Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*New Bedford. Massachusetts fishing community and seaport about sixty-five miles southeast of Boston, where the novel begins when its narrator, Ishmael, arrives to sign onto a whaling ship. He first stays at the Spouter Inn, where the only accommodation available is a room with one bed that he must share with the forbidding-looking harpooner Queequeg, a “heathen” from an uncharted South Seas island. During a storm, Ishmael seeks shelter in the Whaleman’s Chapel, where he is deeply moved by the sermon of the retired harpooner Father Mapple on the biblical story of Jonah and the whale.
*Nantucket. Massachusetts island, about thirty miles south of Cape Cod, that was the center of the New England whaling industry in the early nineteenth century. There, Ishmael and Queequeg join the crew of the Pequod and begin their voyage.
Pequod. Whaling ship commanded by Captain Ahab on which Ishmael and Queequeg sign. It is one of three well-equipped whaling vessels they find anchored at Nantucket, preparing to undertake three-year expeditions. When the Pequod begins its long voyage on Christmas Day, its mysterious captain remains in his cabin, a small, private world into which he retreats.
The repeated play of light and dark while the ship is at sea reflects the light and dark of the personalities aboard the whaler. Looming high...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
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America in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
America was in a tumultuous period, establishing its national and international identity at the time Moby-Dick was being written. It is noteworthy that the classic American novel of the period is not ostensibly about westward expansion. Instead it is about pursuit and capture, about following a dream. The American Dream, as it was envisaged by the Founding Fathers, is now considered by some as a dangerous preoccupation, a consuming national obsession. In a real sense, Melville’s book is not about its time, but about ours. A possible reading would have the Pequod as modern corporate America, intent on control and subjection, and Ahab as a power-crazed executive, quick to seek vengeance for any received aggression.
When the novel was being written, Transcendentalism was becoming the predominant philosophical and religious viewpoint. This view—propounded most cogently by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay Self-Reliance–held that God was present in the world, as well as in every individual soul. In this way, the soul’s intuitions were divine and should be followed regardless of authority, tradition, or public opinion. “Trust thyself,” was the basic tenet, and hence the term “Self-Reliance.” This view (it never developed into a rigorous system of thought) was essentially a reaction...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Explain the biblical allusion to Ishmael.
2. What does Ishmael do whenever he finds himself growing “grim about the mouth”?
3. What does Ishmael mean by a “substitute for pistol and ball”?
4. What proof does Ishmael offer that others feel the same as he does about the sea?
5. What is some of the “magic” which water performs for men?
6. How did the Greeks and the Persians perceive the sea?
7. How did Narcissus die?
8. Other than not having the money, why does Ishmael never go to sea as a passenger?
9. How does Ishmael explain his willingness to be ordered around?
10. What are Ishmael’s chief motives in going whaling?
1. The biblical Ishmael was banished by Abraham. Melville’s Ishmael is also set adrift.
2. Ishmael goes to sea.
3. Going to sea is the substitute for “pistol and ball,” by which he means shooting himself.
4. “Leagues” of people from all over are drawn to the shore and need to get as close to the water as they can.
5. Water puts men into states of reverie and unites them. It draws them into deep thought.
6. The Persians saw the sea as being holy; the Greeks saw it as powerful enough to have its own god.
7. Narcissus drowned when he plunged toward his reflection in the...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Chapters 2-4 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Ishmael not stay at the Sword-Fish Inn?
2. Who owns the Spouter Inn?
3. What is in the painting in the entry of the inn?
4. What is the name of the old man who tends the bar?
5. Where is Ishmael’s bedmate early in the evening?
6. Where does Ishmael try to sleep at first?
7. What is odd about Queequeg’s appearance?
8. What did Queequeg do with his ebony idol?
9. What did Queequeg take into bed with him?
10. How did Queequeg shave?
1. The Sword-Fish Inn was too jolly and too expensive.
2. Peter Coffin owns the inn.
3. The painting is of a sinking ship and of a whale leaping over it, impaling itself on the masts.
4. Jonah is the name of the old man who tends the bar.
5. He is out selling a shrunken head.
6. Ishmael tries to sleep on a wooden bench.
7. Queequeg is tattooed all over, and his head is shaved all except for a skull-knot of hair.
8. Queequeg set his idol before the fire and made an offering to it.
9. Queequeg took his tomahawk pipe into the bed.
10. Queequeg shaved with the blade of his harpoon.
(The entire section is 190 words.)
Chapters 5-9 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Ishmael not begrudge the joke played on him by Peter Coffin?
2. What is the purpose of the marble tablets in the chapel?
3. Who sat near Ishmael in the chapel?
4. What was Father Mapple’s previous occupation?
5. Describe the pulpit.
6. How did Father Mapple get to it?
7. What biblical character is the subject of the sermon?
8. What was his sin?
9. What happened to him when he was cast into the sea?
10. In what way does Ishmael fulfill his Gospel duty?
1. Ishmael knows the value of good humor, that beneath it is something deeper.
2. The tablets memorialize those lost at sea.
3. Queequeg sat near Ishmael.
4. Father Mapple had been a harpooner.
5. The pulpit is a ship’s prow raised high above the congregation.
6. Father Mapple climbed a ship’s ladder to get to the pulpit.
7. Jonah is the subject of the sermon.
8. Willful disobedience was his sin.
9. He was swallowed by a whale.
10. Ishmael fulfills his Gospel duty by telling this story.
(The entire section is 165 words.)
