Despite its indifferent reception when it was first published in 1851, Moby Dick is now a central work in the American literary canon. This introduction offers readings of Melville's masterpiece, but it also sets out the key themes, contexts, and critical reception of his entire oeuvre. The first chapters cover Melville's life and the historical and cultural contexts. Melville's individual works each receive full attention in the third chapter, including Typee, Moby Dick, Billy Budd and the short stories. Elsewhere in the chapter different themes in Melville are explained with reference to several works: Melville's writing process, Melville as letter writer, Melville and the past, Melville and modernity, Melville's late writings. The final chapter analyses Melville scholarship from his day to ours. Kevin J. Hayes provides comprehensive information about Melville's life and works in an accessible and engaging book that will be essential for students beginning to read this important author.