Moby Dick

Herman Melville

BACKGROUND

Written in 1851, Moby Dick is a classic of American literature. Sure, it’s long, but – whoa – what a tale of adventure, philosophy, and big-time questioning of major human emotions and experiences. See, it’s about this guy who wants to find this whale, but it’s also about what the search represents. Melville was good at that kind of writing, even though, when this first was published, the book was pretty much harshed on by everyone. Little did the critics back then know how famous the novel and its first line would become. Yeah, this is the one that starts, "Call me Ishmael."

 

MAIN CHARACTERS

Ishmael: The narrator.

Captain Ahab: The Captain of the boat (the Pequod). He has one leg. He is obsessed with finding and killing Moby.

Starbuck: Armed with many cups of coffee (no, not really). He’s one of the boat guys.

Fedallah: The guy who becomes Ahab’s personal harpooning dude.

Moby Dick: The whale.

Stub: The partying second mate.

Flask: Lame-ass third mate.

Queequeg: Ishmael’s harpooning buddy.

Tashtego: Harpooner.

Elijah: Weird dude who sees bad stuff happening to the boat.

Fleece: The cook.

Pip: The black cabin boy who goes nuts.

 

PLOT

Ishmael, who narrates this story, becomes friends with Queequeg, a big dude who kills whales. They go on a whaling ship together called the Pequod. Ahab is the Captain of the ship. He stays in his cabin because of some random sickness.

Ishmael and Queequeg meet the others on board. When Ishmael sees Ahab fir the first time, he gets creeped out. Ishmael describes all the different sorts of whales.

Ahab tells the crew that the whole reason they are there is to find this one whale, the Great White Whale (Moby Dick) and kill it. Moby Dick is an evil huge whale that acts up when he’s attacked.

The search goes on for the whale. All over the world, Ahab and his crew go looking for Moby. They run into other whaling ships and men who have seen the whale.

In a big storm, the Pequod suffers some damage. Ahab grows more and more focused and nutty about finding the whale. He ignores other boats that need his help and just moves on in his search.

Finally, Ahab sees the big whale. The crew tries to harpoon Moby, but the whale smashes the boats and gets away. The next day, they try again. They loose a crew member. The next day, Ahab spears Moby’s side. The other boats, in trouble, go back to the main ship. Ahab stays to fight the whale. Moby is pissed and wrecks the Pequod. Ahab tries again but his own harpoon rope kills him and the Pequod sinks.

Ishmael is the only one who gets out alive. He is rescued by another boat, the Rachel.

 

CHAPTER BY CHAPTER

CHAPTER 1

  • Ishmael is the narrator.
  • When Ishmael is bummed, he finds comfort in the ocean.
  • Since everyone is a slave to something or someone, Ishmael doesn’t care if people order him around.
  • He goes to sea because of its purity and curiosity.

CHAPTERS 2 – 3

  • Ishmael goes to New Bedford (a town in New England).
  • He needs to find a place to sleep, but a lot of the places are expensive. He goes to "The Spouter Inn."
  • Inside, there’s a panting of a sinking ship and a huge whale.
  • Peter Coffin, the manager, tells him that there’s no room, but that he can share a room with a harpooner, Queequeg.
  • First, Ishmael doesn’t want to sleep with the harpooner, but then he does.
  • The manager tells Ishmael that the harpooner is out trying to sell a human head he got on his last trip.
  • When Ishmael is falling asleep, the giant harpooner comes in the room.
  • When the harpooner light a candle, Ishmael sees the human head. Gross!
  • After a "who the heck are you?" scene in bed, they go to sleep.