Chapters 10-15 Questions and Answers
1. What does Queequeg share with Ishmael?
2. What pledge does Queequeg make to Ishmael?
3. What gift does Queequeg give Ishmael?
4. How does Ishmael show his friendship to Queequeg?
5. Where is Queequeg from?
6. For what purpose did Queequeg leave his native land?
7. What had Queequeg mistakenly carried on his shoulders?
8. Where do Queequeg and Ishmael go to sign onto a whaler?
9. Who insults Queequeg on the ferry ride?
10. Whom does Queequeg save from drowning?
1. Queequeg shares his pipe with Ishmael.
2. Queequeg would sacrifice his own life for Ishmael.
3. Queequeg gives Ishmael a shrunken head.
4. Ishmael joins Queequeg in his worship of the idol.
5. Queequeg is from Kokovoko.
6. Queequeg wanted to make his people happier by bringing Christian ways back to them.
7. Queequeg carried a full wheelbarrow on his shoulders.
8. Queequeg and Ishmael go to Nantucket to sign onto a whaler.
9. A bumpkin mocks Queequeg.
10. Queequeg saves the bumpkin from drowning.
(The entire section is 151 words.)
Chapters 16-18 Questions and Answers
1. What is the name of Queequeg’s idol?
2. What had the little god told Queequeg?
3. After what is the Pequod named?
4. What are her winches and tiller made out of?
5. Who are the owners of the Pequod?
6. What had the old squaw Tistig said of Ahab?
7. What does Ishmael find when he smashes in the door?
8. What objection does Ishmael have to Queegueg’s religion?
9. Why do Bildad and Peleg decide to sign on Queequeg?
10. What is a lay?
1. Queequeg’s idol is named Yojo.
2. Yojo told Queequeg to let Ishmael choose the ship.
3. The Pequods are an extinct tribe of Indians.
4. The Pequod’s winches and tiller are made of whale bone.
5. Two Quakers, Bildad and Peleg, are the owners.
6. Tistig predicted that Ahab would be like the vile biblical King Ahab.
7. Ishmael finds Queequeg squatting in the middle of the floor with Yojo on his head.
8. Ishmael objects to harmful, radical religious practices.
9. Queequeg proves his skill with the harpoon by hitting a small drop of tar on the water.
10. The lay is the share of the profit a seaman earns.
(The entire section is 186 words.)
Chapters 19-25 Questions and Answers
1. Describe Elijah and explain the significance of his name.
2. What nickname does he have for Ahab?
3. What vague references does he make to events in Ahab’s past?
4. What effect did Elijah have on Ishmael?
5. Why is Aunt Charity aptly named?
6. Is Ishmael able to find the shadowy figures he saw board the boat?
7. In Queequeg’s land, with what do the wealthier people “furnish” their houses?
8. What is the Pequod’s day of departure?
9. What are the sailors singing about while Bildad sings his “dismal stave of psalmody?”
10. Who piloted the ship out of the harbor?
1. Elijah is a ragged, pockmarked old sailor, named after a biblical prophet and enemy of King Ahab.
2. Old Thunder is his nickname for Ahab.
3. He refers to a three-day period when Ahab “lay like dead” and to a deadly scrimmage with a Spaniard.
4. Ishmael felt apprehensive.
5. She worked tirelessly to provide comfort for those going on the voyage.
6. No, and he tried to keep the thought out of his mind.
7. They furnish their houses with fattened, lower class folk to use as settees.
8. Christmas is the Pequod’s day of departure.
9. The sailors sing about “the girls in Booble alley.”...
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Chapters 26-31 Questions and Answers
1. Although Starbuck is as brave as any man, what does he fear?
2. In Melville’s tribute to man at the end of Chapter XXVI, what is the source of the common man’s “august dignity?”
3. Who are the three mates’ harpooners, respectively?
4. How is Tashtego both like and unlike his ancestors?
5. To what animal is Daggoo compared and why is that simile appropriate?
6. What is an “isolato”?
7. “Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face.” Explain the meaning of this description.
8. In what way is Ahab like a bare, old oak that sends out a few green sprouts?
9. Describe the Merman of Stubb’s dream.
10. In what way is this dream prophetic?
1. Starbuck cannot stand up to “an enraged and mighty man,” a hint that he will not be able to stand up to Ahab.
2. “Divine equality” that radiates from God is the source of the common man’s dignity.
3. Queequeg is Starbuck’s harponer; Stubb’s is Tashtego; and Flask’s is Daggoo.
4. Tashtego is a “proud warrior hunter,” but he hunts whales not moose.
5. The six foot five Daggoo is appropriately compared to a giraffe, another creature of Africa.
6. An “isolato” is both literally and figuratively an islander, living separate from the mainland.
(The entire section is 276 words.)
