Summary of the Novel
Ishmael, the narrator of the story, explains that he goes to sea whenever he is depressed. In the port of New Bedford, he stays at the Spouter Inn. He is at first frightened by Queequeg, his tattooed, tomahawk-toting bedmate, who has been out selling shrunken heads. Queequeg soon becomes Ishmael’s bosom friend.
Ishmael attends a service at the Whaleman’s Chapel where Father Mapple gives a sermon about Jonah and the whale. The next day, Queequeg and Ishmael set out for Nantucket where they sign onto a whaler. On the ferry ride to the island, a young man mocks Queequeg. Later, this same young man falls overboard and is saved by Queequeg.
While Queequeg performs his rites of Ramadan in the room at the Try Pots, Ishmael signs onto the whaler Pequod owned by the Quaker captains, Bildad and Peleg. The heathen Queequeg must prove his skill as a harpooner before he is accepted.
As the two friends are about to board the Pequod, they are accosted by the crazed Elijah, who utters vague warnings about Ahab and the voyage. In the mist, they see four or five shadowy figures go aboard. The ship sets sail on Christmas day. The chief mate, Starbuck, chooses Queequeg for his harpooneer; the second mate, Stubb, chooses the Indian, Tashtego; and the third mate, Flask, chooses the African, Daggoo.
Several days after the ship sets sail, Ahab finally appears on deck. His appearance sends shivers through Ishmael. A white scar runs from his hairline, over his face, and down his neck beneath his clothing. He stands upon an artificial leg made of whale bone.
Ahab calls all men on deck. He hammers a gold doubloon to the mast and tells the men that the first to spot Moby Dick, the white whale, will win the coin. Ahab admits that it was Moby Dick that took off his leg.
When the first whale is sighted and the boats are lowered, the sailors are surprised to see Ahab in his own boat with a mysterious crew who had been hidden below deck. The exotic Fedallah is his harpooner. A squall comes up during the chase. Ishmael's boat capsizes and is later nearly rammed by the Pequod.
After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, the ship has its first of many gams, or meetings with other ships. Ahab’s sole purpose in communicating with these ships is to get news of Moby Dick. Several of the ships have lost men to the whale. The Rachel has recently chased Moby Dick and is now searching for a lost boat. The young son of the captain is in that boat, but Ahab refuses to join the search. Starbuck confronts Ahab and tries to convince him to abandon his mission to get his revenge on Moby Dick.
Stubb’s boat is the first to kill a whale. While Stubb eats his whale steak, Fleece, the cook, delivers a sermon to the sharks. During the cleaning of another whale, Tashtego falls into the tun, the forehead of the whale containing the spermaceti. When the head breaks loose from the ship and falls into the water, Tashtego is rescued by Queegueg. Pip, the timid black boy, is temporarily abandoned in the sea during another whale chase which drives him to madness. Queequeg, stricken with fever and believing death is near, has the ship’s carpenter build him a coffin.
Ahab has the blacksmith fashion a special harpoon, tempered in the blood of the heathen harpooners. During a storm, Ahab holds the harpoon above his head and it is struck by lightning. Later, Ahab has a dream, which is interpreted by Fedallah. The Parsee predicts that he will die before Ahab, that only hemp can kill Ahab, and that before he dies, Ahab will see two hearses upon the sea.
At last, Moby Dick is sighted by Ahab. The chase lasts three days. Fedallah dies, lashed by tangled lines to the body of the great beast. Ahab thrusts his harpoon into Moby Dick, but his line runs afoul and catches him around the neck; he is pulled down to the depths. Moby Dick smashes into the bow of the Pequod, and Queequeg’s coffin shoots out of the whirlpool created by the sinking ship. The only survivor, Ishmael, clings to this strange life buoy and is later rescued.
The spirit of adventure and rugged individualism evident in Melville’s work was the spirit of the age in which he lived. The Manifest Destiny doctrine defined the country’s will to grow and spread its democracy throughout the hemisphere. Westward expansion accelerated after the economic depression of 1837, and American pioneers conquered the frontier.
At the same time, New England whaling captains and their crews were conquering the great fishing grounds throughout the world. New Bedford, Massachusetts, the setting of the opening scene in Moby-Dick, had a fleet of over 300 whaling ships. Melville himself sailed from this port on the Acushnet in 1841.
