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Penguin Readers Factsheets

Level 2 – Elementary Moby Dick


Teacher’s Notes

Moby Dick
By Herman Melville

he had many adventures, including living briefly among the


Summary Typee cannibals in the Marquesas Islands. When he was
25, he returned to his mother’s house in the United States
Ishmael (the narrator) wants to work on a whaling ship. He and began to write books based on his adventures. His
arrives in Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, first two books, Typee (1845) and Omoo (1847) were very
where he meets Queequeg, the son of a Maori chief in New successful. Moby Dick, was published in 1850. Although
Zealand who also wants to work on a whaling ship. The two it was praised by the critics, it did not sell as well as his
become good friends, and sign up to work on the Pequod, first two books. Melville’s later years were often difficult
a whaling ship with a one-legged captain called Ahab. After and unhappy. His writing reflected increasing despair and
three weeks at sea, Ahab tells the crew that he wants to kill contempt for human hypocrisy. His last finished novel, The
Moby Dick, the white whale that bit off his leg. He offers Confidence Man (1857), was a harsh satire of American life.
gold to the first man to see the whale. Everyone is happy After this he wrote only poetry and worked as a customs
except for Starbuck, the first mate, who thinks that Ahab is inspector on New York docks. However, when he died in
crazy. The Pequod catches and kills many whales, but Ahab 1891, an unfinished novel, Billy Budd, was found in his desk.
cannot forget Moby Dick. One night, Fedallah, a sinister When it was finally published in 1924, it was hailed by the
man who can tell the future, sees Moby Dick. Ahab is happy, critics as a great novel. But it is for his masterpiece, Moby
and he orders the crew to follow the whale, but they lose it. Dick, that Melville is mainly remembered today.
Ahab tells Fedallah about a bad dream, and Fedallah tells
him that when he dies, he will not have a coffin; he will be
killed by a rope. And he, Fedallah, will die first. Ahab gets
more desperate to catch the whale. He throws away the
Background and themes
ship’s maps and threatens to kill anyone who tries to turn the
Man v Nature: Moby Dick is, in many ways, a traditional
ship around. Starbuck has the chance to kill Ahab, but loses
adventure story about American pioneers but with a different
his nerve. Ahab refuses to help the captain of another ship,
background: instead of the American Wild West, there is the
the Rachel, look for his missing son because he learns that
sea, and instead of the search for gold there is the hunt for
Moby Dick is nearby. The whale is sighted, and Ahab leads
Moby Dick. The central conflict in the book is between man
his crew out in small boats to fight the whale with harpoons,
and nature, but the battle between Ahab and the whale is
leaving Starbuck to look after the ship. The fight with Moby
open to many interpretations. For example, in John Huston’s
Dick lasts for three days. On the first day, Ahab hits the whale
film (1956, with Gregory Peck as Ahab), he questions which
with his harpoon but his boat capsizes. On the second day,
one, Ahab or the whale, is the real monster.
Ahab’s boat is capsized again, he loses his whalebone leg
and Fedallah is killed. On the third day, Ahab sees Fedallah’s Superstition and Myth: A stranger in Nantucket warns
body tangled up in ropes on Moby Dick. Ahab hits the whale Ishmael and Queequeg against traveling with Ahab.
with a harpoon. Moby Dick hits the Pequod, which starts Fedallah predicts his own death and that of Ahab. A large
to sink. In a seemingly suicidal act, Ahab throws another black bird takes Ahab’s hat just before the final battle with
harpoon at Moby Dick but gets tangled up in the rope and Moby Dick. There are many signs and omens that predict
goes down with the whale. The ship sinks, and only Ishmael a tragic end. The purpose of these is to create a sense of
survives. He is rescued from the sea by the Rachel, whose inevitability.
captain is still looking for his missing son
Contrast between civilizations: Ahab, a ‘civilized’ sea
captain, has primitive delusions of grandeur. He bases
his life on superstition and dreams. He is only kind to Pip,
About Herman Melville the crazy cabin boy, because Pip worships him as a god.
He shows no respect or consideration for others. He is
Herman Melville (1819–1891) was born in New York. His prepared to sacrifice everybody’s life in the pursuit of his
father became bankrupt and went insane, dying when own obsession. Queequeg, in contrast, is a tattooed Maori.
Melville was 12 years old. Melville worked as a clerk, teacher He, too, has superstitions and is superficially primitive, but
and farmhand before going to sea in search of adventure he is the most human, civilized person on the ship.
when he was 20 years old. After working as a cabin boy
on a whaling ship, he joined the U.S. Navy. During this time