CHAPTER 4 – 5

  • In the morning, Ishmael sees Queequeg’s groovy tattoos.
  • In his sleep, Queequeg has his arm around Ishmael, and Ishmael can’t move. This makes Ishmael think of when his lousy stepmom sent him to bed as a kid and in his dream (or was it reality) he was trapped in bed.
  • When Ishmael sees Coffin in the morning, the manager is pretty amused at his joke of making Ishmael share a bed with the wild Queequeg.
  • At breakfast, Ishmael sees the big whaling dudes act all shy at the table.
  • Queequog is not shy and uses his big harpoon to grab a steak from the middle of the table.
  • The other guys don’t say anything about that.

 

CHAPTERS 6 – 7

  • While walking around New Bedford, Ishmael says how different the town is with all the weirdos who live there.
  • Queequog isn’t as strange looking as Ishmael first thought.
  • Like all the guys who are about to go to sea, Ishmael goes to the whalemen’s chapel.
  • He is reminded of how dangerous whaling is.
  • He thinks that anything that is worthwhile is dangerous.
  • Queequog is in the congregation.
  • Ishmael is scared about whaling, but he believes his body is not his whole being and that his spirit is important.

CHAPTERS 8 – 9

  • Father Mapple, who was once a big harpooner, comes into the chapel and goes to the funky pulpit which comes complete with a rope ladder, a painting of a ship, and a design like the front of a ship’s where the Bible rests.
  • He tells the people to sit closer together and uses ship-talk.
  • The sermon is about Jonah and the whale – what a shock!

CHAPTERS 10 – 12

  • Back at the inn, Ishmael watches Queequog carve some piece of wood and thinks that, even though the guy is kinda scary, he is a strong, courageous person.
  • Ishmael decides to be Queequog’s friend.
  • They talk and smoke a pipe together (no, they don’t listen to Bob Marley or anything).
  • After they press their foreheads together and bond, Queequog says they are married, like buddies until death.
  • Ishmael does a little ritual with Queequog and the little tiki wood thing.
  • They go to sleep, but wake up and just hang out.
  • Queequog says he’s from an island in the South Pacific and that his dad was the king there. As a young guy, Queequog wanted to go on board a whaling ship that came to the island and find out about the industry, but the captain negged him. Queequog paddled a canoe to where the ship was, climbed on board, and said he wouldn’t leave, so the captain took him in. Queequog become an expert at harpooning. He also learned that Christians can be evil.
  • Queequog says he’s not ready to go back and be king on the island.
  • They agree to go to sea together.

CHAPTERS 13 – 15

  • Ishmael and Queequog go from New Bedford to Nantucket.
  • On the ship, the Moss, people make fun of Queequog.
  • Queequog holds the guy up in the air and drops him on the deck, which pisses the captain off. But suddenly, a big wind comes and the boom (part of the ship) knocks the teaser-guy into the water.
  • Queequog saves the day – he ties the boom and gets the guy from the water.
  • Ishmael is impressed.
  • Nantucket is small and sandy.
  • They stay at Mr. Coffin’s cousin, Hosea’s, inn, the Try Pots.
  • They eat clam chowder and cod chowder and head for bed. Hosea’s wife, Mrs. Hussey, tells Queequog to leave his harpoon downstairs.

CHAPTER 16

  • In the morning, Queequog tells Ishmael that the wood carved thing which he calls Yojo, says that Ishmael has to go by himself and choose the ship they will go on.
  • Ishmael is like, yo, whatssaapp? But finally, Yojo’s word wins and Ishmael goes to the docks.
  • There are three ships that are all getting ready to leave for three years, the Devil-Dam, the Tit-bit (no, we’re not making this up), and the Pequod.
  • Ishmael likes the roughness of the Pequod and asks Captain Pegleg (nope, not a joke) where he can signup.
  • After Pegleg and another captain, Bildad, argue over how much money Ishmael gets, Ishmael signs up and says he’ll bring Queequog.
  • Pegleg and Bildad are psyched about Queequog since he’s such a good harpooner.
  • When Ishmael asks to meet the captain of the ship, Ahab, he is told that Ahab doesn’t want to see anyone. Pegleg says that one of Ahab’s legs was chewed up by a giant whale and that, though he has a biblical name that suggests evil, that the guy isn’t all bad.

