Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 124 125 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 124–125 | Summary

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Summary

Captain Ahab realizes from the position of the sun that though all the compasses on board are pointing east, the ship is traveling west and has been all night. He concludes that the storm has caused the compasses to malfunction. So Ahab magnetizes a needle and suspends it by a thread to use as a makeshift compass. The crew is impressed.

Ahab continues to show his knowledge of low-tech navigation in Chapter 125 when he tells the crew to use the "log and line" method of measuring the ship's speed. As they do this, Pip approaches and speaks strangely to them. Ahab, looking in Pip's eyes, says, "Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings."

Analysis

If the previous episodes showed the crew the darker, more irrational side of Captain Ahab, these chapters restore the crew's faith in him. After the men witness Ahab's ability to create a compass out of what seems to be odds and ends, they are amazed, and Ahab doesn't hide his satisfaction: "Look ye, for yourselves, if Ahab be not the lord of the level loadstone!" Ishmael, however, knowing the outcome of Ahab's quest, inserts an observation: "In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride." At this, echoes of the biblical "pride goeth before a fall" ring in the reader's ears.

However prideful Ahab is, Ishmael shows him to be a sympathetic character through his relationship with Pip. The two have a heartwarming interaction at the end of Chapter 125 and seem like two peas in a pod. The Manxman notes, "There go two daft ones now ... One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness." When Ahab takes Pip's hand and leads him toward his cabin, Ahab considers that it is actually Man and not God that is the more charitable species. Pip immediately grasps Ahab's hand and seems to feel genuine affection for the monomaniacal captain.

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