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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 100: Leg and Arm • The Pequod, of Nantucket, meets the Samuel Enderby, of London Summary

  • (This is another chapter that could be from Ishmael’s perspective or, perhaps more likely, from the perspective of an omniscient narrator—Ishmael’s not in it anywhere and probably wouldn’t be witness to the scenes that take place on the Samuel Enderby.)
  • The Pequod encounters a British whaling ship called the Samuel Enderby, and Captain Ahab asks his usual question: have they seen the white whale?
  • When Ahab sees that the captain of the ship is missing one arm and has a whalebone prosthetic in its place, that’s all he needs to decide to go aboard and have a little chat.
  • With some difficulty, since the Samuel Enderby isn’t specially adapted for his bone leg, Ahab goes aboard the other ship.
  • Instead of shaking hands with the other captain, Ahab crosses bone prosthetics with him.
  • With plenty of interruptions from Ahab, the other captain tells his story:
  • A year before, he goes south of the Equator for the first time.
  • He hasn’t even heard of Moby Dick when, one day, while the crew of the Samuel Enderby is out in their boats hunting a small group of whales, the White Whale appears from the bottom of the sea.
  • Moby Dick tries to bite the harpoon-line connecting the captain’s boat to one of the whales and gets the line stuck in his teeth.
  • When the captain pulls on the line, the boat bounces up onto Moby Dick’s hump.
  • Seeing what a magnificent whale Moby Dick is, the captain resolves to capture him.
  • The captain jumps into the boat led by his first mate, Mr. Mounttop, snatches up a harpoon, and stabs at Moby Dick.
  • The White Whale goes crazy and smashes the boat in half with his tail.
  • The captain grabs for the harpoon sticking out of Moby Dick’s side to escape the whale’s violence.
  • The force of the water breaks the captain’s grip and the whale dives with the harpoon still in him.
  • The second harpoon, the sharp end of which is loose but which is still tied to the harpoon in Moby Dick, catches the captain just below his shoulder, sticks there, and begins to drag the captain down into the depths.
  • Luckily for the captain (we guess), the harpoon tears all the way down the length of his arm, and he floats to the surface of the water with a nasty gash from shoulder to wrist.
  • Here, the captain of the Samuel Enderby, whose name is Captain Boomer, stops his part of the narrative and refers Ahab to the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Bunger, for the rest.
  • Dr. Bunger, who is apparently a jolly man and a heavy drinker, tells Ahab that he tried to treat the wound, but it festered so badly that he had to amputate Captain Boomer’s arm and replace it with an ivory club.
  • The Englishmen joke about how Captain Boomer uses his new ivory arm to hit people.
  • Ahab is impatient to hear about Moby Dick.
  • Captain Boomer says that they saw Moby Dick two more times, but didn’t hunt him—he doesn’t want to lose another arm, and he thinks the White Whale is best left alone.
  • Ahab agrees that he is… but still intends to hunt Moby Dick to the end of the world. His erratic behavior and intense rage at the White Whale both alarm the good-natured Englishmen, who ask Fedallah if Ahab is insane.
  • Fedallah just puts his finger to his lips.
  • Ahab gets back into his boat and rows away without another word, despite the hails of the Samuel Enderby.

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