CHAPTER 17 – 19

  • Back at the inn, Queequog is fasting for Ramadan so Ishmael doesn’t want to bug him.
  • Later, Ishmael is freaked out when there’s no answer at the door and, through the keyhole, Queequog’s harpoon is visible.
  • There’s a sign at the inn’s front desk saying "no suicides," but Ishmael is worried so he asks Mrs. Hussey for the key. The door is bolted, so this does no good.
  • When Ishmael breaks down the door, he finds his buddy still sitting on the floor, fasting in peace.
  • The next morning, Ishmael is all about lecturing on how he thinks the fasting and Queequog’s stuff are all a bunch of bull, but Queequog doesn’t get it.
  • After breakfast, they head to the Pequod.
  • On board, Pegleg wants to see Queequog’s papers (his ID) but Ishmael lies and says that he doesn’t have any papers and that Queequog is a member of the Congregational Church.
  • Queequog says that really he’s just a member of the church that everyone belongs to, like a church of mankind.
  • This works for the captains.
  • Queequog shows his way with the harpoon by pointing to some oil in the water and hitting the middle.
  • Pegleg and Bildad are impressed and say that he’ll make a bunch of money from the ship.
  • Queequog, who Pegleg and Bildad call Quohog, which is a kind of shellfish, like a mussel or oyster, signs on.
  • When they get off the Pequod, a stranger with a marked up face asks them if they’ve heard the bad stuff about Captain Ahab. Ishmael doesn’t want to hear it from the guy, whose name is Elijah (the name of a prophet, in case you were wondering).
  • Elijah yells that it’s a really bad thing that they’ve signed up for the trip and asks for God’s mercy.
  • They walk off, but he follows them for a while.

CHAPTERS 20 – 22

  • Obviously, if you’re going to be at sea for three years, there are lots of preparations needed. Cargo is loaded on, etc.
  • Aunt Charity, Bildad’s sister, brings things on to make the seamen’s lives nicer.
  • The day before they are supposed to leave, Ishmael and Queequog still haven’t seen Captain Ahab.
  • Before they board, Elijah asks Ishmael and Queequog if they’re really going. Ishmael had seen shadows of what he took to be sailors going on board, but when Elijah asks if Ishmael still sees them, they are gone.
  • Ishmael and Queequog ignore Elijah’s rantings and go on board. Some drunk dude tells them that Ahab is in his cabin.
  • Starbuck, the first mate, says the ship is ready to go.
  • Everyone gets together as the boat leaves the harbor with Pegleg steering.
  • It’s Christmas day and the weather’s gross.
  • A boat comes by and Pegleg and Bildad leave the Pequod.
  • Where is Captain Ahab? Will Elijah’s words ring true? Will everyone sing "what can we do with the drunken sailor?" And what about Queequog’s little tiki idol thing? Stay tuned for Chapter 23…

CHAPTER 23 – 25

  • Ishmael recognizes the guy at the helm (the wheel) from the inn in New Bedford. His name is Bulkington, but don’t worry about it, since he is washed overboard very quickly.
  • Ishmael talks about the whaling industry and how the guys who stay on land have no respect for the whalesmen, even though they are the ones who have explored uncharted territories, been a source of good money, and the whole Job/Bible deal.
  • He says that whaling has dignity, and that any smart stuff he might write, or that someone might publish after he’s gone, is a result of whaling – he says whaling has been his "Yale" and "Harvard" – yeah, but without the football, the smart hotties (well, not at Yale), and the beer.
  • Finally, to really get his point across about how great whaling really is, he mentions that kings and queens are anointed with oil, and that the oil comes from the sperm whale, so, you know, that’s something.

