One may easily look at the novel Moby Dick (or The Whale) and think no way can I read that! That book is 568 pages! But what you don’t know is how funny and exciting it can be. The best thing is that the chapters are super short. I love when a novel has short chapters because you can choose to read for short spurts of time and still end with the chapter. This novel was written by Herman Melville in 1851. When you read Melville you somehow begin to believe that he is your long-time friend. Like Hugo’s Les Miserables, Melville can go off on a tangent. You will learn about whaling in the 1800s, but probably a bit more than you care to know. Still, since you have probably never been a whaler, it is interesting to learn about the process.
On one of the front pages it reads: “The text of Moby-Dick in this volume is from The Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Writings of Herman Melville, edited by Harrison Hayford, Herschel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle and published by Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, with the permission of the publishers It is an approved text of the Modern Language Association of America.” This is the Barnes and Noble edition from 1988. This volume comes with gorgeous artwork, yet too little of it! The illustrations were done by Mark Summers. There are also appendices: “Creating Moby-Dick” by Leon Howard, letter excerpts, reviews, “Rebirth” by Leon Howard, “The Chronology of Whales” (and whaling) by Ivan Sanderson, “Dictionary of Sea Terms” by Richard Dana, and “At Melville’s Tomb” reprinted from The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane.
I have included the names of each chapter because, as simple as they are, they amuse me somehow. Here are some of the best bits and broad chapter summaries. As per my rule, the last chapter remains a mystery until you read it for yourself.
Chapter One: Loomings
“What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who aint a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea captains may order me about–however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way–either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content” (4).
“…this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way–he can better answer than any one else” (5).
Ishmael loves to get away from the stresses of life by going to sea as a sailor. He has to work a bit but he gets paid. He was also interested in going on a whaling expedition.
Chapter Two: The Carpet-Bag
“Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house. What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and the crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’s too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago.”
“What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals” (9).
Ishmael wants to board a ship from Nantucket and nothing less will do. When he arrives one ship has already left. He finds lodging at The Spouter Inn.
Chapter Three: The Spouter-Inn
“Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” (24).
There are no more beds so Ishmael agrees to share a bed with a harpooner who is out. Ishmael is in bed when he returns. The harpooner has been out selling shrunken human heads. Late at night Ishmael sees the man who turns out to be a dark, hairless cannibal performing odd rituals. Ishmael jumps out of bed to consult with the landlord. They are introduced and then spend a peaceful night sleeping side-by-side.
Chapter Four: The Counterpane
Queequeg is asleep with his arm lovingly draped over Ishmael. When the cannibal awakes he performs his toilet and leaves.
Chapter Five: Breakfast
“However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is amore in that man than you perhaps think for” (29).
Ishmael is ready for some whaling stories from all these men over breakfast, but they all keep shyly quiet, eat, and wander into the public room.
Chapter Six: The Street
Description of the New England town, New Bedford, by day.
Chapter Seven: The Chapel
“But what then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me” (36).
Ishmael runs across Queequeg at the church where people are praying for the ones killed out on whaling expeditions. This frightens Ishmael at first but then thrills him.
Chapter Eight: The Pulpit
The preacher arrives and climbs up into his pulpit by way of a boat ladder which he pulls in behind him afterward.
Chapter Nine: The Sermon
“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers” (43).
“…prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drawing down to sleep” (44).
The preacher tells the story of Jonah and how he asked God for forgiveness. After being returned to land by the whale he spoke of truth in the face of falseness.
Chapter Ten: A Bosom Friend
“And those same things that would have repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy” (50).
“But what is worship?–to do the will of God--that is worship. And what is the will of God?–to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me–that is the will of God.”
“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon lay I and Queequeg–a cosy, loving pair” (54).
Queer theory, anyone? Anyone?
Back at the inn Queequeg and Ishmael are the only two so they have a visitation and become friends.
Chapter 11: Nightgown
“We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.”
“For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal” (53).
They nap and talk over and over again until by midnight they are wide awake again. Queequeg begins telling the story of his history.
Chapter Twelve: Biographical
Queequeg left his native land where his father is king so that he could see the oceans and other lands. He learns to be a harpooner but has not come to embrace the ways of Christianity. He trades a king’s scepter for a harpoon. They decide to sail out of Nantucket together.