The mid-nineteenth century was not only a period of geographic growth, but also a time of ideological growth. The innate worth of all humanity, an idea developed in Moby-Dick was the concept at the heart of the slavery debate. As new territories were admitted to the union, the question of slavery became a national concern. In the 1850s, the activities of the abolitionists, the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Fugitive Slave Law fomented heated debate and controversy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and transcendentalism dominated the intellectual scene mid-century. In Moby-Dick, the theme of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe reflects transcendental thought. Hawthorne, to whom Moby-Dick was dedicated, Thoreau, Poe, and Walt Whitman dominated the literary scene of that time. These writers, along with Melville, produced a body of work distinctly American.
Ironically, Moby-Dick, one of the greatest works of American literature, was not recognized as such at the time of its publication. Reviews ranged from ardent praise to hostile attack; from “surpasses any of the former productions of this highly successful author” to “trash belonging to the worst of the Bedlam school of literature” (Criticism and Context, 544, 546). One critic commented that the book would be “flung aside” by the common reader (Criticism and Context, 546). His prediction was accurate, for Moby-Dick sold fewer than 3,000 copies (McSweeney, 18). It was not until the late 1930s that Moby-Dick became part of the American literary canon.
List of Characters
Ahab—the monomaniacal, peg-legged captain of the Pequod. Old Thunder is determined to destroy Moby Dick at any cost.
Archy—a sailor aboard the Pequod; he hears noises from afterhold and suspects someone is being kept down there.
Aunt Charity—Captain Bildad’s sister; she is a kind old lady who substituted ginger water for grog aboard the Pequod.
Bildad—a Nantucketer, Quaker, and part owner of the Pequod; he signs on Ishmael and Queequeg.
Bulkington—the helmsman; having just returned from one voyage, he sails again on Pequod and dies at sea.
Bumpkin—young rascal who makes fun of Queequeg on schooner from New Bedford to Nantucket; he is later rescued by Queequeg.
Cabaco—a Pequod sailor who scoffs at Archy’s suspicions that someone is hidden below deck.
Captain Boomer—the good-natured captain of the Samuel Enderby; he lost arm to Moby Dick, and warns Ahab to give up his hunt.
Captain Gardiner—the captain of the Rachel; he is a Nantucketer known to Ahab, and begs Ahab’s help in finding his lost son.
Captain Mayhew—the captain of the Jeroboam of Nantucket; his ship has an epidemic aboard.
Captain of the Albatross—asked if he has seen Moby Dick; his answer is lost when he drops his megaphone into the sea.
Captain of the Bachelor—he invites Ahab to join him and his crew in celebrating their journey home.
Captain of the Delight—he lost five men to Moby Dick and tells Ahab no harpoon can kill the White Whale.
Carpenter—he makes Queequeg’s coffin and then caulks it to make it a life buoy; he makes a new leg for Ahab.
Daggoo—an “imperial, coal-black Negro”; he is a harpooner for Flask.
Derrick De Deer—captain of the Jungfrau whose ship is out of oil; he loses a contest with the Pequod to catch a whale.
Dr. Bunger—gives Ahab details of Captain Boomer’s wound.
Dons Pedro and Sebastian—Spanish friends of Ishmael to whom he told the story of the Town-Ho.
Dough-Boy—Pequod’s steward; he is nervous, “bread-faced.”
Elijah—a ragged “prophet” who stops Ishmael and Queequeg; he dismays Ishmael with his vague warnings about Ahab.
Father Mapple—a former harpooner who is the minister of the Whaleman’s Chapel in New Bedford; he gives a sermon about Jonah.
Fedallah—the Parsee, a mysterious harpooner for Ahab’s boat; he interprets Ahab’s dream and dies lashed to Moby Dick.
Flask—the third mate; called King-Post for his stout figure and stalwartness, he has little fear of or respect for whales.
Fleece—an old, arch-backed Negro cook; he cooks Stubb’s whale steak and delivers a sermon to the sharks.
Gabriel—the crazed “prophet” of the Jeroboam; he calls Moby Dick a Shaker god and warns against attacking him.
Guernsey-man—chief mate of the Rose-Bud; with Stubb’s help he gets his captain to cut rotting whale carcasses free.
Hosea and Mrs. Hussey—owners of the Try Pots Inn of Nantucket where Ishmael and Queequeg stay and eat chowder.
Ishmael—narrator of the story; he survives by clinging to Queequeg’s floating coffin.