CHAPTERS 26 – 27

  • Ishmael describes some of the crew.
  • Some of the guys are evil and dumb, but they still have courage and dignity. How can this be? Well, because mankind in general is cool, says Ishmael.
  • Starbuck is courageous but calm.
  • Stubb is always asleep with a pipe.
  • Flask is out to kick whale butt.
  • Each guy has his own harpooner. Starbuck gets Queequeg, Stubb gets Tashtego, a Native American, Flask gets Daggoo, a big, black man.

CHAPTERS 28 – 31

  • Ishmael sees Ahab and thinks that it was probably the cold weather that kept the guy in his cabin.
  • Ahab has a big scar on the side of his face and a white Pegleg which is stuck into a hold on the deck.
  • The weather gets warmer and Ahab is less of a hermit.
  • Ahab spends so much time on deck that the crew thinks he never sleeps. He walking around at night makes the crew loose sleep, so Stubb asks him to ease up and go to bed.
  • Ahab is pissed and Stubb backs off.
  • Stubb wonders what makes the Captain so mad.
  • Ahab stands on the deck and smokes his trusty pipe – then he decides that calm people smoke pipes and he is not calm, so he chucks it into the ocean.
  • Stubb tells Flask that he had a dream that Ahab kicked him and then, when Stubb fought back, the Captain turned into a pyramid. Then a hunchback told him to lay off and that it was cool to be kicked by a dude like Ahab.
  • Hmmm… maybe they should all lay off the pipe smoking.

CHAPTERS 32 –35

  • Ishmael describes all the different types of whales.
  • There are big whales (like the sperm whale), medium-sized whales (like the grumpus – tell me that’s not a cool name for a band!), and small whales (like porpoises).
  • Where the crew lives on board is determined by what they do. The seamen are supposed to look up to Ahab, the mates, and the harpooners.
  • On the Pequod, like other southern whalers, there’s no real protection from the elements on the mast-head.

CHAPTERS 36 – 37

  • Ahab’s all in a frenzy. He tells the crew to gather around.
  • He says there’s prize of Spanish gold for the guy who sees a certain great white whale that has a crooked jaw and three holes on his right side.
  • The harpooners know this is Moby Dick.
  • Ahab says Moby tore off his leg.
  • The crew will go from one end of the ocean to the other looking for the whale.
  • The crew cheers.
  • Starbuck isn’t happy – he thinks the only thing that will happen is revenge.
  • Alone in his cabin, Ahab is glad that crew has gone along with the plan to kill Moby Dick. He says nothing will take him off this mission.
  • Everyone drinks to celebrate.

CHAPTER 38 – 42

  • Starbuck hates that he has to go along with Ahab’s crazy stuff, but he knows he has to.
  • Stubb decides that all he can do is laugh at Ahab’s mission – he thinks things turn out the way they are meant to.
  • Everyone’s loaded, so they dance and party.
  • Pip is scared about Moby and asks the "white man’s god" for mercy.
  • Ishmael finds out more about Moby – the whale gets angry when boats chase him (um, no surprise there), he has a big, white head, and deformed lower jaw, and attacks people.
  • Ishmael says Moby is the symbol of evil to Ahab.
  • Ishmael wonders about the meaning of the whale’s whiteness – it could be strength or fear or other stuff, like death and ghosts.

CHAPTERS 43 – 45

  • One night, some of the guys are working on deck and hear what sounds like a cough. The guy who hears it says that there’s someone below deck who hasn’t come up yet.
  • Ahab does the same thing every night – he looks at his charts in his cabin and tries to figure out where Moby could be.
  • Ishmael says there are routes that the sperm whales take and that’s how they can be tracked.
  • Ahab is still obsessed with the whale, thinking about getting him.
  • Ishmael says that the reader (that’s you) doesn’t know about whaling, so he tries to say how big a deal it is and how powerful the sperm whales are. Once Ishmael saw a whale get harpooned by three different spears only to survive and the next year, get nailed by the same person. Also, sperm whales are easy to tell apart because of their different looks and each has a name, like Moby Dick or New Zealand Jack.
  • Getting into a smaller boat from the big ship to get the whales is scary.
  • When sperm whales are pissed, they can charge boats and sink them.