Chapters 32-35 Questions and Answers
1. What is cetology?
2. What whales are in the first category of large whales?
3. What did the term “specksynder” mean originally and what has it come to mean?
4. In what ways does Ahab observe the traditions of his rank?
5. What is the atmosphere of the captain and his mates’
6. Why does Flask frequently go hungry?
7. What is the atmosphere of the harpooners’ dinner?
8. How many masts are kept manned?
9. Upon what do the watches on the mastheads stand?
10. Why does Ishmael keep such a “sorry guard” when he stands the masthead watch?
1. Cetology is the study of whales.
2. Sperm whales and right whales are among the largest.
3. The specksynder originally was the “fat cutter,” but has come to mean chief harpooner.
4. Ahab dines with his officers and demands obedience.
5. Their dinner is silent and constrained.
6. Flask is the last called to dinner, and because the others finish before him, etiquette demands that he stop eating, too.
7. The harpooners fill their bellies, make a lot of commotion, and tease Dough-Boy mercilessly.
8. Three masts are manned.
9. The watches stand on “thin sticks” called gallant cross-trees.
10. Ishmael gets lost in...
(The entire section is 202 words.)
Chapters 36-40 Questions and Answers
1. What does Ahab nail to the mast?
2. Who will win the Spanish coin?
3. What distinguishing characteristics does Moby Dick have?
4. Who objects to Ahab’s purpose?
5. What is Ahab’s emotional state as he talks of the whale’s taking off his leg?
6. What sound comes from the hold?
7. On what does Ahab place his hand as the crew swears an oath?
8. What is the oath the crew swears?
9. What is Stubb’s reaction to all that has happened?
10. What are some of the nationalities represented by the
1. Ahab nails a Spanish doubloon to the mast.
2. The man who first sights Moby Dick will win the coin.
3. Moby Dick has a white head, a wrinkled brow, a crooked jaw, and a spout like a shock of wheat.
4. Starbuck objects to Ahab’s purpose.
5. He becomes intensely emotional and angry, making a sound like an animal sob.
6. A low laugh comes from the hold.
7. Ahab places his hand on the three crossed harpoons.
8. The crew’s oath is “Death to Moby Dick!”
9. Stubb chooses to laugh at whatever may come.
10. The nationalities include Chinese, French, Spanish, African, Portuguese, and Danish.
(The entire section is 193 words.)
Chapters 41-42 Questions and Answers
1. What were some of the wild rumors about Moby Dick?
2. Why were Moby Dick’s “retreats” feared more than anything?
3. With what did Ahab attack Moby Dick?
4. How is Moby Dick’s deformed jaw shaped?
5. Figuratively, what did Ahab pile upon the whale’s white hump?
6. When was Ahab seized with his monomania?
7. Where had Ishmael first seen an albatross?
8. What impression did it make on him at the time?
9. What white creature is famous in American western legend?
10. What was it about the whale that instilled horror in Ishmael?
1. Rumors spread that Moby Dick was ubiquitous and immortal.
2. He was known to turn around suddenly and attack.
3. Ahab attacked Moby Dick with only a small knife.
4. Moby Dick’s jaw is sickle-shaped.
5. He piled on the general rage and hate that all men have felt toward intangible evil.
6. Ahab was seized with his monomania as he lay suffering during the long voyage home.
7. Ishmael found an albatross dashed upon the deck when he sailed the Antarctic.
8. Ishmael was struck with wonder and bowed before the albatross. He considered it mystical.
9. The White Steed of the Prairies is famous in American western legend.
10. The whiteness of the...
(The entire section is 205 words.)
Chapters 43-47 Questions and Answers
1. Who, other than Archy, suspects stowaways are on board?
2. What problem has the departure date of the Pequod posed for Ahab?
3. What often forced Ahab from his hammock at night?
4. Who are Don Miguel and New Zealand Jack?
5. What proof does Ishmael offer that the public is unaware of the dangers of whaling?
6. What happened to the Essex?
7. How does Ishmael know the story of the Essex?
8. Why must Ahab hunt other whales even though killing Moby Dick is his real purpose?
9. Who weaves the mat?
10. Where have the five phantoms been seen before?
1. Archy says he heard Stubb tell Flask something about it.
2. Ahab has to wait another year before it will again be the Season-on-the-Line.
3. Ahab was plagued by horrible dreams.
4. They are two of the many famous whales who have earned names.
5. Not one in fifty of the fatalities is reported because communication is so slow.
6. A big sperm whale rammed the Essex and sank her.
7. Ishmael knew the chief mate and the son of her captain.
8. Ahab could be charged with usurpation of the ship and his crew could legally take away his command.
9. Ishmael and Queequeg weave the mat.
10. Ishmael saw the...
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Chapters 48-51 Questions and Answers
1. Of what is Fedallah’s turban made?
2. Why was Ahab’s boat able to outrun the others?
3. What did Flask do in order to gain a better vantage from which to spot the whales who had sounded below the
4. Whose boat was separated from the Pequod for the entire night?
5. Of the mates, which one has the reputation of being most prudent?
6. What does Ishmael do after having his near death experience?
7. Why would Bildad and Peleg never have granted Ahab a whale boat of his own?
8. Why were Fedallah and his crew able to “find a place among the crew”?
9. What did Fedallah spot on his midnight watch?
10. What did Starbuck see when he looked in on Ahab?
1. Fedallah’s braided white hair coils around his head like a turban.
2. His phantom crew rowed like “five trip-hammers.”
3. Flask stood on Daggoo’s shoulders.
4. Starbuck’s boat was lost in the fog.
5. Starbuck has the reputation of being exceedingly cautious.
6. Ishmael makes out his will.
7. Captains usually didn’t get directly involved in the hunts, and Captain Ahab’s disability could put both himself and his men in unnecessary danger.