Macey—the former chief mate of the Jeroboam who was killed by Moby Dick; the Pequod tries to deliver a letter to him.
Manxman—an old Pequod sailor from the Isle of Man; he warns Ahab that the line holding the log will not hold.
Moby Dick—a sperm whale, “white-headed with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw”; god, devil, or dumb brute; he destroys Ahab.
Peleg—a Nantucketer, Quaker, and part owner of the Pequod; he is impressed by Queequeg’s skill as a harpooner.
Perth—a “begrimed, blistered old blacksmith”; he forges Ahab’s harpoon which is tempered in blood.
Peter Coffin—landlord of the Spouter Inn in New Bedford; he gives Ishmael a bed to share with Queequeg.
Pip—a little black “ship-keeper” who goes mad after being left in the water; Ahab becomes attached to him.
Queequeg—a harpooner who is a devoted friend of Ishmael. He is a tattooed savage of noble birth; saves Tashtego.
Radney—the former mate of the Town-Ho; he is an enemy of Steelkilt, and is devoured by Moby Dick.
Starbuck—the chief mate of the Pequod; he opposes Ahab and tries to convince him to give up his quest.
Steelkilt—a mutineer on the Town-Ho; he is about to murder Radney when Moby Dick interrupts the plan.
Stubb—Pequod’s “good humored” second mate.; he kills the first whale and leaves Pip in the water expecting him to be picked up.
Tashtego—an American Indian, harpooner for Stubb; he falls into the tun of a whale but is saved.
Yojo—Queequeg’s “black little god” to whom he prays and from whom he obtains guidance.
Master List of Ships
The Albatross—her captain drops his megaphone; so the Pequod is unable to communicate with her.
The Bachelor—a homeward bound ship celebrating a very profitable voyage.
The Delight—a whaler that lost five men to Moby Dick; she is in the process of burying one at sea when the Pequod approaches.
The Jeroboam—a whaler that has an epidemic on board; the crazed Gabriel is one of her crew.
The Jungfrau—called Virgin in German, her captain asked the Pequod for oil; she competed with the Pequod for a whale and lost.
The Rachel—a Nantucket whaler whose captain was searching for his son lost in a chase for Moby Dick; she picks up Ishmael after the Pequod sinks.
The Rose-Bud—an odoriferous ship with two rotting whales lashed along her side, tricked by Stubb.
The Samuel Enderby—an English ship whose captain had lost an arm to Moby Dick.
The Town-Ho—manned by Polynesians; the first mate, Radney, is killed by Moby Dick; the ship is deserted by Steelkilt and the crew.
Estimated Reading Time
Reading time will improve as the reader becomes accustomed to Melville’s style. In an hour’s sitting, 30 to 35 pages could be covered. The book could be completed in 20 to 25 hours.
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Ishmael is a schoolmaster who often feels that he must leave his quiet existence and go to sea. Much of his life has been spent as a sailor, and his voyages are a means of ridding himself of the restlessness that frequently seizes him. One day, he decides that he will sign on a whaling ship, and packing his carpetbag, he leaves Manhattan and sets out, bound for Cape Horn and the Pacific.
On his arrival in New Bedford, Ishmael goes to the Spouter Inn near the waterfront to spend the night. There he finds he can have a bed only if he consents to share it with a harpooner. His strange bedfellow frightens him when he enters the room, for Ishmael is certain that he is a savage cannibal. After a few moments, however, it...
(The entire section is 1748 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Moby Dick: Or, The Whale is Melville’s masterpiece, the book in which he most thoroughly used his experiences in the South Seas to examine the human condition and the metaphysical questions that were at the center of the author’s troubled worldview. From the novel’s famous opening line, “Call me Ishmael,” the reader is addressed directly by the book’s youthful but embittered narrator. Unlike many of Melville’s youthful narrators, Ishmael is not presented as a young innocent, although he does face an initiation into the ways of the world. Instead, he is depicted as a young man with a past, who takes to the sea to avoid taking some more drastic action in response to the difficulties he has faced.
(The entire section is 841 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Ishmael: the narrator of the story; a seaman
Ishmael explains he has chosen to go to sea to cure his depression as an alternative to suicide. There is “magic” in bodies of water, he says. “Crowds of water-gazers” flock to the wharfs of Manhattan, a temporary escape from the occupations in which they are “pent up.” Wanderers in the woods find their way to lakes.
