Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) is not only one of the best known but most important works of fiction in United States history. While Melville’s book is undoubtedly fiction, he drew widely from his experiences as a whaler and some incredible stories of remarkably dangerous 19th-century whales. His book is an extraordinarily accurate depiction of life at sea.
Unsurprisingly for work as prominent as Moby Dick, it has been turned into a movie, starring Gregory Peck and a mini-series, starring Ethan Hawke (2011). Recently, even one of the stories that inspired the novel was turned into the movie In the Heart of the Sea (2015) starring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Ron Howard. So what real events and experiences inspired Melville to write Moby Dick?
Herman Melville, the author of the novel (1819-1892), was born in New York, into an affluent family, his father a merchant died when he was quite young. His father’s death left Melville and his family in a precarious financial position and dependent on relatives. The young man signed up to serve on a whaling ship and went to sea in 1840 on-board a whaling ship. Throughout the 19th century, whales were hunted for their valuable oil. While at sea the young Melville had many adventures. In 1841, he jumped ship in Tahiti and later joined another whaler. He became involved in a mutiny on board this ship and was briefly jailed.