes. It takes approximately 25 hours to complete reading the entire novel aloud. Each year, hundreds of Melville fans and many of Melville's descendants go to the event for a chance to read from the book. The well-known musician, Moby, is Melville's great-great grand nephew. His moniker, Moby, comes from the title of his ancestor's book, Moby Dick.