Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Course Hero. "Moby-Dick Study Guide." October 13, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Moby-Dick/.

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Course Hero, "Moby-Dick Study Guide," October 13, 2016, accessed November 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Moby-Dick/.

Moby-Dick | Chapter 99 | Summary

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Summary

One morning as Captain Ahab paces the deck, his gaze falls on the gold coin that he'd fixed to the main mast of the ship. He pauses and speaks directly to it. The coin shows the summits of three mountains of the Andes with a symbol over each peak: a flame, a tower, and a crowing cock. Ahab contemplates the symbolic significance of this picture, concluding that the symbols it shows all relate to himself in some way. However, when Starbuck looks closely at the coin, he concludes that the three peaks are symbolic of the Holy Trinity, while Stubb thinks it symbolizes the signs of the zodiac. Flask thinks it looks like money, Queequeg thinks it looks like his tattoos, and Pip prophesies that Ahab will be "nailed" by the White Whale as the doubloon is nailed to the mast.

Analysis

In this chapter, several characters interpret the picture on the coin in a different way, and these interpretations reflect each one's character. Monomaniacal Captain Ahab sees only himself in each part of the picture. Moral Starbuck sees the Trinity. Stubb, who tends to spiritualize everything (recall his idea that Fleece should "preach" to the sharks), sees "the life of man in one round chapter." Flask, ever practical, sees the doubloon as money.

Pip's prophecy is that Ahab will be nailed by the White Whale ("old Ahab! the White Whale; he'll nail ye!") and that the ship will sink with the doubloon still nailed to the mast ("How did it get there? And so they'll say in the resurrection, when they come to fish up this old mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it").

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