CHAPTERS 46 – 49

  • Just because he wants Moby’s butt, doesn’t mean Ahab is ready to forget about the other whales. He needs to get the whale oil so he can pay the men.
  • Tashtego yells, "Thar she blows." This is a whaling expression, in case you were wondering.
  • A group of sperm whales are seen.
  • Everyone freaks out, running around and getting ready to do whale stuff.
  • Just as everyone’s ready, they turn to see Ahab surrounded by five phantoms – okay, they’re not really phantoms, they are men who Ahab orders around. They lower the captain’s boat with Fedallah leading.
  • Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask yell to the crew to get moving.
  • A storm comes up and no harpooners get a whale.
  • Ishmael’s boat is mushed by the Pequod and the guys are rescued and brought back onto the big ship.
  • Ishmael is the last guy to be saved and wonders if what just happened is common. People say yeah, it happens all the time.
  • The guys sort-of talk about it is a macho way.
  • Ishmael writes his will with Queequog as the one in charge of it.

CHAPTERS 50 – 54

  • Ahab wants to be the big man on the boat when the whales are around.
  • Also, he has his own men that he kept secretly stowed on board without the Pequod’s owner knowing, but the other guys are okay with the whole scene.
  • Even though whaling doesn’t normally happen during the night, when Fedallah sees some and yells the "thar she blows" cry, the Pequod races ahead.
  • The whale keeps getting away.
  • When the boat sails around the Cape of Good Hope, the weather is crappy.
  • Ahab stands on deck even in nasty weather.
  • The Pequod goes by another whaling ship called the Albatross. Ahab calls out to the captain, wondering if he’s seen the great white whale.
  • Right when the captain is about to answer Ahab, his trumpet (that he uses like a megaphone) falls into the water.
  • American ships are the most social of all the whaling ships, but Ahab is not into the whole scene.
  • The Cape of Good Hope is a busy spot for travelers. The Pequod passes another boat called the Town-ho (yeah, lots of room for jokes there).
  • The Town-ho had a run-in with Moby and one of the men was eaten. Most of the crew left after that.

CHAPTERS 55 - 60

  • Ishmael thinks someone should draw a picture of the whale that actually looks like it rather than the crap that’s been done already. But since whaling is so dangerous, it makes sense that not that people do it, so they don’t know what the whales really look like.
  • The French artists are the best at drawing and painting whales.
  • Scrimshaw is the art of carving pictures into whale bone. Sailors do this to pass the time.
  • The sea is yellow in one patch because of some stuff (brit) that grows that the right whale eats.
  • Ishmael thinks about how the sea provides for the creatures that live in it but also has the power kill them.
  • The sea might look calm, but it’s not.
  • Near Java, an island, Daggoo yells that he sees Moby Dick. The boats go out to see.
  • He was wrong, it was a giant squid with very long tentacles. The boats come back to the Pequod.
  • The whale-line is the rope that is tied to the end of the harpoon. It is really strong and long and provides a sort of anchor when the harpoon is thrown.

CHAPTERS 61 – 66

  • Even though some of the crew think that the squid is a bad sign, Queequeg thinks that where there’s squid, there’s whales.
  • Ishmael is about to fall asleep while on lookout duty when suddenly – whale ahead.
  • The crew lowers the boats and paddle out to try not to scare the whale, but it gets freaked and starts to move.
  • Stubb nails the whale, blood flows everywhere, and it dies.
  • Ahab goes to his cabin – sure this whale was killed, but Moby is still out there.
  • Stubb harasses the cook about making him a piece of whale.
  • Ishmael thinks whale meat is too fatty to eat.
  • After a whale is killed, it is tied to the boat. Sharks usually eat the whale, but there aren’t that many in the Indian Ocean, where the Pequod is. The crew hangs lanterns above the water anyway, which scares off the sharks.
  • The harpooners spear the sharks and then the sharks eat each other.

