Literature Study GuidesMoby DickChapters 64 66 Summary

Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 64–66 | Summary

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Summary

Three boats tow the dead whale back to the ship. Ishmael notes that Captain Ahab seems a little restless, as if not quite satisfied, because the whale is not Moby Dick. Stubb, however, is full of the thrill of victory. He and some of the other sailors eat the whale's flesh for dinner, as do some sharks. Stubb complains that his whale steak is overdone, and that the sharks outside are being too loud. Fleece, the cook, tells the sharks to be quiet. Then Stubb and Fleece have a religious discussion. In the next chapter, Ishmael explains the history of how and why whale flesh came to be consumed as food. Then in Chapter 66, Queequeg and another seaman kill many of the sharks by striking them with whaling-spades, smaller spade-shaped tools for cutting whale flesh.

Analysis

Stubb's treatment of old Fleece does not reflect well on his character, as he wakes the man from sleep to fix him a whale steak, then sends him to quiet the sharks—an impossible task for the old man, of course—then makes fun of him, teasing him about preaching a sermon to the sharks.

However, Fleece's sermon is actually fairly good. He tells the sharks that their hunger is natural, but they should govern it: "if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel." He also tells them not to take the blubber out of each other's mouths, but that the sharks with big mouths should actually tear off larger chunks and share them with the smaller sharks who can't compete as well: "de brigness ob de mout is not to swallar wid, but to bit off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to help demselves." This sermon, on the importance of mastering the "shark" nature and sharing with others weaker than oneself, provides a comical yet serious contrast to Father Mapple's famous sermon. In the end, Fleece, who was born in the slave state of Virginia, concludes it is foolish to expect charity of either people or sharks. This is yet another example of the novel's concern with religious hypocrisy.

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