Chapter Thirteen: Wheelbarrow
“We cannibals must help these Christians” (61).
They board ship. Queequeg gets in a short fight. The ship’s boom comes loose and knocks a man overboard–the man Queequeg was fighting with. Queequeg first secures the broom with a rope then saves the man who fell overboard. Now everyone approves of him.
Chapter Fourteen: Nantucket
Chapter Fifteen: Chowder
They find the Try-Pot Inn that has been suggested and have excellent chowder. Before going to bed the landlady takes Queequeg’s harpoon from him saying it is too dangerous to allow.
Chapter Sixteen: The Ship
Bildad, Peleg and Ahab are introduced. Ishmael signs on with Bildad and Peleg, the owners of the ship and settles on his wages. Queequeg tells Ishmael that his god tells him whichever ship Ishmael chooses would be the fated ship. Ishmael kind of wonders about his decision because the two owners seem to fight a lot and he hasn’t yet met the ship’s captain: Ahab, a one-legged man who hasn’t been in the right spirit since a whale ate his leg.
Chapter Seventeen: The Ramadan
“…for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical…”.
“…let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all–Presbyterians and Pagans alike–for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (81).
Queequeg has a day and night of fasting and meditation before the both of them board their ship, the Pequod.
Chapter Eighteen: His Mark
At first Bildad and Peleg don’t want a cannibal on board but Ishmael convinces them he is a member of the first congregation. They then want to see if Queequeg can really harpoon and he proves himself and is set up to make quite a bit of money. Now Bildad wants to convert the cannibal to Christianity.
Chapter Nineteen: The Prophet
“A soul’s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon” (91).
Queequeg and Ishmael disboard and are met by a man named Elijah who asks if they are sailing with that ship. He asks weird questions about if they know all about Captain Ahab and the prophecy. Elijah says he will not sail with the boat. Ishmael blows him off as being crazy.
Chapter Twenty: All Astir
The ship was being loaded with all provisions over the course of a few days but no one saw Captain Ahab. He is rumored to be getting better but Ishmael is trying to cover up his uncomfortable feelings about not having yet met the man.
Chapter 21: Going Aboard
On the way to board the ship Elijah appears again and asks if they have seen men go on board. They have. Elijah says, “See if you can find them.” They can’t. Later they meet up with another crew member who says Captain Ahab has boarded and they are finally ready to set sail.
Chapter Twenty-two: Merry Christmas
The ship gets underway with Bildad and Peleg the co-captains. They both seem a bit agitated but are trying to hide it. They say as soon as the boat sees a sunny day Captain Ahab will appear, so no one has seen him yet. Bildad and Peleg depart the boat in a dinghy.
Chapter Twenty-three: The Lee Shore
Reintroduction of Bulkington who stands at the helm. Even though he just came off a dangerous four year voyage, he is up again on a three year boat.
Chapter Twenty-four: The Advocate
Ishmael speaks of the history and dignity of whaling.
Chapter 25: Postscript
Chapter 26: Knights and Squires
Starbuck is the chief mate and has seen many battles.
Chapter 27: Knights and Squires [why are two chapters titled the same?]
Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. Tashtego and Daggoo. Introduction of the harpooners. Ishmael explains that the leaders of the ship are usually American whereas everyone else comes from all parts of the world. How islanders usually make the best harpooners.
Chapter 28: Ahab
Captain Ahab finally appears on deck. He looks healthy. Ishmael is surprised to find a long scar stretching down his cheek to his shirt. They are heading for warmer climates.
Chapter 29: Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb
The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up–flaked up, with rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights seemed haughty dames in jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely pride, the memory of their absent conquering Earls, the golden helmeted suns! For sleeping man, ‘twas hard to choose between such winsome days and such seducing nights. But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights” (123).
Second steward, Stubb, had a run in with Captain Ahab and Ahab was rude first by calling Stubb names.
Chapter 30: The Pipe
Ahab hasn’t been sleeping but instead spends his time pacing the decks.
Chapter 31: Queen Mab
That night Stubb has a dream that it is not an insult to be kicked with Ahab’s ivory leg, but an honor. The next day Ahab says he sees whales about and if anyone spots a white one to scream loudly.
