Herman Melville tribute on Google

Google is celebrating the 161st anniversary of the publication of “Moby-Dick” with a new doodle that graces the search engine’s front page. The novel book by Herman Melville was largely ignored at the time of its release but has entered the canon of great American literature.

The doodle is one of Google’s most creative yet, featuring the iconic climax of the book. The front page of Google illustrates the final showdown between Moby-Dick, the great white whale, and tortured Captain Ahab, who has become one of the most recognizable characters in the history of literature. The Google-Ahab is commanding a small boat while raising a harpoon, waiting for a chance to stick the whale, his nemesis.

“Moby-Dick” was first released as a three volume serial on Oct. 18, 1851, but was published by Harper and Brothers in New York as a single novel one month later, according to Fox News. Captain Ahab spends the novel trying to get revenge on the white whale, which bit off his leg. The novel is narrated by Ishmael, a sailor on board Ahab’s whaling vessel, the Pequod.

The Guardian reports that Google’s tribute comes at a time when various actors and public figures es – ranging from Tilda Swinton and Stephen Fry to Prime Minister David Cameron – are each reading one of the book’s 135 chapters. The recordings are being released daily online.

While “Moby-Dick” has become a staple in high school English classes it’s much more than a story of a deranged captain hunting a whale. The book is notoriously long and focuses on themes that question the existence of God, good vs. evil and the relevance of social class.

Melville is revered today, something he only dreamed of during his life. Melville now stands as the stereotype of the tortured writer as “Moby-Dick” never even sold 3,000 copies between its initial release and the author’s death 40 years later.

Melville suffered a debilitating alcoholism while struggling with bouts of depression, perhaps brought on by outliving two of his sons. Even in death he wasn’t respected: His obituary in the New York Times told of the passing of “Henry Melville.”

While Melville authored several other novels, short stories, essays and poetry “Moby-Dick” is certainly the writer’s greatest and best known piece of work. It’s based on his own experiences on whaling voyages around the Pacific in the 1840s.