© Pearson Education Limited 2006


Penguin Readers Factsheets

Level 2 – Elementary Moby Dick


Teacher’s Notes

Student B: You are Ishmael. You want to go out in the


Communicative activites boat with Queequeg, not Fedallah. Tell
Starbuck why.
The following teacher-led activities cover the same sections
2 Put students into groups to discuss these questions.
of text as the exercises at the back of the Reader, and
(a) Why is Starbuck angry with Pip? Is he right? Why/
supplement those exercises. For supplementary exercises
why not?
covering shorter sections of the book, see the photocopiable
(b) Who is the most important man on the ship
Student’s Activities pages of this Factsheet. These are
– Ishmael, Starbuck or Queequeg? Why?
primarily for use with class Readers but, with the exception
of discussion and pair/group work questions, can also be Chapters 9–10
used by students working alone in a self-access centre.
1 Put students into groups of three. They are sailors on the
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK Pequod. Ask them to have this conversation.
Student A: You think Ahab is a bad captain. You want to
1 Ask students to work in groups. Tell them to look at the kill him. Say why.
picture on the front cover. Ask them what’s happening. Student B: You don’t like Captain Ahab, but you think
How do the men feel, and why? that it is wrong to kill him. Say why.
Student C: You think that Ahab is a good captain. You
2 Ask students to discuss these questions in pairs.
want him to stay. Say why.
(a) Do these words describe a good or a bad ship’s
2 Put students into groups to discuss this question.
captain? Why?
How do these people feel? Why?
afraid  evil  friendly  kind  old  strong  wild (a) Captain Ahab, after his conversation with Fedallah.
(b) Starbuck, in the bad weather.
(b) Why do people kill whales? Is it a good or bad (c) Captain Ahab, in the bad weather.
thing? Why? (d) Starbuck, after he leaves Captain Ahab’s room.
(c) Someone pays you £50,000 to work for a year on a (e) Captain Gardiner, when he leaves Captain Ahab.
whaling ship. Do you want the job? Why/why not? (f) Captain Ahab and Fedallah, when they watch the
(d) How was killing whales more dangerous 100 years ocean.
ago than today? (g) Captain Ahab, when the bird takes his hat.
(h) The whalers, when the bird takes Captain Ahab’s
ACTIVITIES AFTER READING A SECTION hat.
Chapters 1–3 3 Class discussion. Will the story have a happy or sad
1 Put students into pairs. Ask them to have this ending? Why?
conversation.
Student A: You are Queequeg. You want to leave home Chapters 11–13
and work on a whaling ship. Tell your father Put students into small groups to discuss these
why. questions.
Student B: You are Queequeg’s father. You want your (a) How are these important in this section?
son to stay at home. Tell him why.
birds  Captain Ahab’s whalebone leg  ropes
2 Class discussion.
a coffin  Captain Gardiner’s son
(a) Will Ishmael and Queequeg be happy on the
Pequod? Why/why not? (b) Who do you feel sorry for? Who don’t you feel sorry
(b) Who is right, Captain Ahab or Starbuck? Why? for? Why?

Chapters 4–6 ACTIVITIES AFTER READING THE BOOK


Put students into groups to discuss these questions.
Put students into small groups to discuss these
(a) Why are these things important to whalers?
questions.
sharks  oil  barrels  harpoons  maps (a) Many things happen in this story to warn people
the weather about the future. What are they?
(b) What lessons can we learn from this story?
(b) Some say that Fedallah can see the future. Is it
possible to see the future, do you think? Would you
like to know your future? Why/why not?
(c) Why is Captain Ahab angry with Captain Boomer?
Word list
Who is right? Why?
It will be useful for your students to know the new words
Chapters 7–8 found on page 45 of the Reader. They are practised in the
‘Before you read’ sections at the back of the book. (The
1 Put students into pairs. Ask them to have this definitions are based on those in the Longman Active Study
conversation. Dictionary.)
Student A: You are Starbuck. You want Ishmael to go
out in a small whaling boat with Fedallah.
Tell him why.

