Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 111 114 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 111–114 | Summary

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Summary

The Pequod enters the Pacific Ocean, and Ishmael describes the sea's "serene" beauty as "a thousand leagues of blue." He notes that Captain Ahab is unmoved by the sight and seems only to grow in his thirst for vengeance. In Chapter 112 the blacksmith, Perth, is described. He is a patient old man whose skills are in constant demand. Before becoming a sailor Perth had been a drunk, and his drinking had led to the loss of his wife, family, and home. With his life in ruins, he went to sea. In Chapter 113, Perth is busily hammering away when Ahab asks him to make him a harpoon to kill Moby Dick. Ahab has some special materials to help make the harpoon: nail stubs from horseshoes and his own razors. (He says he will not shave until Moby Dick is dead.) After the harpoon is made, Ahab calls the three harpooners to give blood to use to cool the hot metal, a departure from the usual water. After the harpoon is finished, Pip is heard laughing. In Chapter 114, Ishmael again describes the sea as beautiful but notes that it is a "velvet paw" that "conceals a remorseless fang." Ahab, looking at the golden surface of the sea, likens men's souls to orphans, and asks, "Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more?" Starbuck looks at the sea and says reverently, "I look deep down and do believe." Stubb, looking down at the water, maintains that "he has always been jolly!"

Analysis

Although Perth the blacksmith was discussed in Chapter 108, he is not introduced in person until this section gives his backstory and in which presents a more extended interaction between him and Captain Ahab. Previously, Ahab characterized the blacksmith as a man who is like Prometheus in his ability to create men.

Here, he does not ask Perth to actually fashion a man out of iron; he wants a very special harpoon. And in some ways, Ahab treats the new harpoon like a child. After seeing it created it out of special ingredients, he baptizes it in the blood of the three pagan harpooners: Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo. As he performs this rite, Ahab proclaims, "Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!" (I baptize thee not in the name of the Father but in the name of the devil). The harpoon becomes an instrument of destiny or fate when Ahab finishes it with a wooden pole and a length of rope: "pole, iron, and rope—like the Three Fates—remained inseparable."

Nearing his prey, Ahab continues to reject the remaining aspects of his humanity: he cannot enjoy the beauty of the sea and he gives up shaving. All of his energy and effort is now focused on Moby Dick.

In Chapter 114, several of the main characters look at the surface of the sea, which is golden, just as they looked at the golden coin—each seeing something different. Ahab looks and sees the state of his own isolated soul. Starbuck looks and sees his steadfast faith. Stubb refuses to be dramatic.

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