8. Fedallah and his crew had shown themselves to be able crewmen, and whalers...
(The entire section is 241 words.)
Chapters 52-54 Questions and Answers
1. Why does the Albatross have a spectral appearance?
2. What was the “ominous incident” that occurred when the Pequod met the Albatross?
3. Why was Ahab bothered by the fish swimming away from his ship to follow the Albatross?
4. What is a gam?
5. When a captain is being rowed to another boat for a gamming, why is his position precarious?
6. What is the frame in which the Town-Ho’s story is told?
7. When did the incident involving Radney and Steelkilt occur?
8. What was the source of Radney’s hatred of Steelkilt?
9. What role did Moby Dick play in their conflict?
10. Why was the Town-Ho manned by Polynesians when it gammed with the Pequod?
1. The ship has been at sea for four years.
2. The captain of the Albatross dropped his speaking horn into the ocean when Ahab asked about Moby Dick.
3. Ahab felt as if the fish were turning from him personally.
4. A gam is a meeting of two whale ships whose crews visit and exchange letters, papers, and whaling news.
5. The captain must stand and keep his balance while the sea pitches the boat and the oars hit him in the knees and back.
6. Ishmael tells the story in an inn in Lima.
(The entire section is 250 words.)
Chapters 55-60 Questions and Answers
1. From what have most scientific drawings been done?
2. Where can the most ancient portrait of a whale be found?
3. Who have created the best pictures of whales?
4. What scene is depicted on the beggar’s board?
5. What does Ishmael imagine when he gazes at the stars?
6. What is brit?
7. What sound do right whales make when they feed?
8. What is the superstition regarding the white squid?
9. What has caused man to lose his awe of the sea?
10. Why is the whale line a danger to the whalers?
1. Most have been drawn from dead whales.
2. The oldest portrait is in a cavern-pagoda in India.
3. The French have created the most accurate pictures.
4. The scene in which the beggar lost his leg is depicted.
5. Wearing harpoons for spurs and anchors for bridle-bits, Ishmael imagines that he rides a whale through the skie.
6. Brit is a floating, yellow substance made up of minute marine organisms.
7. They make a sound like the swinging of mower’s scythes.
8. Whalemen believed that few whaleships ever beheld the great squid and returned to their ports to tell of it.
9. Man’s pride in his science has caused him to lose his awe of the oceans.
10. The whale line encompasses all the men...
(The entire section is 211 words.)
Chapters 61-66 Questions and Answers
1. What does Queequeg say the sighting of the squid means?
2. Where is the Pequod?
3. What color is the whale and why is that significant?
4. How far was Stubb’s whaleboat towed by the whale?
5. What is the “gold watch” Stubb seeks?
6. What is the primary cause of unsuccessful whaling voyages?
7. How does Ahab feel about this successful hunt?
8. Who is Fleece and what does Stubb demand of him?
9. What moral advice does Fleece give the sharks?
10. What wish does Fleece express that could be considered foreshadowing?
1. Queequeg says the squid is a sign that a sperm whale will soon be sighted.
2. The Pequod is in the Indian Ocean.
3. The whale is black, the opposite of the whale Ahab seeks.
4. “Whole Atlantics and Pacifics seemed passed” describes the distance.
5. The watch is a metaphor for the “innermost life” of the whale.
6. Inefficiency regarding the many tasks of the harpooner and his subsequent exhaustion cause unsuccessful whale hunts.
7. Ahab feels impatience and despair since Moby Dick remains to be killed.
8. Fleece is the old black cook who prepares a whale steak for Stubb and then is told to quiet the sharks.
9. He tells them to share, to help...
(The entire section is 215 words.)
Chapters 67-71 Questions and Answers
1. How is blubber removed from the whale?
2. Why is the word “blanket” an appropriate term?
3. Who cuts the scarf line into the blubber?
4. Who attends the whale funeral?
5. What fraction of a whale is made up of its head?
6. To what does Ishmael compare the whale head? Why?
7. Why does Captain Mayhew not board the Pequod as is the custom?
8. How do the men aboard the Jeroboam feel about Gabriel?
9. Specifically, how was Macey killed?
10. Why would Gabriel think an attack on Moby Dick was blasphemy?
1. The blubber is peeled off in a spiral. A hook on a pulley draws the huge strip up the mast.
2. The blanket, or blubber, keeps the whale warm in frigid seas.
3. Starbuck and Stubb cut the scarf line into the blubber.
4. The attendees, sharks and sea-vultures, make a funeral banquet of the whale.
5. The head makes up one-third of the whale.
6. The head is as silent as the ancient Sphinx.
7. Captain Mayhew does not want to spread the epidemic that plagues his ship.
8. The men both fear and revere Gabriel. They told their captain that they would desert the ship if Gabriel were put off it.
9. Moby Dick’s fluke knocked him out of the boat.
(The entire section is 214 words.)
