In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, what happens to Moby Dick at the story’s end?

At the end of Melville's novel, Ahab harpoons Moby Dick. In retaliation, Moby Dick attacks and sinks the Pequod; of the entire crew, only Ishmael survives the wreck. The line of Moby Dick's harpoon wraps around Ahab's neck, and Ahab is drawn into the sea with the white whale.

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Herman Melville does not specify what happens to Moby Dick after the whale destroys the Pequod and all the whaling boats, killing everyone but the narrator Ishmael. Captain Ahab is caught in a harpoon line and is dragged down to his death by the whale. There seems no reason to think that Moby Dick would have died, although he might be burdened with harpoons and entangled in harpoon lines and might even be dragging Ahab with him for some time. However, the harpoons should work themselves loose eventually, and that would rid Moby Dick of the lines and of Captain Ahab. According to the e-notes Summary of the final chapters of the novel:

Ahab’s boat is the last one left. He once again throws his harpoon and makes fast to Moby Dick. The line runs afoul, and as Ahab stoops to clear it, the line catches him around the neck. He is silently pulled from the boat, down into the depths by Moby Dick.

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The white whale, Moby Dick, lives in the end. 

After searching for months, the Pequod finally spots the white whale and gives chase. This chase lasts for days as the ship closes in on the whale. Ultimately, the whale is harpooned (by Ahab) and turns to face its pursuer. 

Attacking the ship, Moby Dick damages and sinks the Pequod killing everyone but Ishmael. Ishmael survives because he finds Quequeg's coffin, which has risen from the whirlpool created by the sinking ship. With this coffin, Ishmael is able to survive until he is rescued. 

Ahab dies along with the rest of the crew, dragged down by the whale into the sea.


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