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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 123: The Musket Summary

  • The helmsman of the Pequod has been thrown to the deck many times by the force of the typhoon. He’s also seen the needles in the compasses spinning.
  • In the early hours of the next morning, the typhoon dies down.
  • Starbuck and Stubb are able, in the calm, to rig new sails.
  • The Pequod gets back on course—during the typhoon, the helmsman just steered as best he could as they weathered the storm.
  • The breeze changes, and the Pequod is now sailing with, instead of against, the wind.
  • Starbuck goes down toward the cabin to tell Captain Ahab.
  • Entering the cabin, Starbuck sees the loaded musket that Captain Ahab threatened him with before. (Ahab is behind a door in his stateroom.)
  • Starbuck pauses in front of the musket and gives a Hamlet-like soliloquy, trying to decide whether or not he would be justified in imprisoning or murdering Ahab in order to save the crew from his revenge quest.
  • Starbuck picks up the musket and holds it against the door; he knows the exact spot where Ahab’s hammock hangs, and he could shoot him in the head through the wall.
  • Starbuck tells Ahab the wind has shifted.
  • Ahab, waking, is excited to think that he’ll find Moby Dick at last.
  • (If that seems like an abrupt transition, it’s not on us; that’s how Melville wrote it.)

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