Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 21: Going Aboard

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Chapter 21: Going Aboard

  • Around 6 a.m., Ishmael and Queequeg go to join the ship, which is going to sail today.
  • They see some men running ahead of them and start to worry that they’re late and the ship is already off. They hurry to catch up.
  • Before they can get to the ship, Elijah grabs hold of Ishmael, but they shake Elijah off and keep going.
  • Elijah follows them and asks if they saw any men ahead of them. Ishmael admits that they did. Elijah tells him to try and find them again, and then wishes them well and says he’ll see them at the Last Judgment.
  • Ishmael and Queequeg board the ship and find everything quiet and nobody around anywhere. They go below decks and find an old rigger asleep.
  • The sailors Ishmael saw are nowhere to be found, and it turns out that Queequeg didn’t see them at all.
  • Queequeg sits down on the sleeping rigger’s behind, which is cushiony enough to make a good seat, in his opinion. Ishmael makes him knock it off.
  • They sit there, smoking Queequeg’s tomahawk-pipe, as the man keeps sleeping. Queequeg explains that it’s traditional in his country to use fattened slaves as chairs and couches.
  • Queequeg appears to threaten to kill the man, and talks to Ishmael about the two-in-one function of his tomahawk-pipe. Fortunately, at this point, the smoke wakes the man up.
  • The old rigger tells them that the ship will sail today, and that Captain Ahab came aboard last night.
  • There’s a noise from above, and Ishmael and Queequeg follow the rigger up to the deck.
  • The crew is starting to come on board and things get busy, but Captain Ahab remains hidden in his cabin.

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