Ishmael never goes to sea as a passenger; he doesn’t have the money to pay. He never goes as an officer; he has all he can do to take care of himself. He never goes as a cook. Rather, he goes to sea as a “simple sailor” to get paid, to get exercise, and to breathe...
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Chapters 2-4 Summary and Analysis
Peter Coffin: the owner of the Spouter Inn
Bulkington: a whaler in the Spouter Inn just returned from a
Queequeg: a pagan harpooner with whom Ishmael must share a bed
Ishmael stays over in New Bedford, waiting for a packet to take him to Nantucket. He searches the cold, dark streets for a place to stay. After accidentally going into a “Negro church,” he comes upon a sign, “The Spouter Inn:—Peter Coffin.”
The entryway of the inn reminds Ishmael of a “condemned old craft.” Dominating the scene is a large, enigmatic oil painting, which Ishmael interprets as a “half-foundered” ship in a...
(The entire section is 591 words.)
Chapters 5-9 Summary and Analysis
Father Mapple: pastor of the seamen’s chapel
Ishmael greets his landlord and bears no hard feelings for the joke Peter Coffin played in the matter of his bedfellow. All the boarders, mostly whalemen, gather at the table for breakfast. Although they are all adventurers, paradoxically, they are timid in the social setting. Queequeg sits at the head of the table, using his harpoon to “grapple” the steak.
After breakfast, Ishmael ventures into the streets of New Bedford where he sees all manner of people including “cannibals chatting at street corners” and hayseeds from Vermont “athirst for the glory” of whaling. Nonetheless, New...
(The entire section is 555 words.)
Chapters 10-15 Summary and Analysis
Bumpkin: mocks Queequeg on packet to Nantucket
Mr. and Mrs. Hosea Hussey: owners of the Try Pots Inn
Ishmael returns to the Spouter Inn, where he finds Queequeg turning through the pages of a book. They share a smoke from the tomahawk pipe, and Queequeg declares Ishmael a bosom friend for whom he would die. Ishmael joins Queequeg in his rites of praising the ebony idol.
Queequeg tells Ishmael of his past. The son of a high chief from Kokovoko, Queequeg was determined to learn more about Christians and to bring his knowledge back to his people to make them happier. After being picked up by a ship, he discovered that Christians...
(The entire section is 557 words.)
Chapters 16-18 Summary and Analysis
Yojo: Queequeg’s little god, the black idol
Captains Peleg and Bildad: Quaker Nantucketers, owners of the Pequod
Captain Ahab: captain of the Pequod
The Pequod: ship onto which Ishmael signs
Queequeg believes that Yojo has told him to have Ishmael pick out a whaling ship. While Queequeg begins his day of fasting, Ishmael chooses the Pequod. He signs on with the owners, Bildad and Peleg, who after some bickering, give Ishmael the 300th lay, his share of the profit from the whaling voyage.
When Ishmael asks to see his captain, Peleg tells him...
(The entire section is 559 words.)
Chapters 19-25 Summary and Analysis
Elijah: a strange, ragged old man; a prophet of doom
Aunt Charity: Bildad’s sister
As Queequeg and Ishmael approach the Pequod, which is being made ready for its long voyage, they are accosted by Elijah, who makes many vague and unsettling innuendos about the ship and its captain, whom he calls Old Thunder.
The morning the ship is to set sail, Ishmael sees some “shadows,” which he takes to be men, boarding the boat. Elijah approaches him once again and tells him to see if he can find those sailors when he goes aboard. Although Ahab had come on the ship the night before sailing, he has remained in his cabin....
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Chapters 26-31 Summary and Analysis
Starbuck: chief mate
Stubb: second mate
Flask: third mate, called King-Post
Tashtego: Stubb’s Indian harpooner
Daggoo: Flask’s African harpooner
The first two chapters of this section, both entitled “Knights and Squires,” describe the officers of the Pequod. “Three better, more likely sea-officers and men, each in his own different way, could not readily be found, and they were every one of them Americans.”
Starbuck, a Quaker, is a lean, “steadfast man.” He had lost both a father and a brother to whaling and has a family at home. Consequently, he is a cautious whaleman...
(The entire section is 520 words.)