Chapter 32: Cetology
Cetology, or the science of whales. Ishmael goes into detail describing types of whales.
Chapter 33: The Specksynder
Speaking how the men are divided into groups onboard.
Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table
Description of the order and manner in which the crew takes dinner.
Chapter 35: The Mast-Head
“Perhaps they were; or perhaps there might have been shoals of them in the far horizon; but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some indiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it. In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came…(157).
What it is like to watch for whales from the crow’s nest.
Chapter 36: The Quarter-Deck
Ahab announces that they are looking for the great white whale that took his leg. Starbuck thinks it is foolish, but everyone else gets pumped.
Chapter 37: Sunset
Ahab’s thoughts while alone. He says it was prophesied that he would be dismembered and now he wants the prophecy to be him to dismember the one who crippled him.
Chapter 38: Dusk
Starbuck in despair and alone. He thinks it foolish to help Ahab seek revenge, but he also pities Ahab and wants to help him.
Chapter 39: First Night-Watch
Stubb knows that the reason for the journey is a queer one but decides he will go to it laughing.
Chapter 40: Midnight, Forecastle
“A row a’low, and a row aloft–Gods and men–both brawlers! Humph” (174)!
The men are all hanging around drinking, singing, sleeping or arguing. A storm comes up.
Chapter 41: Moby Dick
“…all truth is profound” (183). Ahab seems to have chosen the crew for his specific purpose. He had placed all his hatred and energy into this one whale. People knew stories and myths about the white whale like how he would be getting stabbed by boatmen then all of a sudden turn and destroy them.
Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale
Ishmael explains the meaning of the color white and how when white is coupled with a vicious thing it makes people twice as afraid.
Chapter 43: Hark!
One mate with excellent ears hears a cough below deck and states the sound comes from a person they have yet to see above deck.
Chapter 44: The Chart
“While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over his head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for ever threw shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead” (196).
Captain Ahab can’t even sleep without being woken up by nightmares of the whale. It will be a one in a million chance to find him.
Chapter 45: The Affidavit
There have been stories of whales being wounded once then captured years later. There have been incidents where sperm whales have sunk ships.
Chapter 46: Surmises
Knowing that head mate Starbuck didn’t care for the purpose of the voyage and that he could eventually cause the ranks to mutiny, Captain Ahab was careful to keep everything as normal as possible and do all the things normally done on a whaling expedition.
Chapter 47: The Mat-Maker
“It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-colored waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat, for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an incantation of reverie lurked in the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved into his own invisible self.
“I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of thewarp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance–aye, chance, free will, and necessity–no wise incompatible–all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course–its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions modified by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events” (213-4).
The first sighting of a school of whales. Everyone is preparing for the hunt when Captain Ahab appears on deck with five unknown men.
Chapter 48: The First Lowering
“But little King-Post was small and short, and at the same time little King-Post was full of a large and tall ambition…” (220).
At the same time the men were hunting their first whales a storm came up and messed up the hunt. They lost the ship for the night, but returned safely to it by morning.
Chapter 49: The Hyena
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own” (226).
Ishmael made out a will because he was confused. Starbuck was supposed to have the most knowledge yet he was the one who led Ishmael’s boat into a storm while hunting.
Chapter 50: Ahab’s Boat and Crew–Fedallah
It is hard enough for people with two legs to hunt whales, much less a person with one!
Chapter 51: The Spirit-Spout
Every few nights there is one spray from a whale in the distance as if leading them on. Ahab is getting more quiet and seems to sleep with his eyes open to the compass.
Chapter 52: The Albatross
They come upon another ship the crew of which acts very strange. They exchange no words when asked if they’d seen the white whale and the captain drops his trumpet into the sea. A large school of fish that had been following the Pequod now switch to following the other ship. Ahab took this as a sign.
Chapter 53: The Gam
When two ships pass they usually GAM, or have a visitation. So it was highly unusual for that ship to pass without a word.
Chapter 54: The Town-Ho’s Story
Ishmael repeats a story he heard of mutiny aboard a ship and how it ends with the spotting of Moby Dick. In pursuit, one man gets pitched overboard and is eaten by the whale!
Chapter 55: Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Discusses how whales have been described and portrayed across the years…usually inaccurately.
