Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 14: Nantucket

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 14: Nantucket

  • The ferry arrives at Nantucket, a prime opportunity for Ishmael to tell us more about the history of the island.
  • Nantucket is a lonely, isolated, sandy bit of land where hardly anything grows of its own accord and everything is surrounded by sea.
  • Ishmael also relates a story about how a group of Native Americans came to settle Nantucket: an eagle came one day and carried away a baby, and the parents followed the bird until they came to the island—where they found the child’s skeleton. Grim.
  • The people of Nantucket have always sailed the sea and used it to survive and prosper.
  • At this point, Ishmael tells us, Nantucketers are all over the globe, in every ocean, and are the only people who truly belong on the water: it’s like their empire.

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