Chapters 32-35 Summary and Analysis
Dough-Boy: the cabin steward
Ishmael believes that to understand the references to whales that will follow in his narrative, it is first necessary to have some knowledge of the general classifications of whales. He defines the whale as “a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.” He then classifies whales according to size into three “books,” each with its “chapters.” The first book is made of the largest whales, such as the sperm and right whales. The second consists of middle-sized whales, such as the narwhale and killer whale. The last contains porpoises.
Ishmael then explains the hierarchy of the whale ship. The chief harpooner...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapters 36-40 Summary and Analysis
Pip: the cabin boy
Ahab summons all hands to the quarter-deck. He hammers a gold coin to the mast and promises it to the first man who sees the white whale “with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw.” Ahab admits that it is Moby Dick, the whale that “dismasted” him. He also admits that killing Moby Dick is the purpose of the voyage. He rallies all the men behind him; only Starbuck dissents.
Ahab gathers the crew around him, his hand upon the crossed lances of his mates. They all drink from a pewter goblet. The harpooners drink from the detached iron spears of their harpoons.
Ahab, alone in his cabin, cannot enjoy the beauty...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapters 41-42 Summary and Analysis
As encounters with Moby Dick become more frequent among whalers, rumors about him grow more fantastic. Some say he is ubiquitous, that he could be in two places at once. Others say that he is immortal. Many ascribe to the creature a kind of malignant intelligence.
Ishmael learns more about Ahab’s encounter with Moby Dick. His three boats stove in and his crew swirling in the eddies, Ahab futilely plunged a six-inch blade into the whales’s flank. It was then that Moby Dick took his leg in his great, crooked jaw.
Ahab’s madness came upon him during the homeward voyage. For months, he lay in his hammock, “his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another” and so made...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Chapters 43-47 Summary and Analysis
Archy and Cabaco: sailors aboard the Pequod
Archy hears coughs from under the hatches where no one should be. Cabaco tells him it must be something he ate. Every night in his cabin, Ahab studies nautical charts trying to map out the most likely path to bring him to Moby Dick. For several years the whale has been sighted at the time and place known as Season-on-the-Line. The Season will not occur for another year, but in the meantime, Ahab plots the migratory patterns of sperm whales.
Ishmael offers proof for all he has said about whales. Whales do have recognizable traits and are given names such as Rinaldo Rinaldini,...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
Chapters 48-51 Summary and Analysis
Fedallah: Ahab’s mysterious harpooner
Ahab’s boat is lowered by Fedallah and his crew. Fedallah is tall and dark and has one tooth protruding from his lips. His braided white hair is wrapped around his head like a turban. Ahab takes his place at the helm of his whale boat. All the other boats are lowered as well.
Just as Queequeg throws his harpoon at a whale, the boat is swamped. Ishmael, Starbuck, and the others are thrown from the boat, but manage to pull themselves back in. They are separated from the others and lost all night in the storm and fog. At dawn, the Pequod finds them. After this incident, Ishmael makes out a...
(The entire section is 367 words.)
Chapters 52-54 Summary and Analysis
Radney: mate on the Town-Ho
Steelkilt: sailor on the Town-Ho
Dons Pedro and Sebastian: young men to whom Ishmael told the Town-Ho’s story
The Albatross: ship with which the Pequod has an unsuccessful gam
The Town-Ho: ship manned by Polynesians
Southwest of the Cape of Good Hope, the Pequod meets the Albatross, a ship heading home after a four-year voyage. Ahab hails the ship asking if they have seen the White Whale. As the other captain is about to reply, he drops the horn through which he was about to speak into the water. His...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
Chapters 55-60 Summary and Analysis
Few pictures of whales are accurate because the true majesty of the whale can be seen only in unfathomable waters. However, there are many pictures of whales. A crippled beggar in London holds a painted board depicting the scene in which he lost his leg. Sailors carve and etch whale bone and whale teeth, a craft called scrimshanding or scrimshaw. With imagination, whales can be seen in the stars and in undulating mountain ridges.
The Pequod cruises through a meadow of brit, the yellow substance eaten by right whales. Daggoo raises the cry for the White Whale, but what he has sighted is really a huge, white squid. Starbuck considers it a bad omen.
Typically, the whaling...
(The entire section is 398 words.)
Chapters 61-66 Summary and Analysis
Fleece: a 90-year-old, black cook
Drowsing during his watch at the foremast-head, Ishmael, spots a gigantic sperm whale lolling in the tranquil waters of the Indian Ocean. The boats are lowered; Tashtego harpoons the whale; and Stubb kills it with his lance.
