Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 133 Epilogue Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 133–Epilogue | Summary

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Summary

Captain Ahab is the one who first sights the White Whale. Ahab's boat, Stubb's boat, and Flask's boat are lowered, and the hunt begins. Moby Dick goes underwater, then comes up right beneath Ahab's boat. As Ahab readies his special harpoon, Moby Dick opens his mouth and closes it on Ahab's boat, tipping Ahab into the sea. Ahab is rescued and the pieces of his boat are brought on board the ship, which continues to follow Moby Dick. The next day, the whale is again sighted and the boats are lowered. He shatters the whaleboats of Stubb and Flask with his powerful tail and breaks Ahab's whalebone leg off. The special harpoon is lost, as is Fedallah. On the third day, the boats are lowered to battle Moby Dick, and the dead body of Fedallah is seen lashed to the side of the great White Whale by the tangled ropes. Moby Dick targets the Pequod, battering it with his great head. Ahab throws a harpoon, but it gets caught in the line and is pulled overboard. The damaged Pequod sinks, and "The great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."

The Epilogue begins with a quote from one of Job's servants in the biblical book by that name: "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee." In it, Ishmael describes how Queequeg's coffin life buoy floats to the surface and Ishmael grabs hold of it. Later, as the only survivor, he is rescued by the Rachel: "In her retracing search after her missing children, [she] only found another orphan."

Analysis

Finally, the climax of the story comes as Captain Ahab and Moby Dick have their confrontation. Ahab is worked up into a frenzy of revenge, but Moby Dick counters this with his own frenzy—circling, diving, surfacing, battering into the ship, crushing the boats. Nothing goes according to Ahab's plan. All his careful preparations come to nothing; in fact, the months of planning are all undone in just a few short days.

All of the foreboding prophecies have now come to a head. Elijah's enigmatic statement that God should pity the sailors on the Pequod, Gabriel's warning that those who harm Moby Dick will suffer, Pip's statement that the gold coin will stay nailed to the mast until the resurrection—are all fulfilled. And Fedallah's three-part prophecy is eerily fulfilled: The first hearse is Moby Dick, who carries the dead body of Fedallah. The second hearse is the Pequod, made of American wood. Fedallah does go before Ahab, and he does "return" to show Ahab the "way." The hemp of the line that catches Ahab and pulls him into the sea, not the hemp of a gallows rope, is what kills him. Nature, in the form of the whale, has won the battle.

Ishmael, who survives as Job's servant did in the Bible through terrible violence, believes he was destined by fate to be the sole survivor of the voyage and to share its story.

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