Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 134: The Chase – Second Day

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 134: The Chase – Second Day

  • At dawn, the Pequod mounts new lookouts.
  • Ishmael explains that it’s not unusual for a whaling ship to pursue the same whale over multiple days.
  • One of the lookouts calls out, sighting Moby Dick.
  • Stubb is bubbling with excitement, as is most of the crew; they seem to have forgotten all their fears, as though they were fated to be in this chase. The thirty men in the crew are united with one purpose—Ahab’s purpose.
  • It turns out that the sighting was a mistake, something else on the horizon, not the whale’s spout. Ahab goes up into the rigging to keep watch himself.
  • As soon as Ahab gets aloft, every member of the crew calls out at the same moment: Moby Dick breaches less than a mile away, throwing his body up into the air.
  • Ahab orders the men to lower three boats (he’s fixed up the spare boat for his own use). Starbuck, as before, stays behind with the ship.
  • As the whalers pursue Moby Dick, he turns and rushes toward them, putting the men on the defensive.
  • Ahab orders his crew to face the whale head on, but it rushes among them, snapping its jaws and lashing its tail, trying to destroy all three boats.
  • All the harpooneers strike Moby Dick, but the whale entangles their lines.
  • Ahab plays out more line, then jerks it back, hoping to get some of the kinks and knots out, but the loose harpoons and lances entangled in the line come flashing toward him. He reaches through the barbs to drag in the line, cuts the line on either side of the barbs, and then throws the bundle of extra weaponry overboard.
  • Moby Dick uses the harpoons and lines still attached to him to crash Stubb’s and Flask’s boats together, completely wrecking them. Then the whale dives down in a whirlpool.
  • Moby Dick comes up headfirst underneath Ahab’s boat and punches it up toward the sky. When it falls, it’s upside down and all the men spill out.
  • The whale pauses briefly beside the wreckage, moving his tail, occasionally smacking pieces of wreckage.
  • Then he turns and begins moving in his original direction again at a leisurely pace.
  • The Pequod arrives to rescue the crews of the boats. Some men are injured, but none have been killed or mortally wounded.
  • Ahab leans heavily on Starbuck when he’s brought back on board. His bone leg has been snapped off, but he dismisses this as superficial—nothing, not even the white whale, can really harm his true self.
  • Ahab wants to launch the spare boats immediately to continue the pursuit, but Starbuck gently reminds him that he needs to rest.
  • Ahab curses his frail body, which is restraining his spirit from getting its proper revenge.
  • Suddenly, the men discover that Fedallah is gone.
  • Starbuck says that he thought he saw Fedallah pulled under in the tangles of Ahab’s harpoon line.
  • Ahab, fearful and enraged, again wants to lower the remaining boats. Starbuck reminds him that they’ve tried to kill Moby Dick twice and both times their boats have been wrecked—and now Ahab has lost his leg again.
  • Starbuck is convinced that God is against this hunt and that it would be blasphemous to keep chasing Moby Dick.
  • Starbuck’s words are lost on Ahab, who is equally convinced that he is merely acting out a drama that has been fated.
  • Ahab is certain that tomorrow, the third day of the chase, they will destroy the White Whale.
  • Ahab exhorts the crew to remain brave, and Stubb cheers him on.
  • Ahab mutters to himself about Fedallah’s death.
  • Ahab remembers that Fedallah prophesied he would die before Ahab.
  • Yet, Ahab remains confused because Fedallah is supposed to be seen again before Ahab himself can die.
  • That evening, Ahab again orders the sails down so the ship doesn’t overtake the whale.
  • The carpenter makes Ahab a new leg out of the keel of his wrecked boat.

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