Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 113: The Forge

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 113: The Forge

  • One day, while Perth is working at his smithy, Ahab comes to him with a special commission.
  • Ahab is amazed that Perth can withstand the torment of the hot fires without going crazy, which Ahab claims is the best remedy for pain.
  • Ahab watches Perth weld a pike-head with deep seams and dents in it. He asks if Perth could smooth out the dents in his brow.
  • Ahab asks Perth to make him a harpoon out of the iron nail-stubs from horseshoes, which are some of the hardest, best metal Perth can use.
  • Ahab wants the harpoon made from twelve individual rods twisted together, and he insists on doing some of the hammering himself.
  • Fedallah passes by and seems to bless—or curse—Ahab’s labor.
  • Finally, the harpoon is finished and Perth cools it in water.
  • Ahab gives Perth his shaving razors (think big, vicious things that look like letter openers) to forge into the barbs of the harpoon.
  • Instead of cooling them in water, Ahab insists that the three harpooneers, Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo, each contribute enough blood to cover them—so the harpoon that’s meant for the white whale is forged in human blood. Now that’s hardcore.
  • As if that weren’t creepy enough, Ahab recites a dark parody of the baptismal formula over the harpoon as it cools in the blood.
  • Ahab attaches a wooden pole to the harpoon head and barbs with a length of rope, and marches off with the demonic weapon.

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