“It is the harpooneer that makes the voyage.” He must cast his harpoon 20 or 30 feet after rowing with all his strength and shouting loudly at the same time. Two harpoons are set in the crotch, but the second is usually thrown overboard where it dangles dangerously from the main harpoon line.
The whale is secured next to the Pequod. Stubb tries to enjoy his whale...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapters 67-71 Summary and Analysis
Captain Mayhew: captain of the Jeroboam
Gabriel: crazed prophet and crewman on the Jeroboam
Macey: Jeroboam’s chief mate killed by Moby Dick
The Jeroboam: ship plagued by an epidemic
On Sunday, a pulley system is rigged to the mast and a hook is attached to a huge strip of blubber. The strip of blubber is peeled from the whale like a peel from an orange. Starbuck and Stubb stand on staging just above the whale and simultaneously cut a scarf line with their sharp shovels. The whale spins like a log in the water as the spiraled blubber, called the blanket, is hoisted up....
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapters 72-78 Summary and Analysis
During the process of stripping the blubber from the whale, Queequeg must mount the carcass to secure the hook. For safety, he is attached to a monkey rope, a line which runs up the side of the ship and is attached to Ishmael.
Ahab orders the killing of a right whale because Fedallah has told him that a boat with a sperm whale head on one side and a right whale head on the other cannot sink.
Stubb and Flask kill a right whale. While they are towing it back to the boat, they discuss Fedallah. Stubb believes him to be the devil and suggests that Ahab has made a pact with him.
Ishmael contrasts the two whale heads now hoisted on either side of the ship. The sperm...
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Chapters 79-81 Summary and Analysis
Derrick De Deer: captain of the Jungfrau
Jungfrau (Virgin): German ship empty of whale oil
Ishmael describes the physiognomy of the whale. The sperm whale has no nose, which gives the creature an added grandeur. Its brow gives it a “high and mighty God-like dignity.” The sperm whale is a fit object for pagan worship.
The brain is encased in a skull, which when scaled down, is not unlike man’s. The whale’s hump rises over one of its largest vertebrae. This hump indicates the “indomitableness” of the sperm whale.
The next whale hunt, involving both the Jungfrau and the...
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Chapters 82-86 Summary and Analysis
Ishmael names “demi-gods, heroes, and prophets” who have been whalers: among them, Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Vishnu, and Jonah.
Not long after the Jungfrau episode, whales are spotted. The chase requires the use of the pitchpole, a 10- to 12-foot lance much lighter than a harpoon. The pitchpole can be thrown some distance to pierce the whale and then pulled back by a line and thrown again and again. Tashtego plants his iron in a whale, but the whale continues its fleet flight. The pitchpole is used to slow it down, and then it is caught.
Ishmael continues his speculations about the whale’s physiology. He tells us he is writing this particular passage on...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapters 87-92 Summary and Analysis
Guernseyman: first mate of the Rose-Bud
Rose-Bud: French ship with two rotting whales secured to her
Near the straits of Sunda, the Pequod is chased by Malaysian pirates whom the Pequod is able to outrun. The ship then encounters a huge herd of whales. Mid-chase, the whales become “gallied,” disoriented and swimming about in all directions. Queequeg harpoons a whale that escapes after towing the boat into a calm spot occupied by cows and their calves. The oarsmen pet them. Beneath the surface, cows nurse their young.
The whalers use a “drugg” to injure the gallied whales and slow them...
(The entire section is 614 words.)
Chapters 93-99 Summary and Analysis
Pip replaces an injured man in Stubb’s boat. Pip is jarred from the boat and caught in the harpoon line. Tashtego grudgingly cuts the line to save Pip and loses the whale in doing so. On another hunt, Pip is once again thrown into the sea, but this time Stubb leaves him. Pip is later picked up by the Pequod, but his experience has left him mad.
Ishmael explains more steps in the processing of the whale. As the sperm cools in the tubs, it hardens. The sailors dip in their hands and squeeze the lumps back to liquid. Also, the whale’s phallus is skinned, the skin is dried, arm holes are cut in it, and the mincer slips it on before cutting up pieces of blubber for the melting...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Chapters 100-105 Summary and Analysis
Captain Boomer: one-armed captain of the Samuel Enderby
Dr. Bunger: ship’s doctor aboard the Samuel Enderby
Samuel Enderby: hospitable English ship
The Pequod has a gam with the Samuel Enderby. The blubber-hook is lowered for Ahab to be hoisted aboard the English ship. Captain Boomer lost his arm to Moby Dick. His boat was smashed and his arm pierced by a loose harpoon. Later, his arm had to be amputated. His carpenter made him a whale-bone arm.
