Much of Moby Dick takes places on the open sea, and the novel includes numerous dramatic incidents of the Pequod and other ships involved in whale hunting. Author Herman Melville effectively shows the cooperation and conflicts among the crew members, who come from many different backgrounds. He conveys the rugged life about ship and in the smaller boats in which the whalers chase down their prey. Along with the dramatic action of whaling, Melville depicts numerous accidents which result in the sailors’ injury or death. Throughout all these complications, the thread of Ahab’s obsessive quest runs through and unifies the whole narrative. The scene in which Ahab nearly achieves his long-sought-after revenge against, but is instead killed by the great white whale, is the most dramatic.
In chapter 78, Melville demonstrates that the hunt is not the only dangerous part of the whalers’ job. In preceding chapters, he offers a detailed account of their chasing down and finally killing a large whale. Once the men succeed in their goal of killing the powerful beast, the drama actually intensifies rather than diminishes. As the men labor to extract the sperm from its severed head, Tashtego, the youth wielding the bucket, falls into the head. The situation grows even worse when the rig holding up the head comes loose and it falls into the sea with him still inside. Queequeg dives in and heroically rescues him.
The final scenes of Ahab’s effort to avenge the injuries that Moby Dick inflicted take place in chapters 133–135. When the captain in his boat spots the huge whale, it attacks the boat and breaks it in two. After the Pequod rescues the men from the boat, an epic battle between men and beast begins in earnest. Ultimately, after several days, the whale kills Ahab with his own harpoon line and wrecks the Pequod.