Chapters 72-78 Questions and Answers
1. What is the function of the monkey rope?
2. To whom is it attached?
3. Why were the men surprised that Ahab wanted them to hunt a right whale?
4. What was his reason?
5. How does Ishmael interpret the expressions on the whales?
6. To what does Ishmael compare the sperm whale’s forehead?
7. What was Tashtego doing when he fell into the head?
8. How was he saved and by whom?
9. To what was his release from the head compared?
10. If Tashtego had died, why would it have been a very “precious perishing”?
1. The rope is a safety line for the man who stands on the carcass to attach the blubber hook.
2. Queequeg is attached to the end on the whale; Ishmael is attached to the end on deck.
3. The right whale is not valuable.
4. Fedallah told him a ship with a right whale head on one side and a sperm whale head on the other will not sink.
5. The sperm whale’s expression shows his indifference to death. The right whale’s shows his “practical resolution.”
6. The sperm whale’s forehead is like a battering ram.
7. Tashtego was up on a yardarm lowering a bucket down into the part of the head containing the spermaceti.
8. Queequeg dived in the water, cut a hole in the head, and pulled him out....
(The entire section is 240 words.)
Chapters 79-81 Questions and Answers
1. What gives the whale’s physiognomy added grandeur?
2. What does the whale’s hump cover?
3. What does Derrick want from the Pequod?
4. What does he know about the White Whale?
5. Why does the old whale swim with such difficulty?
6. Who harpooned the whale?
7. What did Starbuck try to stop Flask from doing?
8. What was found embedded in the old whale?
9. What unusual thing happened to the dead whale?
10. Why is the finback an uncapturable whale?
1. The whale has no nose.
2. The hump covers its largest vertebra.
3. Derrick wants lamp oil.
4. He knows nothing about Moby Dick.
5. The whale is missing his right fin.
6. Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo all harpooned the whale.
7. Starbuck tried to stop Flask from sticking his lance in an ulcerous mass on the whale and causing it more pain.
8. An entire harpoon and a lance-head made of stone were found embedded in the whale’s flesh.
9. The dead whale sank.
10. The finback’s powerful swimming makes it uncapturable.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Chapters 82-86 Questions and Answers
1. What lovely maiden did Perseus rescue from Leviathan?
2. How does Ishmael change the story of St. George and the Dragon?
3. What are the Vedas and who retrieved them?
4. What question did the old Sag-Harbor whaleman raise about Jonah’s surviving in the whale’s belly?
5. For what purpose is a pitchpole used?
6. What is the date of the writing of “The Fountain”?
7. How might a whale spout harm a man?
8. What is the length across a whale’s tail?
9. What is meant by “peaking”?
10. What are four other actions of the tail?
1. Perseus rescued Andromeda.
2. Ishmael says the dragon was a whale and St. George’s horse may have been a large seal or sea horse.
3. The sacred Hindu books were retrieved by Vishnu.
4. How could Jonah have survived in the gastric juices?
5. A pitchpole is used to weaken a harpooned whale that continues to swim very fast and may break free.
6. December 16, 1851 is the date of the writing.
7. The spout burns the skin and blinds the eyes.
8. A whale’s tail is 20 feet across.
9. Before a whale dives, he “tosses” his flukes and much of his body up into the air.
10. The tail also is used for propulsion, striking enemies, slapping the water,...
(The entire section is 214 words.)
Chapters 87-92 Questions and Answers
1. Where does the Pequod come upon the huge herd?
2. What is a “drugg”?
3. Where does the harpooned whale tow Ishmael’s boat?
4. What truth is there in “the more whales the less fish”?
5. What becomes of a schoolmaster in old age?
6. What is a Fast-Fish?
7. What happened to the whale captured by the Dover fishermen?
8. What is ironic about the name of the Rose-Bud?
9. How does the Guernsey-man trick his captain?
10. How does Stubb trick the Guernsey-man?
1. The Pequod encounters the herd near the Straits of Sunda.
2. A drugg is a block of wood attached to a harpoon by a long line and used to slow down gallied whales.
3. Ishmael’s boat is towed into a center of calm.
4. Of all the whales, the Pequod captured only one.
5. The schoolmaster, a full-grown male which accompanies a female school, lives in isolation when he grows old.
6. A Fast-Fish is somehow secured to a boat, either directly or by signs of ownership such as a waif pole.
7. The whale was claimed by the Lord Warden for the Duke.
8. The Rose-Bud is rank.
9. The Guernsey-man, translating for his captain, pretends that Stubb has witnessed death on ships to which blasted...
(The entire section is 217 words.)
Chapters 93-99 Questions and Answers
1. What is a ship-keeper?
2. Why was Pip put into Stubb’s boat?
3. Why was Tashtego reluctant to cut the line to save Pip?
4. How was Pip rescued?
5. What was the cause of Ishmael’s disorientation?
6. What are the try-works?
7. How is the oil stored?
8. What was on top of each mountain engraved on the coin?
9. What country had minted the doubloon?
10. What would Flask buy if he won the doubloon?
1. Ship-keepers are the men who handle the ship while the whale boats are out. Pip was usually a ship-keeper.
2. One of Stubb’s oarsmen had been injured.
3. Tashtego would lose the whale he had harpooned.
4. The Pequod picked up Pip.
5. Ishmael, half asleep, had turned around toward the stern.
6. The try-works are brick kilns used to melt down the blubber.
7. The oil is put in casks and stored in the hold.
8. On one mountain was fire; on another, a tower; on the third, a crowing cock.
9. The doubloon was from Ecuador.
10. Flask would buy 1,660 cigars.
(The entire section is 168 words.)
