One of the great classics of American literature Herman Melville's Moby-Dick has been celebrated in the latest Google doodle.
The search engine's tribute to Melville's best known work coincides with the 161st anniversary of the novel's first publication in Britain in 1851. The doodle depicts a scene from the book in which Captain Ahab commandeers a boat to strike at the huge white whale.
Moby-Dick is the great epic of whales and waling. It tells the story of Ahab, Captain of the Pequod, and of his revenge-mission and insane pursuit of Moby Dick, the fierce white whale. Among Ahab's crew is Ishmael, a young man undergoing a gruelling rite of passage and pursuing a different salvation. As the Pequod circles the globe like a latter-day Noah's Ark, so Moby Dick ranges and digresses through space and time, through mythologies, religions and philosophies.
The Google doodle depicts a scene from the book where Captain Ahab leads a boat to strike at the huge white whale.
Herman Melville had written Typee and Omoo before he wrote, what he believed was his masterpiece, Moby-Dick. He was shocked by the less-than-flattering reception the book received. One critic described it as "[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."
It wasn't until way after Herman Melville's death and the end of World War I that Herman Melville was rediscovered and Moby-Dick found favour with the critics of the time. The book is now, of course, regarded as one of the all-time classics and considered essential reading for students in many
The tribute also coincides with an ambitious project to record all 135 chapters of the novel over 135 days, with readings by famous fans including David Cameron, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry and Simon Callow broadcast daily online.
Melville's masterpiece is narrated by the sailor Ishmael, telling of his voyage on the whaling ship the Pequod, under Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon discovers that Ahab has one purpose on his voyage, to seek revenge on the ferocious sperm whale, Moby-Dick, who bit off his leg.
Through the journey of the main characters, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God are all examined as the main characters speculate upon their personal beliefs and their places in the universe.
Unappreciated in Melville's lifetime, Moby-Dick is now, according to the American academic and author Jay Parini, a book which "permeates a culture, reinforcing and shaping ideas: ambition, for example, and the drive to conquer nature, the imperial drive, the wish to pursue an ideal to the last degree".