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Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 115 117 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Chapters 115–117

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 115–117 of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick.

Moby-Dick | Chapters 115–117 | Summary



Weeks after Captain Ahab's new harpoon is completed, the Pequod encounters another whaling ship, the Bachelor, which is loaded down with whale oil and spermaceti after a successful voyage. The crew of the Bachelor is celebrating joyously. Ahab asks, as usual, "Hast seen the White Whale?" They reply negatively, and Ahab gives the order to continue on without stopping. The next day in Chapter 116, a group of whales is sighted, and four of them are killed, including one by Ahab. The four whales die far apart in Chapter 117, and only three are able to be gathered to the ship by sundown, so Ahab's boat stays with the remaining whale overnight to keep an eye on it. During this watch, Fedallah tells Ahab of a prophetic dream he's had about Ahab's death—one he's had before. Ahab thinks the prophecy means he will die by hanging, so he's safe while at sea.


There are three parts to Fedallah's prophecy:

  • First, two hearses must be seen: "But I said, old man, that ere thou couldst die on this voyage, two hearses must verily be seen by thee on the sea; the first not made by mortal hands; and the visible wood of the last one must be grown in America."
  • "Though it come to the last, I shall still go before thee thy pilot."
  • "Hemp only can kill thee."

Captain Ahab misunderstands all three of these, thinking that it is unlikely that hearses are to be seen while at sea, that Fedallah will be his pilot no matter what, and that the only way to die by hemp (which is what ropes are often made of) is on the gallows. Later, it becomes clear how this three-part prophecy is fulfilled. For now, it serves to make Ahab even more confident.

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