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Moby-Dick Chapter 90: Heads or Tails Summary Page 1

  • Ishmael quotes an obscure English law that states the King should have the head and the Queen the tail of any whale captured on the English coast – a curious exception to the laws about Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish that he explained in the previous chapter.
  • Ishmael recounts a story about some men from Dover who hunted, captured, and beached a whale, which was then seized as the property of the Lord Warden, the local Duke who had all the royal rights of the area.
  • Ishmael tries to make sense of the injustice of this. Why should the King and Queen have a special right to the whale anyway?
  • Supposedly, it’s because the whale is a noble, regal animal.
  • But why should the Queen have the tail? He can’t come up with a good reason for that one ...but maybe the King gets the head because he’s fish-faced.

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