Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 126 127 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 126–127 | Summary

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Summary

The ship nears the equator where they expect to find Moby Dick. Just before dawn, the crew hears a "wild and unearthly" cry, and some are afraid. It turns out the sound is just the cry of seals. Just a short while later, a sailor climbs the masthead to watch for signs of the White Whale and falls into the ocean. When a life buoy is thrown, it is actually so old that it sinks and the man drowns. To replace the life buoy, Queequeg suggests his own coffin, and the mates agree. The coffin is adjusted a little by the carpenter to make it float. As he does so in Chapter 127, Captain Ahab teases him about it, then ponders the irony of the situation. Afterward, he decides to talk these "philosophies" over with Pip.

Analysis

The portentous unearthly noises, which seem to be yet another eerie omen, are quickly explained away by Captain Ahab as nothing but the cries of seals. In addition, once a sailor falls to his death from the masthead, it seems to the crew as if whatever might have been foretold by the cries of the seals has already been fulfilled—nothing to worry about now.

The story revisits Queequeg's coffin, which is now converted into a life buoy to replace the one that was lost. The symbol of death transformed to a lifesaving object is interesting philosophically, as Ahab points out. But it also plays a role in the story's plot, which becomes apparent as events progress to their resolution.

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