© Pearson Education Limited 2006 Published and distributed by Pearson Longman


Factsheet written by Chris Rice
Factsheet series developed by Louise James
Penguin Readers Factsheets

Level 2 – Elementary Moby Dick Photocopiable


Student’s Activities

Moby Dick
By Herman Melville

These activities can be done alone or with one or more other (d) is not married?
students. Pair/group only activities are marked*. (e) does not want to help Captain Ahab?
(f) does not sleep well?
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK (g) stays away from the other whalers?
(h) sees the white whale first?
Look at the Word List at the back of the book. Then look
at the pictures in the book. In which pictures can you 2 Does Captain Ahab do these things? Write yes (Y) or no (N)
see: (a) He goes out in a small boat.
(a) a whale? (b) He tries to kill Stubb.
(b) a harpoon? (c) He thinks about money.
(c) a whalebone leg? (d) He talks to the captain of the Albatross.
(d) people rowing? (e) He thinks about his family.
(e) a barrel? (f) He smiles when he meets Captain Bloomer.
(f) a captain? (g) He only talks to Fedallah.
(h) He smiles when he sees the whale.
ACTIVITIES WHILE READING THE BOOK
Chapters 7–8
Chapters 1–3
Why …
1 Underline the right words.
(a) are the men angry with Pip?
(a) Queequeg comes / does not come from a whaling
(b) is Captain Ahab kind to Pip?
family.
(c) does Starbuck thank Captain Ahab?
(b) Queequeg / Captain Ahab can see the future.
(c) Captain Ahab is busy / sick. What …
(d) The whalers laugh / shout at Queequeg. (d) catches Pip when he jumps out of the boat?
(e) The men are noisy / quiet after Queequeg throws (e) is Pip afraid of in the water?
his harpoon. (f) does Queequeg want?
(f) Captain Ahab has only one arm / leg. Who …
(g) Starbuck wants to find Moby Dick / other whales. (g) sees the hand of God?
(h) Ishmael / Pip can hear a strange sound. (h) wants the ship to stop?
2 Put the words in the sentences. (i) is very sick?

afraid  angry  crazy  excited  happy Chapters 9–10


interesting strange tired 1 When do these things happen? Number them 1–8.
(a) Ishmael is            when he arrives in (a) Ishmael wants Starbuck to shoot Captain Ahab.
Nantucket. (b) Captain Ahab brings Pip to his room.
(b) Elijah gives Ishmael a            look. (c) Captain Ahab throws his maps into the ocean.
(c) Ishmael is            after he talks to Elijah. (d) Captain Gardiner asks Captain Ahab for help.
(d) Starbuck is never          (e) Captain Ahab has a bad dream.
(e) The men on the Pequod are          (f) Captain Ahab loses his hat.
(f) Captain Ahab is            when he talks to (g) The men fight sharks.
his men. 2 Are these sentences about the whalers right (R) or
(g) The men are            after Captain Ahab wrong (W)?
talks to them. (a) They put lights on the end of their harpoons.
(h) Starbuck thinks that Captain Ahab’s plan is (b) They think that Captain Ahab is dangerous.
          (c) They tell Captain Ahab to forget the white whale.
(d) They try to kill Captain Ahab.
Chapters 4–6 (e) They hear the calls of dead sailors.
1 Who (f) They look for Captain Gardiner’s son.
(a) wears a strange white hat and has almost no teeth? (g) Some of them laugh when Captain Ahab
(b) always shouts but is never angry? loses his hat.
(c) is the captain of Ishmael’s small boat?