Captain Boomer tells Ahab he has seen the White Whale, but advises him to let well enough alone. Ahab becomes so agitated that...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapters 106-109 Summary and Analysis
Ahab had left the Samuel Enderby in such haste that he did damage to his ivory leg. Prior to the Pequod’s voyage, he had had another mishap involving his leg. Ahab had been found unconscious, lying face down, the leg nearly piercing his groin. The wound had not totally healed when the Pequod sailed, which explains why Ahab kept to his cabin at the beginning of the voyage. Because Ahab is now wary of any weakness in his leg, the ship’s carpenter fashions him another.
A leak is suspected in the oil barrels. Starbuck enters Ahab’s cabin to ask permission to “up Burtons”;—that is, to take the barrels out of the hold and find the leak. Ahab forbids it, for...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapters 110-114 Summary and Analysis
Perth: the Pequod’s blacksmith
Working in the dank hold to hoist the barrels, Queequeg becomes sick and nearly dies with fever. He orders the carpenter to make “a canoe” such as those in which the fallen whalemen of Nantucket are laid to rest. In the coffin, Queequeg places the iron from his harpoon, biscuits, water, and a bag of earth. He climbs in it, crosses his arms, and asks to have Yojo placed on his breast.
Pip asks Queequeg when he goes on his journey to seek out one called Pip, who has long been missing, and give him comfort. Queequeg, however, recovers when he remembers he has some duty to take care of on shore. He...
(The entire section is 395 words.)
Chapters 115-121 Summary and Analysis
The Bachelor: homeward bound ship full of whale oil
Full of oil, the Bachelor joyously celebrates the beginning of her homeward journey. The captain tells Ahab he has heard of the White Whale, but doesn’t believe in him. He invites Ahab aboard, but Ahab tells him to be on his way.
Soon after, as if the good luck of the Bachelor had rubbed off, the Pequod kills four whales. Ahab watches as the whale he killed turns its head to the sun, as do all dying sperm whales. Ahab’s boat stays with its whale during the night since it is too far from the ship to be brought in before nightfall.
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Chapters 122-127 Summary and Analysis
Starbuck goes below to inform Ahab that the wind has changed to a fair wind. Outside Ahab’s cabin, Starbuck removes a loaded musket from the rack. He thinks perhaps he should kill Ahab or at least overpower him and take him prisoner. He reasons that Ahab would have killed him with that very same musket, and Ahab has no compunction about endangering the whole crew. Starbuck turns from the door and sends Stubb back down to tell Ahab about the change in wind direction.
The next morning on deck, Ahab realizes the ship is sailing west, but the compass reads east. The storm had affected the compass needles, a most unsettling omen to the superstitious sailors. To allay their fears and show them...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapters 128-132 Summary and Analysis
Captain Gardiner: captain of the Rachel
The Rachel: ship that has lost a whaleboat and its men
The Delight: ship that lost five men to Moby Dick
Captain Gardiner of the Rachel begs Ahab’s help in finding a whaleboat which was last seen fastened to Moby Dick. In that whaleboat is Gardiner’s 12-year-old son. Ahab refuses.
Ahab now spends all his time on deck and refuses to be in Pip’s company. Ahab fears Pip will soften his heart and divert him from his purpose. His silent companion on deck is Fedallah, who never takes his eyes off Ahab.
Afraid that his men cannot...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
Chapters 133-135 and Epilogue Summary and Analysis
Ahab is the first to spot Moby Dick. All boats, except Starbuck’s, are lowered and give chase. Just when it seems the whale has sounded, he rises straight up from the deep below Ahab’s boat and bites the boat in two. Under Starbuck’s command, The Pequod, drives the whale off, and Ahab and his crew are rescued.
On the second day, Moby Dick seems intent on destroying all three boats. The harpoon lines, fast to the whale, become so entangled that Stubb’s and Flask’s boats are drawn into each other and smashed. When Ahab’s boat comes to their rescue, Moby Dick lifts it right up out of the water and dumps its men into the sea. Fedallah is drawn under in the tangle of...
(The entire section is 595 words.)
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