David Gilbert wrote a really powerful essay about Moby Dick:
Moby-Dick is about everything, a bible written in scrimshaw, an adventure spun in allegory, a taxonomy tripping on acid. It seems to exist outside its own time, much like Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, the poetry of Emily Dickinson. It is so broad and so deep as to accept any interpretation while also staring back and mocking this man-made desire toward interpretation.
What does it mean? There are so many symbols as to render symbols meaningless. And yet, like Ahab, we insist on plucking the heart of its mystery. As Ishmael says, “And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do the hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.” Moby-Dick might as well be that enigmatic doubloon nailed to the main-mast, the prize for anyone who first grasps the white whale.
I had the pleasure of read Moby Dick last year for school and absolutely loved it. If you haven’t read Melvile’s magnum-opus, I can attest it’s well worth reading.