Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 128 130 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 128–130 | Summary

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Summary

The Pequod encounters another whaling ship, the Rachel, captained by Captain Gardiner. When asked, "Hast seen the White Whale?" Gardiner replies yes, they saw the whale yesterday. They'd sent a boat after him and had believed the White Whale had pulled the boat far from the ship. The boat has not yet been located, and Gardiner's young son is on it. He entreats Captain Ahab to help them search for the missing boat. Ahab refuses. Later, back in his cabin in Chapter 129, Ahab talks to Pip, who asks if he can go with Ahab as he walks on deck. Ahab tells Pip he must stay in the cabin. Pip is persistent, and Ahab finally threatens him and leaves him locked in the cabin. Fedallah, however, does go everywhere with Ahab in Chapter 130, and the two stand watch each night, knowing that Moby Dick could appear at any moment. In an effort to see better, Ahab has a basket attached to a rope and pulley, and Starbuck pulls him up so he can scan the water. While Ahab is in the strange contraption, a bird steals his hat and drops it in the sea.

Analysis

In Moby-Dick, names are carefully chosen and have meaning. In the Old Testament, Rachel is one of Jacob's two wives, and the mother of two sons. Appropriately, the whaleboat Rachel encountered in this section is captained by a man with two sons. Captain Ahab not only refuses to help find the missing son but also rejects the affection of Pip, the closest thing to a son he has. The Rachel also plays an important role in the resolution of the novel's plot, and the symbolic nature of its name will again resonate as she "search[es] after her missing children" (see Jeremiah 31:15 for resonance) and finds the lone survivor of the Pequod—Ishmael.

Something odd happens when the Pequod reaches the location where Ahab had his encounter with the White Whale—a bird swoops down, steals his hat, and drops it into the sea. Ahab, however, is immune to bad omens—storms, lightning, seal cries, and various prophecies. None of it has any effect on him.

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