Study Guide

Fedallah in Moby-Dick

By Herman Melville

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Fedallah is the harpooneer whom Ahab secretly smuggles aboard the Pequod in order to staff his whaling boat. Fedallah’s origins are mysterious, and we know little more than that he is a Parsee, or Persian fire-worshipper, that he wears a black Chinese-style jacket, and that he has his long white hair wound like a turban around his head.

Fedallah also likes to stand in Ahab’s shadow so that he seems, eerily, not to cast a shadow of his own. Ahab is convinced that Fedallah is going to help him wreak his revenge on Moby Dick, especially because Fedallah has prophesied that various impossible things, such as seeing two different weird hearses on the water, have to happen before Ahab can be killed.

Yet, Fedallah seems a lot more excited about the possibility that he’s helping Ahab to his doom than he does about any kind of possible triumph for Ahab. It’s somehow fated—or maybe Fedallah just strongly believes—that Fedallah must die before Ahab can.

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