Chapter 56: Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes
Pictures of whales done accurately.
Chapter 57: Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars
More historic chronicling of whales.
Chapter 58: Brit
Brit is a yellowish brine that whales feed off of and float upon the surface of the water while feeding.
Chapter 59: Squid
A large white form is spotted. Upon sailing out, they find it is a giant white squid which sperm whale usually feed on.
Chapter 60: The Line
Explains how the harpoons are connected to a rope line and how it all works within the boat.
Chapter 61: Stubb kills Whale
The first whale is killed by Stubb. No accidents.
Chapter 62: The Dart
Explains how the harpooner must yell and paddle at full speed, then harpoon the whale. Ishmael feels this is too exhausting and that others should yell and paddle while the harpooner should save his energy for shooting.
Chapter 63: The Crotch
The crotch is a short plank to rest two harpoons upon. Both harpoons are flung in case one doesn’t stick. This leaves one rope that can cut off the other or get entangled in things and cause accidents.
Chapter 64: Stubb’s Supper
Stubb cut off a slab of whale meat and had the old cook come from out of bed to cook it for him.
Chapter 65: The Whale as a Dish
The history of eating the whale.
Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre
When a whale is captured late at night it’s usually lashed to the ship until morning when it will be chopped and brought on board. In the Pacific, the sharks will come and start eating on the carcass so they have to kill some and try and keep them away.
Chapter 67: Cutting In
Describes hoisting the whale on board to begin stripping and cutting him.
Chapter 68: The Blanket
Speaking of the thickness of a whale’s skin and how he maintains his warm body temperature.
Chapter 69: The Funeral
After skinning the whale for his blubber he is dropped back off in the sea where the sharks and birds still pick on him.
Chapter 70: The Sphynx
The whale is beheaded. While the head was hanging to the side of the ship and everyone was down at lunch, Captain Ahab talked with the whale’s head asking it what secrets it withheld.
Chapter 71: The Jeroboam’s Story
The Pequod came upon another ship that had been taken under the influence of a crazy shipmate who thought himself a prophet. He warned to stay away from the white whale and when they came in contact with Moby Dick one man had died so they gave up.
Chapter 72: The Monkey-rope
As Queequeg dangled over the side working on the whale Ishmael held the other end of the rope keeping him from getting crushed between ship and whale or falling too deep into the water and being eaten by sharks. If one went down, so would the other.
Chapter 73: Stubb and Flask ill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him
As Flask and Stubb went out to kill the right whale (to hang his head on the opposite side of the sperm whale’s head to even the ship) they began talking of Fedallah and how he seems devilish.
Chapter 74: The Sperm Whale’s Head–Contrasted View
Describes the head and jaws of the sperm whale.
Chapter 75: The Right Whale’s Head–Contrasted View
Description of the right whale’s head.
Chapter 76: The Battering-Ram
How the front of the head between the eyes is so hard as to be impregnable.
Chapter 77: The Great Heidelburgh Tun
The Heidelburgh Tun is where all the oil is stored.
Chapter 78: Cistern and Buckets
“Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing, riding and rowing” (344).
While Tashtego was removing the oil from the whale’s head he fell down in the hold and was almost drowned. If it hadn’t been for Queeque who saved him by cutting a slit and pulling him out.
Chapter 79: The Prairie
Speaking of the study of faces, both human and animal. How the sperm whale really doesn’t have a face.
Chapter 80: The Nut
Talking of how the brain is about twenty feet down into the head and the length and breadth of the backbone.
Chapter 81: The Pequod meets the Virgin
“But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all” (358).
Another ship was visiting to borrow oil when a school of whale was spotted. There was a chase. Stubb, Flask and Starbuck win the race, but upon killing the whale it began to heavily sink and they eventually had to cut it free.
Chapter 82: The Honor and Glory of Whaling
The royal history of famous whalemen.
Chapter 83: Jonah Historically Regarded
The story of Jonah and the arguments against it.
Chapter 84: Pitchpoling
Stubb is an expert pitchpoler. When a whale is too far ahead and hasn’t been stopped by a harpoon, a large lance is tossed way up in the air that comes straight down on the whale.
Chapter 85: The Fountain
“And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that vapor–as you will sometimes see it–glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For, d’ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I think God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye” (374).
