…just to snatch an allusion to the Scarlet Pimpernel – which, oddly, is not on The List (a pity – I personally enjoyed it very much).
The long-hunted white whale, Moby Dick, finally makes an appearance in the last 30-odd pages of the book. In keeping with the ominous portents dropped hither and yon previous, the chase is long, difficult, violent, dangerous, and ultimately tragic. I won’t give any more detail so as not to spoil the ending.
I will note, however, that besides the “common knowledge” that this is a cautionary tale about a man driven to destruction by his obsession, it also covers a wide variety of issues that are still relevant in today’s world (some 160 or so years later). Themes like isolation vs. community, democracy vs. autocracy, action with meaning vs. mechanical behaviour (and more if you believe the writer of the introduction). It’s good to be reminded, now and again, that other people in other places and other times have struggled with these issues. It’s also good to experience them through learning about something that seems crazy and alien to our own worlds: I’ve never been to sea, let alone set off in a large row-boat to throw harpoons at a large sperm whale. Thankfully!