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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 113: The Forge Summary

  • One day, while Perth is working at his smithy, Ahab comes to him with a special commission.
  • Ahab is amazed that Perth can withstand the torment of the hot fires without going crazy, which Ahab claims is the best remedy for pain.
  • Ahab watches Perth weld a pike-head with deep seams and dents in it. He asks if Perth could smooth out the dents in his brow.
  • Ahab asks Perth to make him a harpoon out of the iron nail-stubs from horseshoes, which are some of the hardest, best metal Perth can use.
  • Ahab wants the harpoon made from twelve individual rods twisted together, and he insists on doing some of the hammering himself.
  • Fedallah passes by and seems to bless – or curse – Ahab’s labor.
  • Finally, the harpoon is finished and Perth cools it in water.
  • Ahab gives Perth his shaving razors (think big, vicious things that look like letter openers) to forge into the barbs of the harpoon.
  • Instead of cooling them in water, Ahab insists that the three harpooneers, Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo, each contribute enough blood to cover them – so the harpoon that’s meant for the white whale is forged in human blood. Now that’s hard core.
  • As if that weren’t creepy enough, Ahab recites a dark parody of the baptismal formula over the harpoon as it cools in the blood.
  • Ahab attaches a wooden pole to the harpoon head and barbs with a length of rope, and marches off with the demonic weapon.

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