CHAPTERS 67 - 73

  • The crew peels the blubber off the whale and stores it. This is the part of the whale from which oil is taken.
  • After the blubber is gone, the whale’s body is released from the boat and the sea birds and sharks dig in.
  • Ahab looks at the whale and wonders about all the stuff it had seen and how it still couldn’t talk.
  • A ship called the Jeroboam comes by, but everyone on board is sick, so the two boats don’t go near each other. Captain Mayhew says his mate, Harry, was killed by Moby.
  • There’s a loony on board who thinks he’s Gabriel, the archangel, and has basically taken control of the boat. He rants about Moby being some Shaker God.
  • Ahab gives Captain Mayhew a letter that he had for Harry, but the loony guy flings it back and says that Ahab would be going in the same way as Harry.
  • Fastened to the whale so he doesn’t get creamed by the sharks, the Queequeg deals with the whale’s body while Ishmael supports him from on deck -- with a rope tied around him called a monkey rope.
  • When a right whale is seen, Stubb and Flask get the crew to do work.
  • Stubb wonders why Ahab wanted this whale since right whale have stinky oil. Flask says that if a boat has the head of a right whale on one side and a sperm whale on the other, it will be safe.
  • Stubb thinks Fedallah is a devil and that he will hurt Ahab.

CHAPTERS 74 – 80

  • The Pequod has both whale heads on its sides. Ishmael says that the sperm whale is the cooler of the two and describes some of the physical differences.
  • When the harpooner cuts off the whale’s head, he has to be careful not to cut into the part where the oil is stored.
  • Tashtego slips into the oily pit and Daggoo gets him out. The oil is bucketed out.
  • The whale is huge but has a very small brain.

CHAPTERS 81 – 86

  • The Pequod meets the Jungfrau (the virgin). De Beer, the Captain, tells Ahab he hasn’t seen Moby. De Beer wants oil since his crew hasn’t found any whales. They give him oil.
  • Boats from the Pequod and the Jungfrau compete for eight whales that are noticed.
  • An old whale is clobbered and sinks to the bottom.
  • The Pequod guys laugh as the other guys chase after the other whales, which are fin-backs and way too fast to be caught. Whaling guys rock.
  • Ishmael is not sure about the bible story of Jonah and the whale. How did a dude live in a whale? And how did the whale make it up the river and puke Jonah?
  • Pitchpoling is done when a whale increases its horizontal speed – a pitchpole is longer then a harpoon, and is thrown again and again until the whale dies.
  • Ishmael says that whale spouts are used for breathing air (yup). He says the vapor is a stingy mist that isn’t so nice for men – but it’s not poison like some people think. But the vapor does add to the whale’s mystery.
  • The whale’s tail is a cool, beautiful, powerful thing.

CHAPTERS 87 – 92

  • Bound for the China Sea, the Pequod soon is near sperm whales. All the sails are out and they sped ahead – a good thing since they are also being chased by local savages.
  • Ishmael’s whale boat gets a harpoon into a whale which then moves the boat into the middle of the whales. This is not good. They get only one whales and just manage to escape being nailed by the group of whales.
  • There are two types of schools of whales – one is all females, who only grow to be about 1/3 the size of the males. This group is guarded by one male whale who protects the females from being hit on by young, horny whales. Later, when the male protector whale is old, he just swims around by himself.
  • The other kind of school is all the young bull whales. They are all rowdy. When they get older, they separate and find females. The head whale is the whale that teaches all the other whales to stay alive and focused (wax on, wax off, up, down… good whale).
  • When a whale is hit by one boat but let go and then captured by another boat, there’s a question as to which boat gets the whale. A fast-fish is a whale that belongs to the ship its tied to. A loose-fish is one that belongs to whatever boat finds it first.
  • English law says that the head of a whale belongs to the king and the tail to the queen.
  • On a clam day, the Pequod sees a French ship with two whales tied to it.
  • They row toward the boat even though the stench is really bad.
  • Stubb asks if they have seen Moby Dick. They haven’t. Stubb insults the Captain, but since he doesn’t speak English, it doesn’t matter. The only guy on board who does speak English translates for Stubb and winds up telling the Captain that the whales he has tied to the boat will bring some disease to them. The captain lets the whales go.
  • Stubb realizes that the whales were the ones the Pequod speared already.
  • When Stubb digs around in the gross decaying flesh, he finds this stuff called amber-gris (yellowy-gray), which is some very valuable gunk used in perfume and wine and found only in smelly, dead whales.
  • Ahab tells Stubb to get his butt back to the Pequod or they will leave without him.

