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Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 58 59 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Chapters 58–59

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 58–59 of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick.

Moby-Dick | Chapters 58–59 | Summary



The Pequod is still on a northeasterly course and passes through patches of brit, a food source for the "Right Whale," which is not the type of whale they are seeking. Ishmael takes this opportunity in Chapter 58 to poetically describe how people should respect and fear the sea because it is full of violence and wildness.

In Chapter 59, Daggoo thinks he sees Moby Dick, so he shouts. Captain Ahab gives the orders to lower the whale boats. But the white creature Daggoo had seen turns out to be a squid, and Ahab and all of the boats return to the ship. Ishmael reveals that sailors believe the squid is a food source for sperm whales.


The contrasting images in Chapter 58 provide a look at the beauty and danger of the sea. On the surface floats a "meadow" of brit, which the right whale (not the sperm whale) eats. As it eats, it strains all of the brit out of the water, leaving behind a streak of bright blue cutting through the vast yellow field described as "endless swaths of blue upon the yellow sea." Under the surface, however, lie "numberless unknown worlds" that will "insult and murder" humans. It is dangerous: "Like a savage tigress that tossing in the jungle overlays her own cubs, so the sea dashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks."

The giant squid again reveals Starbuck's misgivings and Captain Ahab's single-mindedness: Starbuck treats the appearance of the giant squid as an omen, calling it a "white ghost" and saying "few whaling ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it." Yet Ahab, disappointed that it was not Moby Dick, returns to the ship without a word.

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