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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 7: The Chapel Summary

  • After his walk, Ishmael goes back to the inn to get a heavy coat, because a storm has set in. Then, he goes to a local "Whaleman’s Chapel," which most sailors visit before they embark on a voyage.
  • When Ishmael enters the chapel, he finds a group of "sailors, and sailors’ wives and widows" (7.2) sitting silently, each of them lost in their own thoughts.
  • They all seem to be reading the different plaques on the walls—memorials to men who died at sea.
  • Ishmael is surprised to find that Queequeg is also in the chapel.
  • Queequeg is the only person who reacts to Ishmael’s entrance, because he’s the only one not reading the plaques. (He can’t.)
  • Ishmael muses on how difficult it is to lose a loved one to the sea: without finding the person’s body, his friends and relatives never really get closure, and will always wonder if he’s really dead.
  • Even if he is dead, Ishmael finds it strange that nobody is comforted by the fact that he should be having a good time in the afterlife. This is a chapel after all—you’d think heaven would be more of a topic than it seems to be.
  • Ishmael, however, doesn’t get depressed: he thinks to himself that people keep obsessing over mortality, but that the body is much less important than the soul.

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