HomeLiterature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 131 132 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 131–132 | Summary

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Summary

The Pequod encounters another whaling ship, the Delight, which has a shattered whaleboat on board. Captain Ahab asks, "Hast seen the White Whale?" The captain gestures to the broken whaleboat, meaning yes. Ahab asks if he killed the whale, and the captain suggests it is impossible. Ahab shows him his special harpoon, saying, "in this hand I hold his death!"

As the crew of the Delight prepares to have a funeral for a crewmate lost in the fight with Moby Dick, Ahab steers the Pequod quickly away. Queequeg's coffin dangles ominously from the side of the ship, prompting one of the Delight's crewmen to yell, "In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us your taffrail to show us your coffin!"

Analysis

All of Captain Ahab's faults—his arrogance, his obsession with vengeance, his abandonment of human rituals and pleasures—are on full display in Chapter 131 as the confrontation with Moby Dick approaches. He refuses to even pause for a moment to honor a fallen fellow sailor.

In contrast, Chapter 132 shows the human side of Ahab and makes it seem as if he is not past the point of no return. Addressing Starbuck, he says, "forty years of privation, and peril, and storm-time! forty years on the pitiless sea! ... Aye and yes, Starbuck, out of those forty years I have not spent three ashore ... whole oceans away, from that young girl-wife I wedded ... Aye, I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck ... aye, aye! what a forty years' fool—fool—old fool, has old Ahab been! Why this strife of the chase? ... how the richer or better is Ahab now?" Starbuck (as well as the reader) holds out hope that Ahab will give up the chase. Yet it is not to be. Ahab seems resigned to his chosen course, as he says, "against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing."

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