* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas


Moby-Dick is, fundamentally, a revenge tragedy. It’s about one man’s maniacal obsession with vengeance. It’s about finding an object on which to pin all your anger and fear and ra...

Man and the Natural World

Moby-Dick explores the variety of relationships that are possible between man and Nature. Most famously, of course, there’s the issue of one man trying to take revenge on Nature for the harm...


Moby-Dick is far ahead of its time with respect to its views on religion. The novel shows equal respect for a wide variety of religious traditions and, at the same time, not-so-gently mocks the foo...


The first thing the reader notices about race in Moby-Dick is the diversity of the cast of characters, which includes among its principals a South Sea Islander, a Native American, and an African tr...

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

In Moby-Dick sexuality is expressed in the social and homoerotic bonds between men. Frequently, it’s difficult to say where exactly the line between friendship and romance is drawn. There are...

Literature and Writing

Moby-Dick is a novel that never lets you forget that you’re reading a novel or that the story you’re hearing has been filtered through the perspective of a first-person narrator. Full o...

Fate and Free Will

Some novels might be subtle about issues of fate vs. chance, but Moby-Dick thrusts questions of free will vs. determinism right into the reader’s face, starting in the very first chapter. At...


Insanity, in Moby-Dick, means having a single-minded obsession over one thing or being completely possessed by one overpowering desire. Functioning highly while being completely mad is certainly an...

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Noodle's College Search