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, Timor Tom, Don Miguel, and others. Sperm whales have destroyed entire ships such as the Essex out of Nantucket.
By using the Pequod for his own purposes, Ahab has left himself open to the charge of usurpation. The crew would be legally justified in a mutiny. He must hunt for other whales in order to appease the crew, particularly Starbuck.
As Queequeg and Ishmael are working together weaving a mat, Tashtego cries out, “There she blows!” The men, lowering their boats, see “five dusky phantoms” preparing to join Ahab in the hunt.
Discussion and Analysis
Archy’s suspicions are proven sound when the five phantoms are seen with Ahab. These are the shadows Ishmael saw boarding the ship in Nantucket.
Melville further explores the theme of vengeance. “What trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.” Ahab wakens from his dreams with wild cries and runs from his stateroom. It is his soul that cries out and runs in terror of the crazy Ahab. The concept of dualistic man is here emphasized.
In a classical allusion, Ahab is compared to Prometheus, the Greek god who gave fire to man. He is punished by being bound on a mountain where an eagle eats out his liver. In Ahab’s case, a “vulture,” his vengeance, eats out his heart.
Ishmael believes the mat that he and Queequeg weave is symbolic of necessity, free will, and chance. He calls their weaving “the Loom of Time.” Weaving and knitting are frequently symbols of fate.