Chapters 100-105 Questions and Answers
1. What problem had Ahab not anticipated in the gam with the Samuel Enderby?
2. How is that problem solved?
3. Describe how the two captains greet each other.
4. Describe the relationship between Boomer and Bunger.
5. What does Ahab do to Bunger? Why?
6. What is the Enderby Whaling House famous for?
7. When did Ishmael go aboard the Enderby?
8. How does Ishmael know about whale skeletons?
9. What had the natives on the Arsacidean island made of the whale skeleton?
10. What does Ishmael think about the extinction of whales?
1. Ahab hadn’t thought about the difficulty he would have boarding the other ship.
2. He was hoisted aboard on a blubber-hook.
3. The captains cross their whale-bone limbs.
4. Boomer and Bunger have a caring relationship.
5. Ahab pushes Bunger when the doctor tries to calm him.
6. The Enderby Whaling House opened up the South Sea and Japanese whaling grounds.
7. Ishmael spent time on the Enderby many years after his voyage on the Pequod.
8. Ishmael had dissected a small whale and measured the skeleton of a beached whale.
9. The skeleton was their temple and god.
10. Whales will survive eternally.
(The entire section is 183 words.)
Chapters 106-109 Questions and Answers
1. Why did Ahab need a new leg?
2. Before going on the voyage, how had Ahab been injured?
3. What mystery does this incident solve?
4. What are some of the skills of the ship’s carpenter?
5. What does Ishmael suggest happened to the carpenter’s brains?
6. Why would Ahab want his ideal man to have a skylight?
7. On what matter does Starbuck go to see Ahab in his cabin?
8. What answer does Ahab give Starbuck?
9. How does Ahab threaten Starbuck?
10. What warning does Starbuck give Ahab?
1. When Ahab hurriedly left the Samuel Enderby, he damaged his leg.
2. Ahab had fallen and the splintered leg had wounded him.
3. Ahab stayed in his cabin at the beginning of the voyage to recover from this wound.
4. The ship’s carpenter pulls teeth, makes soothing ointments, and crafts earrings from shark bone.
5. The carpenter’s brains must have oozed into his fingers.
6. The skylight allows for self-illumination.
7. The barrels are leaking in the hold.
8. Ahab tells Starbuck not to hoist the barrels.
9. Ahab aims his loaded musket at Starbuck.
10. Starbuck tells Ahab that he, Ahab, will cause his own destruction. “Ahab beware of Ahab.”
(The entire section is 191 words.)
Chapters 110-114 Questions and Answers
1. What causes Queequeg’s illness?
2. What does he put in his coffin?
3. How does Queequeg explain his recovery?
4. What does he do with his coffin?
5. What caused the deaths of Perth’s wife and children?
6. What does Ahab want Perth to make for him?
7. What are the iron and barbs made of?
8. What seam does Ahab ask Perth to smooth?
9. In what are the barbs of the harpoon tempered?
10. What temporarily soothes even Ahab?
1. Working in the slimy, damp hold causes Queequeg’s illness.
2. Queequeg puts the iron of his harpoon, biscuits, water, dirt, and Yojo in his coffin.
3. Queequeg recovered to take care of some unfinished business.
4. Queequeg turns the coffin into a sea chest and carves its lid with designs like his tattoos.
5. Because of his alcoholism, Perth could not support his family and they died.
6. Ahab wants Perth to make a harpoon with which he will kill Moby Dick.
7. The iron is made from horseshoe nails and the barbs from razors.
8. Ahab asks Perth if he can smooth the seams of his brow, which are etched to the depth of his skull.
9. The barbs are tempered in blood.
10. The tranquility of the Pacific soothes even Ahab.
(The entire section is 202 words.)
Chapters 115-121 Questions and Answers
1. What are the men of the Bachelor celebrating?
2. What does the Bachelor’s captain say about Moby Dick?
3. What is in the vial that Ahab takes from his pocket?
4. What curious thing do dying sperm whales do?
5. What will Ahab see before he dies?
6. What is the only thing that can kill him?
7. Why does Ahab smash his quadrant?
8. Why does Stubb sing during the fury of the storm?
9. What happens to Ahab’s boat?
10. According to Stubb, why did Ahab remain unharmed when he held the chain end of the lightning rod?
1. The Bachelor is full of oil and homeward bound.
2. The captain says he has heard of Moby Dick, but does not believe in him.
3. The vial contains soil from Nantucket.
4. Dying sperm whales turn their heads to the sun.
5. Ahab will see two hearses, one made of American wood and the other, not made by human hands.
6. Only hemp can kill Ahab.
7. Ahab smashes the quadrant because it tells him only where he is, not where he is going.
8. Stubb sings to bolster his courage.
9. The stern of Ahab’s boat is smashed.
10. Stubb says the mast would have to have been struck by lightning before Ahab could have been harmed.
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Chapters 122-127 Questions and Answers