Examining the spout hole of the whale.
Chapter 86: The Tail
Explanation of the tale; how it looks and how it works.
Chapter 87: The Grand Armada
“…that oriental sea are enriched, it seems a significant provision of nature, that such treasures, by the very formation of the land, should at least bear the appearance, however ineffectual, of being guarded from the all-grasping western world” (380).
“Surely, he will stop for water. Nay. For a long time, now, the circus-running sun has raced within his fiery ring, and needs no sustenance but what’s in himself” (381).
A footnote: To gally, or gallow, is to frighten excessively,–to confound with fright. It is an old Saxon word. It occurs once in Shakspere:–
“The wrathful skies
Gallow the very wanderers of the dark,
And make them keep their caves.”
Lear, Act III. sc. ii.
To common land usages, the word is now completely obsolete. When the polite landsman first hears it from the gaunt Nantucketer, he is apt to set it down as one of the whaleman’s self-derived savageries. Much the same is it with many other sinewy Saxonisms of this sort, which emigrated to the New-England rocks with the noble brawn of the old English emigrants in the time of the Commonwealth. Thus, some of the best and furthest-descended English words–the etymological Howards and Percys–are now democratised, nay, plebeianised–so to speak–in the New World. 384
“Best, therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied whales before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men” (385).
While going through the straights the Pequod was chasing a large shoal of whales but being chased from behind by a pirate ship. They got right in the middle of a huge circle of whales trying to hunt through the commotion.
Chapter 88: Schools and Schoolmasters
“The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale–as a solitary Leviathan is called–proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone, he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though she keeps so many moody secrets” (394).
How the males and females travel according to their stage of life.
Chapter 89: Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
“…the By-laws of the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other People’s Business…” (396).
When a fish has been chased, harpooned, even caught, then lost, what are the rules on who recovers a loose fish?
Chapter 90: Heads or Tails
Even when a fish is caught, it is still the property of the king and queen.
Chapter 91: The Pequod meets the Rose-bud
Stubb cheats another ship out of a whale they had alongside to get the valuable ambergris found inside.
Chapter 92: Ambergris
Speaks of ambergris and the smell of whales
Chapter 93: The Castaway
A shiphand, Pip, was moved up to work in the harpoon boats. He was so scared that he jumped once, getting caught in the rope and they had to let the whale go. The second time he jumped, it was a while before he could be picked up. During that time he went mad.
Chapter 94: A Squeeze of the Hand
“Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,–Oh! My dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness” (417).
Speaking of the parts of the whale that can be used for profit.
Chapter 95: The Cassock
The cutting of the blubber.
Chapter 96: The Try-Works
“It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit” (422).
“To every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of the boiling oil, which seemed all eagerness to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth of the works, on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the windlass. This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawney features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul” (423).
“Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp–all others but liars” (424)!
“Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces” (425).
Speaking of the oven that cooks the blubber. Ishmael was hypnotized by the fire and caught hold of a feeling of death. He had to shake it off.
Chapter 97: The Lamp
The men can now replenish their lamps and live in light.
Chapter 98: Stowing Down and Clearing Up
“Oh! My friends, but this is man-killing! Yet this is life” (428).
How the ship becomes so filthy while cutting and boiling, then how spotless afterward. When it becomes clean, another whale is spotted and the cycle begins again.
Chapter 99: The Doubloon
There is a valuable gold coin kept on display at the center of the ship that will go to whoever does in the white whale.
Chapter 100: Leg and Arm: The Pequod, of Nantucket, meets the Samuel Enderby, of London
Ahab visits a ship whose captain lost an arm chasing the white whale. Ahab gets the direction the whale was last seen to head.
Chapter 101: The Decanter
How the Dutch and English whalers like to eat and drink well on their voyages.
Chapter 102: A Bower in the Arsacides
Ishmael comes across a whale’s skeleton and claims to tattoo the measurements on his arm since he had nothing else to write on.
Chapter 103: Measurement of the Whale’s Skeleton
Measurements of the whale’s skeleton.
Chapter 104: The Fossil Whale
Historic look at the whale and their bones.
Chapter 105: Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?–Will He Perish?
How the whale has been hunted and his numbers have decreased over the years.
