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Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Chapter 109

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 109 of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick.

Moby-Dick | Chapter 109 | Summary



Starbuck brings an oil leak to Captain Ahab's attention, but Ahab is uninterested—all he wants is to kill Moby Dick. Starbuck gets angry because they worked hard to get that oil and Ahab doesn't care if it is wasted. Ahab points a musket at Starbuck and tells him he is the ultimate authority on the ship, but Starbuck keeps his cool and leaves the cabin. Ahab, reconsidering, thinks he probably should fix the oil leak so no one thinks he's putting his own quest before the stated mission. He orders repairs.


The action in this chapter begins to escalate the tension between Captain Ahab and Starbuck. When Starbuck says, "What we come twenty thousand miles to get is worth saving, sir" Ahab agrees, but he's thinking of Moby Dick, while Starbuck is thinking of the leaking oil. When Starbuck says, "What will the owners say?" Ahab replies, "What cares Ahab? Owners, owners? ... the only real owner of anything is its commander." Then expanding on this theme of authority and obedience, Ahab says, "There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod," firmly placing himself in the same category as God.

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