CHAPTERS 93 – 99

  • When the whale boats are let down into the water, the men that stay on board are called the ship-keepers. Pip, a little black dude who normally stays on board, takes the place of someone in Stubb’s boat. After he is almost killed in a mishap with the whales (he is tangled in a line) and Stubb yells at him to stay in the boat, the whole thing happens again. They leave Pip in the ocean but then get him. But then, Pip is a freaked out guy who can’t deal.
  • The whales are dissected, cut up, and dealt with.
  • Guys who kill sperm whales perform a ritual of dressing up in a piece of the whale.
  • All the ships have big ovens in which the blubber is melted into oil.
  • Unlike other ships on which there’s little oil, the whale boats always have their lanterns lit up.
  • Just when whale guys get down time, a "thar she blows" cry is heard.
  • Ahab is a man obsessed. He walks the deck and stares at some coin that is stuck onto the mast. The coin is old and has three mountains surrounded by a globe. He wonders what it means. No one wants to take the coin off the mast.

CHAPTERS 100 – 105

  • Ahab meets another Captain who has been hurt by the great white whale. They talk and Ahab is told that Moby is near the equator.
  • Ishmael talks about the anatomy of the sperm whale.
  • Ishmael says that whales have been around a lot longer than man, and that whales will continue to rule as the biggest mammal.

CHAPTERS 106 – 110

  • Ahab messed up his leg when he left that other ship, so he has the carpenter come look at it. The guy can fix anything but is no great brain.
  • The oil is stored in casks (like where wine ones) that need to be kept tightly shut. This is done by flooding the part of the ship where the casks are kept. When the crew pumps out the water, they can tell how much oil is leaking.
  • When this happens, Starbuck says to Ahab that it’s important that they figure out where the leak is. Ahab shrugs it off and then gets pissed and pulls a gun on Starbuck – remember Stubb’s dream?
  • As Starbuck leaves, he tells Ahab not be worried about Starbuck, but about himself.
  • Queequeg gets sick. When he gets really ill, he tells the carpenter to build him a coffin. Then he gets better – he explains that this is because he remembered something he needed to do back on land.

CHAPTERS 111 – 15

  • In the Pacific, waters are nicer, but nothing calms Ahab.
  • Perth, the ship’s blacksmith, bangs away fixing stuff which is annoying. Perth used to be a rich dude, back in England, but was an alcoholic and wound up on the sea.
  • Ahab makes Perth test the points of his nails in Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo’s hands. What up, dude?
  • They chase whales but get none.
  • Ishmael is close with the sea.
  • The Pequod goes by the Bachelor, a Nantucket ship, that is filled with sperm whale oil.
  • The captain of the Bachelor tells Ahab to come and party on board but Ahab just sends them off on their way home.

CHAPTERS 116 – 119

  • The Pequod gets four whales.
  • Ahab watches the whales die.
  • Three whales are kept close to the Pequod, but the other one stays further out. Ahab’s boat watches over it. Ahab dreams of a hearse but the Parsee tells him not to worry too much about it.
  • Ahab hopes to find Moby Dick near the equator.
  • Ahab breaks his navigation tool since he is pissed that the sun, which he uses to figure where he is and where he’s going, also looks on Moby.
  • A typhoon, a totally sucky storm, comes up really quickly and the Pequod is damaged.
  • The crew begs Ahab to head for home but he won’t change his actions. He wants Moby.

