Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it- would they let me- since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (From Google Books)
In "the great whale", what is this "the"? Is this about Moby-Dick? If this is the same "the" as "the lion is ferocious", I don't think it's grammatical to use an adjective before "whale". Is this assessment correct?
In the first "the whale", is it the same "the" as "the lion is ferocious"?
The last one is also the same as "the lion is ferocious", but this is many whales. So the image you have with the second one is a typical image of a whale, and is singular. But this third one is about many whales. I thought this couldn't be used like this. I think a more grammatical way to say it would be "processions of whales." Is Melville's usage of "the" correct here? If so, could I say, "A group of the lion was there" to mean "a group of lions."?
I would like to hear from someone who has actually read this book.