GRE General Test: RC-390912 GRE Reading Comprehension

Beyond its great influence on American literature, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is often credited with popularizing cetology, the study of whales, in the United States. Much of Melville's interest and information originated during his own time on a whaling ship, and the narrator's comments likely reflect his own observations. Although the narrator recognizes some previous studies of whales, he instead creates his own definitions, describing the whale as a "spouting fish with a horizontal tail," as well as any other creature Nantucket whalers have referred to as a whale. Continuing in his taxonomy, he groups whales into three major categories, or books, by size: the folio whale, the octavo whale, and the duodecimo whale, with smaller chapters within.

There have been various explanations offered as to why Melville chose to include this chapter in his book. It does not lend itself to the overall narrative nor does it help to develop any of the characters. Indeed, in abridged editions of Moby-Dick, it is often one of the chapters omitted. Some opine that Melville was simply wishing to demonstrate his knowledge of whales, others that is meant to raise the tension of the plot, mimicking the long and slow journey, still others that Melville simply found the information interesting and wished to share it. Nevertheless, its topic and placement in an otherwise fictional work make the chapter as remarkable as it is strange.
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According to the passage, where did Melville gain most of his information about whales?