CHAPTERS 120 – 127

  • The storm is still going.
  • Stubb ignores Ahab’s orders to get the anchors ready in the hopes that if the ship just keeps going, things will be better.
  • When the storm eases up a little and the crew can change the course and get moving, Starbuck goes to tell Ahab. In the cabin, he sees the gun Ahab had before and thinks about taking it and getting rid of the crazy captain, but doesn’t.
  • The next day, Ahab hits one of the crew when he thinks they are lying about the direction of the ship. Turns out Ahab was wrong.
  • Some boats use a log and a line of rope dragged behind them to figure out directions and stuff. The Pequod’s log and line hasn’t been used so it’s all rotten, but Ahab suddenly wants to use it.
  • Ahab gets Pip to help him. Behind Ahab’s back, the crew say how crazy the dude is.
  • Some of the crew see and hear seals nearby. This is supposed to be a bad omen.
  • The guy who was on the lookout for whales fell asleep and fell off the boat.
  • They think this is the bad omen.
  • Since the life buoy thing the crew tried to use to save the guy was all rotten, they tell the carpenter to fix up the coffin (he one he built when Queequeg was sick) as a life buoy.
  • Ahab sees this and tells the carpenter he is a lame-ass.
  • Ahab wants to talk with Pip in his cabin.

CHAPTERS 128 – 132

  • The Pequod asks the Rachel if they’ve seen Moby.
  • The captain of the Rachel comes on board and says that Moby dragged some boat that the captain’s son was on and they haven’t found the boat yet.
  • The Captain asks Ahab to help them look for the boat but Ahab boots the guy off and tells the crew to get ready to get the whale.
  • On a clear day, Ahab tells Starbuck about his life, his marriage and how he’s only seen his wife twice, and how tough whaling is. Starbuck begs him to turn around and go home.
  • When Ahab wonders what it is that has control over him, Starbuck is gone.

CHAPTERS 133 – Epilogue

  • That night, Ahab sees the whale.
  • The boats are lowered.
  • Moby bites Ahab’s boat in half.
  • The men are okay, but Moby gets away.
  • The next day, Ahab sees Moby again and, even though the harpoons are chucked into Moby, other boats are wrecked, and Ahab’s boat turns over, so the chase ends again.
  • Ahab goes up to the top of the main mast and sees Moby again.
  • They speed ahead to try to catch up with the whale.
  • Ahab gets his harpoon into Moby’s side and tangles the Parsee in the process. The next harpoon that Ahab throws tangles around Ahab’s neck.
  • The Pequod sinks and so do all the whale boats.
  • Ishmael, who was rowing in Ahab’s boat, is saved when the coffin buoy thing is shot up from the vortex that everything is being sucked into and he clings to it for a whole day until the Rachel rescues him.

 

 

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • Consider the multiple references to death – from the beginning with the Spouter Inn where Peter Coffin is the manager to the images in the whaler’s chapel.
  • The symbolic and actual meanings of the coffin and its imagery are important. On the one hand, the coffin signifies death. On the other, its structure saved Ishmael.
  • What is Ishmael’s role with the whales and the sea as they represent the natural world? Does he entirely fit into the character of whaler? Does his doubt of the whaling industry and fascination with the power of the whale prevent him from being lost in it?
  • Ahab – freakshow or a man with a plan?
  • Religion and ritual are heavily depicted in this novel – compare the wooden idol and the prayers of the chapel, the bonding between Queequeg and the Christianity seen in other parts of the book.
  • The sea and the whale are portrayed as having mythic power and yet both produce very real terror in the crew.
  • Is there a moral in this story?
  • Melville uses language as a means of adding excitement and clarity to his adventurous story. His ability to set tone and mood with simple language brings the reader closer to the characters and scenes.