Moby Dick

The next day, the Pequod is caught in a typhoon. The weird weather makes white ames appear at the top

Moby Dick



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s. "Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that while-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard uke - look ye, whosoever of ye raises that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!" The men cheer. Ahab then confesses, in response to Starbuck's query, that it was indeed this white whale Moby Dick who took off his leg, and announces his quest to hunt him down. The men shout together that they will hunt with Ahab, though Starbuck protests.

Ahab then begins a ritual that binds the crew together. He fills a cup with alcohol and everyone on the ship drinks from that agon. Telling the harpooners to cross their lances before him, Ahab grasps the weapons and anoints Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo "my three pagan kinsmen there -yon three most honorable gentlemen and noble men." He then makes them take the iron off of the harpoons to use as drinking goblets. They all drink together while Ahab proclaims, "God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!"

Another chapter beginning with a stage direction, Sunset is a melancholy monologue by Ahab. He says that everyone thinks he is mad and he agrees somewhat. He self- consciously calls himself "demoniac" and "madness maddened." Even though he seems to be the one orchestrating events, he does not feel in control: "The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run." Dusk is Starbuck's monologue. Though he feels that it will all come out badly, he feels inextricably bound to Ahab.

When he hears the revelry coming from the crew's forecastle, he laments the whole, doomed voyage. First Night-Watch is Stubb's monologue, giving another perspective on the voyage. Midnight, Forecastle is devoted to the jolly men who take turns showing off and singing together. They get into a fight when the Spanish Sailor makes fun of Daggoo. The onset of a storm, however, stops their fighting and makes them tend to the ship.

Chapters 41-47


Ishmael is meditative again, starting with a discussion of the white whale's history. Rumors about Moby Dick are often out of control, he says, because whale fishermen "are by all odds the most directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them." It is easy to attach metaphorical meaning or make up legend about dangerously intense, life-threatening experiences. Ishmael is skeptical, though, about assertions that Moby Dick is immortal. He admits that there is a singular whale called Moby Dick who is distinguished by his "peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump" and that this whale is known to have destroyed boats in a way that seems "intelligent." No wonder Ahab hates the white whale, says Ishmael, since it does seem that Moby Dick did it out of spite.

Intertwined with Moby Dick's history is Ahab's personal history. When the white whale took off Ahab's leg, the whale became to Ahab "the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung."

Ahab's reaction was to magnify the symbolism of the whale: the whale didn't just take off his leg, but represents everything that he hates and everything that torments him. Ahab went crazy on the trip home, says Ishmael, though he tried to appear sane.

The Whiteness of the Whale turns from what Moby Dick means to Ahab, to what it means to Ishmael. Above all, he says, it is the whiteness of the whale that appalls him. (Note Ishmael's pun{the root of the word "appall" literally means to turn white.) Ishmael begins his cross-cultural discussion of "whiteness" by saying how much it has been idealized as virtue or nobility.

To him, however, the color white only multiplies terror when it is attached with any object "terrible" in itself.

After a short dramatic scene (Hark!) where the sailors say to each other that they think there may be something or someone in the after-hold, Ishmael returns to an examination of Ahab in The Chart. Because Ahab believes that his skill with charts will help him locate Moby Dick, Ishmael discusses how one might scientifically track a whale. In The Afidavit, Ishmael explains in organized form "the natural verity of the main points of this afiair." He realizes that this story seems preposterous in many ways and wants to convince the reader that his story is real by listing the "true" bases for this story in quasi-outline form (first, personal experiences, then tales of whale fishermen or collective memory, and finally books). He then looks at why people may not believe these stories. Perhaps readers haven't heard about the perils or vivid adventures in the whaling industry, he says. Or maybe they do not understand the immensity of the whale. He asks that the audience use "human reasoning" when judging his story.

The chapter called Surmises returns the focus to Ahab, considering how the captain will accomplish his revenge. Because Ahab must use men as his tools, Ahab has to be very careful. How can he motivate them? Ahab can appeal to their hearts, but also he knows that cash will keep them going.

Ahab further knows that he has to watch that he does not leave himself open to charges of "usurpation." That is, he has to follow standard operating procedure, lest he give his offcers reason to overrule him.

The Mat-Maker returns to the plot. Ishmael describes slow, dreamy atmosphere on the ship when they are not after a whale. He and Queequeg are making a sword-mat, and, in a famous passage, likens their weaving to work on "the Loom of Time." (The threads of the warp are fixed like necessity.

Man has limited free will: he can interweave his own woof crossthreads into this fixed structure. When Queequeg's sword hits the loom and alters the overall pattern, Ishmael calls this chance.) What jolts him out of his reverie is Tashtego's call for a whale. Suddenly, everyone is busied in preparations for the whale hunt. Just as they are about to push off in boats, "five dusky phantoms" emerge around Ahab.

Chapters 48-54


These chapters return us to the action of Moby-Dick. We meet Fedallah for the first time, described as a dark, sinister figure with a Chinese jacket and turban made from coiling his own hair around his head. We also meet for the first time the "tiger-yellow ... natives of the Manillas" (Ahab's boat crew) who were hiding in the hold of the Pequod. The other crews are staring at the newly discovered shipmates, but Flask tells them to continue doing their jobs{that is, to concentrate on hunting the whale.

The Pequod's first lowering after the whale is not very successful. Queequeg manages to get a dart in the whale but the animal overturns the boat.

The men are nearly crushed by the ship as it passes looking for them, because a squall has put a mist over everything.

The chapter called The Hyena functions as a mooring of sorts{a self-conscious look back that puts everything in perspective. In this chapter, Ishmael talks about laughing at things, what a hyena is known for. Finding out that such dangerous conditions are typical, Ishmael asks Queequeg to help him make his will.

Ishmael then comments on Ahab's personal crew. Ahab's decision to have his own boat and crew, says Ishmael, is not a typical practice in the whaling industry. But however strange, "in a whaler, wonders soon wane" because there are so many unconventional sights in a whaler: the sheer variety of people, the strange ports of call, and the distance and disconnectedness of the ships themselves from land-based, conventional society. But even though whalemen are not easily awe-struck, Ishmael does say "that hair- turbaned Fedallah remained a mufied mystery to the last." He is "such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and that but dimly."

Ishmael then focuses on Fedallah. On the masthead one night, the Parsee thinks he sees a whale spouting. The whole ship then tries to follow it, but the whale is not seen again until some days later. Ishmael calls it a "spirit-spout" because it seems to be a phantom leading them on. Some think it might be Moby Dick leading the ship on toward its destruction. The ship sails around the Cape of Good Hope (Africa), a particularly treacherous passage.

Through it all, Ahab commands the deck robustly and even when he is down in the cabin, he keeps his eye on the cabin-compass that tells him where the ship is going.

They soon see a ship called "The Goney," or Albatross, a vessel with a "spectral appearance" that is a long way from home. Of course, Ahab asks them as they pass by, "Have ye seen the White Whale?" While the other captain is trying to respond, a gust of wind blows the trumpet from his mouth.

Their wakes cross as both ships continue on. The Pequod continues its way around the world, Ishmael worries that this is dangerous{they might just be going on in mazes or will all be "[over]whelmed." Ishmael then explains that these two ships did not have a "gam." A gam, according to Ishmael, is "a social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews: the two captains remaining, for t

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