1. What information is Starbuck going to report to Ahab?
2. What caused him to think about killing Ahab?
3. Rather than facing Ahab, what does he do?
4. What has happened to the compass?
5. How does Ahab allay the crew’s superstitions?
6. What do Ahab and Pip have in common?
7. Whom does Ahab call “creative libertines”?
8. What did the Manxman think the crying of the seals was?
9. What was used to replace the life buoy?
10. What did the carpenter attach to it?
1. Starbuck is going to report a change in wind direction.
2. The sight of the muskets made Starbuck think about killing Ahab.
3. Starbuck sends Stubb in to Ahab to give the report.
4. The compass was reversed by the storm.
5. Ahab fashions a new compass.
6. Both are mad.
7. Ahab calls the heavens and gods “creative libertines.”
8. He thought the crying was caused by drowned men.
9. Queequeg’s coffin was made into a new life buoy.
10. The carpenter attached 30 lines to it, one for each crew member.
(The entire section is 166 words.)
Chapters 128-132 Questions and Answers
1. How was the Rachel’s whaleboat lost?
2. With what horrible dilemma was Captain Gardiner faced ?
3. What did Stubb think Ahab should do regarding Gardiner’s request?
4. Why does Ahab not want to be with Pip?
5. What change has come over the Pequod’s crew?
6. Whom does Ahab entrust with the rope attached to the basket in which he is hoisted aloft?
7. What did the bird do to Ahab?
8. What do the sailors of the Delight see as the Pequod sails away?
9. What family does Ahab have back on Nantucket?
10. What promise did Starbuck’s wife make?
1. The whaleboat had harpooned Moby Dick and was towed by the whale away from the Rachel.
2. Gardiner had to decide which son to go in search of.
3. Stubb thought that the Pequod should help Gardiner.
4. Ahab is afraid Pip will soften his heart and weaken his resolve.
5. The Pequod’s men are gloomy and move about like machines.
6. Ahab gives that responsibility to Starbuck.
7. The sea hawk dived at Ahab and took his hat.
8. The sailors see the casket attached to her stern.
9. Ahab has a young wife and son.
10. Starbuck’s wife promised to take their son to a hill to...
(The entire section is 209 words.)
Chapters 133-135 and Epilogue Questions and Answers
1. What happens to Ahab’s boat during the first day?
2. How will the men be rewarded if Ahab sights the whale on the day that the whale is killed?
3. What happens to Ahab on the second day?
4. What happens to Fedallah?
5. When does Ahab see Fedallah again as predicted?
6. What are the two hearses Ahab sees before he dies?
7. How does Ahab die by hemp as predicted?
8. What happens to the Pequod and her crew?
9. What “living part of heaven” went down with the ship?
10. How did Ishmael survive?
1. Moby Dick bites Ahab’s boat in two.
2. Ten times the worth of the gold coin will be divided among the crew.
3. Ahab’s ivory leg is snapped off.
4. Fedallah is tangled in the lines and towed under.
5. Ahab sees Fedallah lashed to the flank of Moby Dick on the third day of the hunt.
6. The two hearses are Moby Dick and the Pequod.
7. A line, made of hemp, catches Ahab around the neck and he is pulled down into the sea by Moby Dick.
8. Moby Dick smashes into the ship and she sinks along with all the crew, except the men in Ahab’s boat.
9. A sea hawk was brought down with the ship.
10. Ishmael stayed afloat on Queequeg’s coffin until the Rachel picked him...
(The entire section is 220 words.)
Point of View
Melville’s earlier novels are mainly first-person accounts of romanticized sailing voyages presented as actual experience. When, after the introductory Etymology and Extracts, he opens Moby-Dick with the words “Call me Ishmael,” it is as if he is giving notice that the narrative voice in this novel is to be more obviously fictional. There are periods, particularly in the first quarter of the book, when Ishmael is an active character, telling the story as an involved first-person narrator. But often during the middle section of the voyage Ishmael’s voice recedes and the reader is presented with a traditional, omniscient narrator’s view of events, with the consequence that the author, Melville, and the character Ishmael become identified as one and the same in many readers’ minds. Shakespearean soliloquies and learned discourses on whaling history and anatomy are used to break up the narrative thread.
At no point is Ishmael given the perspective of one who is relating the story from a flashback point of view in which the outcome of the voyage is known, but since he could not be relating the story if he had gone down with the ship, the reader knows this must be a survivor’s tale. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Ishmael’s attitudes and beliefs as they are reflected at the novel’s beginning still hold by its conclusion, for Ishmael’s experiences clearly have an effect on him.
(The entire section is 1024 words.)
Compare and Contrast
1850s: Whaling is a largely unregulated business. American whalers are free to sail the open seas, and to hunt for whales in any waters.
Today: In 1986 member nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) vote to ban commercial whaling. Some nations, including Norway and Japan, continue to slaughter whales.
1850s: Americans continue to move west. The population of the northern states exceeds the population of the south by one million. Slaveholding states seek to expand their influence in the new territories, such as California and Utah. A compromise reached in 1850 holds the peace for a decade, but slavery becomes a major and confrontational domestic issue dividing North and South.
Today: Differences between northern and southern states remain, but not at constitutional levels. Slavery has long been abolished but many blacks suffer from racism. Foreign policy issues lead the political agenda as America seeks to maintain and extend its international influence.
