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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 135: The Chase – Third Day Summary

  • The third day of the hunt is beautiful and fresh.
  • Ahab muses on the wind, which appears to be sweet and pure, but must have blown across vile scenes of horror and contamination in the past.
  • It frustrates him that the wind can strike men, but can’t be struck in return; he wishes it had a body.
  • Ahab realizes that they’ve sailed past the whale in the night—now, instead of chasing Moby Dick, Moby Dick is chasing him.
  • The crew turns the Pequod around and sails against the wind.
  • Starbuck helps Ahab aloft and an hour goes by as they wait for a sighting of the whale’s spout. Finally, they see it.
  • Before he comes down from the masthead, Ahab takes one final look around him at the sea, surveying everything he’s known his entire life.
  • Lowering in his boat to pursue Moby Dick for the third time, Ahab pauses to say goodbye to Starbuck.
  • He seems convinced he’s not going to come back from this voyage. Starbuck gets teary-eyed begging Ahab not to go.
  • Ahab pushes Starbuck’s arm away and orders the boat lowered.
  • Pip’s voice comes from the cabin, calling Ahab back and warning him about sharks, but Ahab doesn’t hear him.
  • As the oarsmen begin rowing toward Moby Dick, the boat is surrounded by sharks, which snap at the oars and swim alongside the ship, almost like vultures waiting for a kill.
  • Starbuck feels convinced that this third day of pursuit will be an ending; he feels calm, and his visions of the future are unreal.
  • Looking up, he sees a hawk pulling at the ship’s flag.
  • Moby Dick dives again. Waiting for him to reappear, Ahab gloats that he can only be killed by hemp.
  • Moby Dick bursts out of the sea, jumping high into the air, and then crashes back down into the water.
  • The boats close in on the whale, which in turn attacks Stubb’s and Flasks boats, disabling them both.
  • Everyone notices that Fedallah’s corpse is lashed to Moby Dick’s back by the remnants of some of the harpoon lines.
  • Ahab recognizes this as the first "hearse" he will see before his death; he also finally understands Fedallah going before him as his "pilot."
  • Moby Dick swims out to sea and away from confrontation with the Pequod, trying to escape.
  • Starbuck calls to Ahab from the ship, pointing out that the White Whale isn’t seeking this battle and it’s not too late for Ahab to give up his quest.
  • Ahab turns his boat to follow Moby Dick and orders Starbuck to follow with the Pequod.
  • Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo, who no longer have boats to hunt from, go up onto the masts of the ship as lookouts.
  • Ahab notices that the flag is gone—the bird must have gotten away with it—and orders Tashtego to put up another one.
  • Ahab’s boat gains on the whale, with sharks circling all around.
  • Coming close up to Moby Dick, Ahab throws his cursed harpoon into the whale.
  • Moby Dick rolls against the boat and three men are thrown out into the sea. Two pull themselves back in and the third is left floating alone.
  • The whale pulls away with great strength and the harpoon line snaps.
  • The whale turns to face the boat, but, seeing the ship behind it, changes targets and charges at the Pequod itself.
  • Ahab is distraught and orders his men to row quickly after Moby Dick, trying to save the ship. Before they get very far, some of the planks in the boat, damaged by the whale earlier, snap, and they’re forced to stop.
  • Starbuck orders the crew to raise the helm and encourages himself to die bravely.
  • Stubb grins back at the whale and wishes for a taste of cherries before he dies.
  • Flask just hopes that his mother has already taken out an advance on his salary, because after this she’s not going to get much more.
  • All the men on the ship are motionless, simply watching the whale rush toward them.
  • Moby Dick strikes the starboard bow of the ship with his forehead; some of the men are knocked over, and water rushes into the breach.
  • Ahab realizes that the ship itself is the second "hearse" that he will see before he dies.
  • Moby Dick returns to the vicinity of Ahab’s boat and remains there calmly.
  • Ahab laments that he is denied the chance to go down with his ship and, putting all his hatred and rage into his harpoon, throws it at the whale.
  • It hits the whale, but the line catches Ahab around the neck and pulls him from of the boat. Harpoon, rope, and Ahab all disappear underwater.
  • The crew of the boat stares at the sea where Ahab has disappeared, and then they turn toward the ship, which is sinking into a whirlpool as the harpooneers cling to their lookout perches.
  • Tashtego is still in the act of nailing a new flag to the mast. A hawk comes and tries to pull the flag away, and Tashtego pins the hawk down with the hammer.
  • As the ship sinks, the shrieking hawk is drowned along with it.

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