Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 117: The Whale Watch

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 117: The Whale Watch

  • Ahab’s boat stays beside the whale he killed all night, waiting for the ship to be able to pick it up. Everyone is asleep except Fedallah.
  • Ahab jerks awake and tells Fedallah he’s had the same dream again.
  • Fedallah explains the dream and Ahab’s fate in cryptic terms: before Ahab can die on the voyage, he will see two hearses on the sea, "the first not made by mortal hands" and the second made of American wood.
  • Fedallah also predicts that he will "go before" Ahab.
  • Plus, Ahab can only be killed by hemp—which he takes to mean being hanged on the gallows.

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