Chapter 106: Ahab’s Leg
Captain Ahab cracked his ivory leg and had the carpenter begin making him a new one.
Chapter 107: The Carpenter
Chapter 108: Ahab and the Carpenter
The carpenter constructing Ahab’s new leg.
Chapter 109: Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin
The oil casks were leaking below. Starbuck told Ahab they had to re-seal them and at first Ahab said no; he can only think of Moby Dick. Re-thinking himself, Ahab then consents to re-sealing the casks.
Chapter 110: Queequeg in his Coffin
“Top-heavy was the ship as a dinnerless student with all Aristotle in his head” (475).
Queequeg became so sick that they had a coffin made for him. At the last minute, Queequeg remembered an important errand he had upon returning to port and therefore rallied back from death.
Chapter 111: The Pacific
The Pacific has been gained; the last part of their adventure. Ahab’s restlessness becomes heightened.
Chapter 112: The Blacksmith
The blacksmith’s life.
Chapter 113: The Forge
Ahab has his own harpoon made.
Chapter 114: The Gilder
The sea is calm. Men fall to philosophizing.
Chapter 115: The Pequod meets the Bachelor
They pass a fully oil loaded ship heading joyously home. The men on the Pequod become melancholy looking after her.
Chapter 116: The Dying Whale
They catch four more whales.
Chapter 117: The Whale Watch
Chapter 118: The Quadrant
Ahab charts his location by the sun then asks the sun the location of Moby Dick. He gets angry at the sun and says he will look at it no more.
Chapter 119: The Candles
“Warmest climes but nurse the cruellest fangs…” (497).
During a typhoon the top of the masts catch fire. Starbuck cautions Ahab to head for home, but Ahab says no way. They are all bound to the white whale.
Chapter 120: The Deck towards the End of the First Night Watch
Ahab sinks deeper into insanity.
Chapter 121: Midnight–The Forecastle Bulwarks
The crew is soaked from wind and rain.
Chapter 122: Midnight Aloft–Thunder and Lightning
Chapter 123: The Musket
As Starbuck goes down to tell Ahab the ship is on course, he finds Ahab sleeping. Starbuck grabs a gun and stands there wanting to kill Ahab, save the crew, and head home. He eventually puts the gun down and returns topside. He asks Stubb to carry a message.
Chapter 124: The Needle
The lightning turned the compass backwards. Ahab made a new one. The top three crewmen are no longer behind the quest of Ahab.
Chapter 125: The Log and Line
“‘The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser,’ muttered Ahab, advancing. ‘Hands off from that holiness!’” (516)
Ahab made an unreasonable demand concerning a worn out rope. He and Pip get in a crazy conversation. (They have both lost their minds.)
Chapter 126: The Life-Buoy
None thought of it, but as they entered the sea of Moby Dick, one man fell overboard and never was seen again. The buoy they sent after him also sank. They are going to use Queequeg’s casket for a new buoy.
Chapter 127: The Deck
Ahab talking crazy.
Chapter 128: The Pequod meets the Rachel
The ship Rachel had seen Moby Dick the day before. Three boats were lowered for a shoal of whales ahead. One lowered behind for Moby Dick. All returned safely except for the boat pursuing the white whale. When the Rache’s captain asks Ahab to help search, Ahab refuses. He is behind schedule.
Chapter 129: The Cabin
Pip and Ahab are becoming friends because they have both gone crazy.
Chapter 130: The Hat
Ahab now never leaves the deck, ever searching. He puts Starbuck as head watch. A wild bird swoops down and flies away with the captain’s hat.
Chapter 131: The Pequod meets the Delight
Another ship that encountered the whale and lost a man.
Chapter 132: The Symphony
Starbuck tries to convince Ahab to go home. No. Fedallah has lowered himself over the side of the ship to search.
Chapter 133: The Chase–First Day
They find Moby Dick. Boats are lowered. The boat Ahab is in is attacked by the whale and smashed in two. Moby Dick circles them until he is run off by the ship. They search for him the rest of the evening.
Chapter 134: The Chase–Second Day
The second time they go out for Moby Dick the lines for the weapons become tangled and one man gets taken out to sea. The whale attacks when he is chased.
Chapter 135: The Chase–Third Day