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 makes a sea chest of his coffin and on its lid, carves patterns corresponding to his tattoos.
As the Pequod sails into the Pacific, Perth, the blacksmith, prepares the tools for the whale hunting that will ensue. Perth is an unhappy old man who lost his family because of his drinking.
Ahab asks Perth to forge him a special harpoon. The iron of the harpoon is made of the nailstubs from the shoes of race horses. Ahab himself forges the shank. The barbs, made from razors, are tempered not in water, but in the blood of Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo.
Discussion and Analysis
The theme of death is explored in this section. Ishmael sees the “immortal health” of the soul in the eyes of his dying friend. He imagines that a dying man experiences revelations. Queequeg himself envisions death as a sailing away to the stars, which his people believe to be islands.
Pip feels the shame of his cowardly “death” and compares it to Queequeg’s “game” death. He beats a dirge for Queequeg on his tambourine. In an apostrophe to death, Ishmael cries, “Oh, Death, why canst thou not be timely?” If Perth had died a timely death, his family would have been spared. Ahab, who recognizes a kinship in Perth, asks him how he can endure life and advises him to go mad.
That death is a focus of these chapters is appropriate since the Pequod is coming closer to her fateful encounter with Moby Dick. Ahab prepares for this encounter by tempering his harpoon in pagan blood and baptizing it not in the name of God, but “in nomine diaboli.”