© Pearson Education Limited 2006


Penguin Readers Factsheets

Level 2 – Elementary Moby Dick Photocopiable


Student’s Activities

Chapters 11–13
1 When do these people die? Number them 1–5
(a) Queequeg
(b) Captain Ahab
(c) Starbuck and Pip
(d) The men in the boat
(e) Fedallah
2 What is the right answer?
(a) Captain Ahab talks to            about his
family.
(1) Ishmael
(2) Fedallah
(3) Starbuck
(b) Ishmael thinks that Moby Dick is          .
(1) beautiful
(2) ugly
(3) afraid
(c) The whalers are            when they cannot
find Fedallah.
(1) interested
(2) happy
(3) not sad
(d) On the third day, there is/are         
whaling boat(s) on the Pequod.
(1) one
(2) two
(3) three
(e) The whale’s body feels          .
(1) warm
(2) cold
(3) soft
(f) Captain Ahab dies          .
(1) with a rope around his body
(2) when the Pequod goes down
(3) in the whale’s mouth
(g) Ishmael is in the water for two … .
(1) hours
(2) days
(3) weeks

3 Which of these words is not about Captain Ahab in these


chapters?
afraid  angry  excited  kind  sad  strong  tired

ACTIVITIES AFTER READING THE BOOK

1 *Discuss these questions. Work in pairs.


(a) Are you glad that the whale does not die? Why/
why not?
(b) Is Captain Ahab a completely bad man? What is
good about him?
2 You are Captain Gardiner. You think that Captain Ahab is
a bad captain. You want him to lose his job. Write a letter
to Captain Ahab’s whaling company and tell them why.

© Pearson Education Limited 2006 Published and distributed by Pearson Longman


Factsheet written by Chris Rice
Factsheet series developed by Louise James
Penguin Readers Answer Key

Level 2 – Elementary Moby Dick


Moby Dick

Answers to Book Activities 10 (a) ... they do not want the sharks to
eat the whale meat.
  1 Open answers (b) … he only wants to catch Moby
  2 (a) sail – ocean Dick.
(b) death – die (c) … it is easy to see a white whale
(c) dream – sleep in the dark.
(d) star – sky (d) … Fedallah can see the future.
(e) gold – rich (e) … he wants to follow the white
whale.
  3 (a) a whale
(b) Captain Ahab hates Moby Dick 11–12 Open answers
because he lost a leg in a fight 13 (a) broke
with it. (b) jumps
(c) a young sailor (c) leaves
(d) Possible answer: Ishmael feels (d) thinks
excited because this is Ishmael’s (e) stop
first whaling trip. (f) does Answers to Factsheet Activities
(e) Open answers (g) die Communicative activities
  4 (a) 4 (h) feels
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK
(b) 7 14 Possible answers:
(c) 5 (a) Stubb wants to teach Pip a 1–2 Open answers
(d) 6 lesson.
(e) 1 ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING A SECTION
(b) Pip was in the ocean for too long.
(f) 3 (c) Because Pip thinks that he is God. Chapters 1–3
(g) 2 (d) Because he knows that Starbuck 1–2 Open answers
  5 (a) Queequeg – a whaler from is right.
Kokovoko. He is ugly. He never (e) Because he is very sick. Chapters 4–6
goes home. 15–16 Open answers (a) Sharks try to eat the whalemeat.
(b) Elijah – an old sailor. He sailed Whalers get oil from whales.
with Ahab. He thinks that Ahab is 17 (a) … they do not want the sharks to They keep the oil in barrels.
the Devil. eat the whale meat. They kill whales with harpoons.
(c) Starbuck – a sailor. He never (b) … because he has a bad dream. They need maps when they sail
smiles. He thinks that Ahab’s plan (c) … because he wants to know the across oceans.
is crazy. future. Bad weather makes their job hard
(d) Stubb – a sailor. He is happy and (d) … because the wind is strong and and dangerous.
tells funny stories. dangerous.
(e) Bildad, Tashtego, etc. – sailors. (e) … because his boy was on it. (b)–(c) Sharks try to eat the whalemeat.
They come from different (f) … because he has no time. Chapters 7–8
countries and tell interesting
18 (a) Fedallah tells Ahab that a rope   1 Open answers
stories.
will kill him.
(f) Pip – the little cook boy. He hears   2 (a) Starbuck is angry because Pip
(b) Ahab throws his maps into the
men below them. thinks that Captain Ahab is God.
ocean.
  6 (a) It is tall and strong with dark (c) Starbuck almost shoots Ahab (b) Open answers
wood from many years on the wild when he is asleep. Chapters 9–10
oceans. (d) Ahab tells Pip to stay in his room.
(b) He is sick. (e) A bird flies away with Ahab’s hat.   1 Open answers
(c) It is dangerous. The work is hard.   2 Possible answers:
19 (a) Ishmael understands why Ahab
You are away from home for many (a) afraid / He is happy that he will kill
talks to Fedallah.
years. Moby Dick before he dies.
(b) Because he thinks that Ahab will
(d) He wants to see the world. (b) afraid / He thinks the bad weather
kill everybody with his dangerous
(e) The men cannot sleep because comes from God.
plan.
Captain Ahab walks up and down (c) angry / He will fight it.
all night. 20 Open answers (d) angry / Captain Ahab’s plan is
(f) Starbuck does not want to look dangerous for everybody
21 (a) 2nd
for Moby Dick because he will not (e) angry / Captain Ahab does not
(b) 2nd
make any money. help him look for his son.
(c) 1st
(g) Ishmael thinks that Pip can hear (f) quiet and afraid / They are
(d) 3rd
the ocean, not the sound of men. thinking about their future.
(e) 2nd
  7 Open answers (f) 1st (g) angry / Some men are laughing at
(g) 3rd him.
  8 (a) W (h) Some think that it is funny. Some
(h) 2nd
(b) R are afraid. It means that bad
(i) 3rd
(c) R things will happen.
(d) W 22–30 Open answers
(e) W   3 Open answers
(f) W Chapters 11–13
  9 (a) Ishmael – the whalers with dark (a) Birds show that Moby Dick is near.
faces and long black hair Captain Ahab loses his
(b) Starbuck – Ahab’s family whalebone leg when he fights
(c) Ishmael – he has not got a family Moby Dick.
to go home to. Ropes kill Fedallah and Captain
(d) Captain Ahab – Captain Boomer Ahab.
(e) the whalers – Fedallah Ishmael climbs onto Queequeg’s
(f) Starbuck – Captain Ahab coffin after the Pequod goes
down. It saves his life.
Captain Gardiner’s men
think that Ishmael is
their captain’s lost son.
(b) Open answers

