Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 22: Merry Christmas

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 22: Merry Christmas

  • After the last preparations, gifts from Aunt Charity, and hauling the ship away from the wharf, Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad say goodbye to the first mate, Mr. Starbuck, and make sure everything is ready.
  • Captain Ahab is still in his cabin, and Peleg and Bildad give the first orders as though they were going to command the ship.
  • They take down the teepee-like tent where Ishmael first met Captain Peleg, a sure sign that they’re actually leaving port.
  • Captain Bildad acts as the "pilot" when they navigate the ship out of Nantucket’s harbor.
  • Even though Bildad has previously insisted that there wouldn’t be any naughty songs as they got under way, he lets them sing a ditty about a slum filled with prostitutes ("a chorus about the girls in Booble Alley" (22.9).
  • Ishmael is astonished by how much Captain Peleg is swearing, and pauses in amazement as he hauls up the anchor. Peleg literally kicks his butt and roars at him to keep working.
  • They get the ship under way and they’re almost out upon the open sea. It’s a cold and icy Christmas day.
  • Captain Bildad takes the first watch, and everyone can hear him singing hymns. These hymns lift Ishmael’s spirits and make him think that things will be okay.
  • Finally, they get the ship far enough out that they don’t need a pilot to navigate the harbor anymore.
  • A sailboat that’s been following them comes alongside to take Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad back home. Both the retired captains are reluctant to leave.
  • Even as they’re getting into the boat, Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad continue to give everyone advice and to wish them a good voyage.
  • Then they sail away, and the Pequod is on its own in the vast Atlantic.

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