1850s: As a rejection of Calvinistic sobriety, many middle-class people dabble in hydropathy, hypnotism, and phrenology, but these are still seen as alternatives to mainstream religious belief and medical therapies....
(The entire section is 255 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- By investigating various movie adaptations and juvenile editions of Moby-Dick (including comic books), attempt to analyze the qualities of Melville’s novel which do not transfer to other mediums.
- Basing your work on Chapter 32 of the novel, “Cetology,” check Melville’s facts about whales with what is known about them today. How much, if any, of this chapter would need revising?
- Explore the issues of physical disability and revenge from the perspective of modern psychology; apply what you learn to the character of Ahab to try to understand his motivations.
- Imagine a reader of Moby-Dick who is given a copy in which Chapter 9 (Father Mapple’s sermon) has been torn out. The reader claims it made no difference to his or her appreciation of the book. Present an argument in favor of the chapter.
- Compare and contrast practices of the whaling industry in the 1850s with current practices followed by whaling ships from Japan and Norway; what were the different tools used to hunt and process whales compared to those used now, and how are the different parts of the whale used in commercial products today?
(The entire section is 186 words.)
- The first film of Moby-Dick was a silent movie, released under the title The Sea Beast in 1926, and starring John Barrymore as Ahab, and distributed by Warner.
- Warner produced a sound version of the novel in 1930; it was directed by Lloyd Bacon and again starred John Barrymore as Ahab.
- The best-known movie version is the John Huston-directed 1956 color production with Gregory Peck as Ahab. This is a powerful and faithful rendering of the novel, though opinions have been divided concerning the central casting. Other actors in the cast were Orson Welles, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, and Harry Andrews. The screenplay was written by Huston and Ray Bradbury.
- An educational film, Moby Dick: The Great American Novel, was shot by CBS news in 1969.
- An animated version, entitled Moby Dick and produced by API Television Productions in 1977, is available on video.
- A reading by George Kennedy released by “Listen for Pleasure Books on Cassette” dates from 1981.
- A radio dramatization presented on NBC Theater is available on one fifty-minute cassette in the Audio Library Classics series, distributed by Metacom, 1991.
- A sound recording of the novel, read by Norman Dietz on thirteen audiocassettes, was produced by Blackstone Audio Books in 1992.
- A musical titled Moby Dick: A Whale of a Tale was staged in 1993 by...
(The entire section is 239 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
- Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (1852), the novel which followed Moby-Dick, is an interesting and bitter novel. Many of the character Pierre’s own speculations, and Melville’s narrative comments, illuminate the themes in the whaling book.
- Billy Budd, the novella completed at the end of Melville’s life but not published until 1924, presents an interesting contrast in tone, compared with the earlier novel.
- The House of the Seven Gables (1851), by Nathaniel Hawthorne was published at a time when he and Melville were friends. It is the story of a curse on the Pyncheon family and how the curse is eventually broken.
- Two Years before the Mast, Richard Dana’s 1840 account of life on the waves, was read by Melville while he was a young man.
- V, by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963, is a novel of pursuit, dealing in large themes, including romantic delusion.
- Elephant Gold, by Eric Campbell, 1997, a young adult novel set in Africa, is about a monomaniacal elephant hunter clearly based on Ahab.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Quotations of Moby-Dick are taken from the following edition:
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick, edited by Charles Child Walcutt, Bantam Classic edition. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
Ashley, Clifford W. The Yankee Whaler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: Moby-Dick. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Chase, Richard. “Melville and Moby-Dick.” In Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Richard Chase. Prentice-Hall, 1962.
“Criticism and Context.” In Moby-Dick by Herman Melville edited by Charles Child Walcutt, Bantam Classic edition. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
Kazin, Alfred. “Introduction to Moby-Dick.” In Melville, A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Richard Chase. Prentice- Hall, 1962.
Lee, A. Robert. “Moby-Dick as Anatomy.” In Herman Melville: Reassessments, edited by A. Robert Lee. Barnes & Noble, 1984.
McWilliams, John. “The Epic in the Nineteenth Century.” In The Columbia History of American Poetry. Columbia University Press, 1993.
McSweeney, Kerry. Moby-Dick: Ishmael’s Mighty Book. Boston: Twayne...
(The entire section is 907 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Brodhead, Richard H., ed. New Essays on “Moby Dick.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Contains essays discussing the complexity of Moby Dick’s first sentence, its Calvinist themes, and the multiplicity of sources used by Melville, among other subjects.
James, C. L. R. Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways. New York: Allison & Busby, 1985. A powerful reading of Moby Dick through the context to twentieth century politics, arguing that Ahab’s sway over his crew symbolizes the power of totalitarianism.
Matthiessen, F. O. American Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941. This book gave a title to the period in which Melville lived and wrote and discusses Melville’s work alongside that of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and others.
Miller, Edwin Haviland. Melville. New York: George Braziller, 1975. Psychoanalytic biography of Melville, especially attentive to Melville’s relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne during the time he was composing Moby Dick.
Olson, Charles. Call Me Ishmael. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1947. A literary work of art in its own right, written by an influential postmodern American poet, this book is also a piece of first-class literary...
(The entire section is 223 words.)