© Pearson Education Limited 2006 Published and distributed by Pearson Longman


Factsheet written by Chris Rice
Factsheet series developed by Louise James
ACTIVITIES AFTER READING THE BOOK Chapters 7–8
(a) Elijah says that Ahab is the Devil /
(a) They lose the whale because of
Queequeg and Fedallah can see
him.
the future / Ahab’s dream / the
(b) Pip thinks that Captain Ahab is
bird takes Ahab’s hat / the bad
God.
weather
(c) Captain Ahab stops the ship and
(b) Open answers changes the barrels.
(d) a harpoon rope
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK
(e) sharks
(a) pages 19, 31
(f) a coffin
(b) page 11
(g) Pip
(c) page 7
(h) Starbuck
(d) page 19
(i) Queequeg
(e) page 7
(f) pages 7, 11, 15, 25, 31 Chapters 9–10
ACTIVITIES WHILE READING THE BOOK   1 (a) 4
(b) 6
  1 (a) does not come
(c) 3
(b) Queequeg
(d) 5
(c) sick
(e) 2
(d) laugh
(f) 7
(e) quiet
(g) 1
(f) leg
(g) other whales 2 (a) R
(h) Pip (b) R
(c) W
2 (a) tired
(d) W
(b) strange
(e) W
(c) afraid
(f) W
(d) happy
(g) R
(e) interesting
(f) angry Chapters 11–13
(g) excited
  1 (a) 2
(h) crazy
(b) 3
Chapters 4–6 (c) 4
(d) 1
  1 (a) Fedallah
(b) Stubb   2 (a) Starbuck
(c) Starbuck (b) beautiful
(d) Ishmael (c) not sad
(e) Captain Boomer (d) one
(f) Captain Ahab (e) cold
(g) Fedallah (f) with a rope around his body
(h) Fedallah (g) days
  2 (a) N   3 afraid
(b) N
(c) N ACTIVITIES AFTER READING THE BOOK
(d) Y
(e) N 1–3 Open answers
(f) Y
(g) Y
(h) Y

© Pearson Education Limited 2006 Published and distributed by Pearson Longman


Factsheet written by Chris Rice
Factsheet series developed by Louise James