Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 125: The Log and Line

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 125: The Log and Line

  • With the compasses unreliable and the quadrant destroyed, Ahab turns to another navigational tool, the log and line.
  • (Quick Maritime Context Lesson: the log and line is a long cord wound on a reel and attached to a peg called a log. The log is thrown over the side of the ship and allowed to float while the line plays out. Then, an hourglass is used to time how long it takes for the line to play out completely. Knowing how long the line is, the sailors can calculate the velocity of the ship.)
  • Ahab orders two sailors, the old Manxman and the Tahitian, to throw the log overboard.
  • The old Manx sailor doesn’t trust the line; he thinks it’s too rotten to last. Ahab insists that it will hold and tells him to use it.
  • The sailors throw the log overboard and the line snaps. The log is lost.
  • Ahab orders them to haul in the line and have the carpenter make another log.
  • Pip appears on deck raving and scolding Ahab.
  • It becomes clear that Pip believes that he, Pip, was lost overboard when, like a coward, he jumped out of the boat.
  • Ahab asks Pip who he is if Pip has been lost.
  • Pip says that he’s the ship’s bellboy.
  • Ahab is touched and disturbed by Pip’s strangely intelligent madness and invites Pip to live with him in his cabin.
  • They join hands and Ahab leads Pip gently away.

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