Moby Dick

Differences between the novel and the film

Novel by Herman Melville and Movie Directed by John Huston

Ishmael's Character Portrayal

In the book, Ishmael, the narrator, goes into excruciating detail about his own perceptions and interpretations of the technical and ethereal aspects of whaling. He is constantly talking about the tricks and the trade of the whaling business. In the movie, this whole new dynamic of Ishmael's character is completely missing as the movie solely addresses on developing the general plot of the story. The lack of these topics in the movie created a very narrow picture in that it only focuses on the events relating to the ship and the whale. This causes a very restricted approach to the story, whereas the book approaches the story through a more general and comprehensive perspective.

Introduction of the Whale

In the book, the whale is always talked about but never shown. For instance, the crew on Ahab's whaling ship has not seen the mighty whale until the very end of the book. However, in the movie version, Moby Dick is sighted several days before the final hunt and is shown to be escaping from the men. This revision of the scene of where Moby Dick is first seen really impacts the emotional intensity that leads up to the action. In the book version, talking about the whale and its strength creates a sense of fear and anticipation to viewing the whale during the final act. These intense emotions, however, are not replicated in the movie which really takes away from the impact that final scene has on the readers.

The Journey to Finding Moby Dick

In the book, The Pequod encounters several ships on the high seas, trading stories with them and asking for the whereabouts of the white whale. In the movie, The Pequod only encounters two boats, whose captain lost his arm to Moby Dick, and the Rachel, whose captain lost a son to the whale. In the book, the crew meets many people that warn Ahab of the dangers of chasing the whale; this makes the whole journey feel more thrilling and dreadful. However, in the book, the sense of dreadfulness and fear that is captured in the book, is not in the movie.

Ahab's Death

In the book, Ahab is killed when the rope from his harpoon becomes entangled around his neck like a noose and pulls him underwater after Moby Dick. In the movie, Ahab clings to the side of the whale, stabbing it several times before becoming entangled in the ropes hanging from its side, drowning afterwards. The book was more graphic in describing Ahab's death in order to emphasize the might of Moby Dick. The movie version is not as gruesome, which takes away from the wild prowess of the beast.

The REVENGE Factor

Throughout the book, Ahab is constantly stubborn about finding and killing Moby Dick because he wants revenge for the fact that Moby Dick crippled him on his last whaling voyage. The revenge factor is continually stressed about in the book, showing Ahab's determination and willpower combined with ignorance for the facts. In the movie, Ahab is portrayed as a more reasonable character and is not as harsh as he is in the book version. This takes away from the purpose of the quest as Ahab is not shown stressing his desire for revenge in the movie.